It's fair to say that July 9th is not one of the biggest boxing days of 2021 but it is a day that will allow female boxing to shine with two female title fights taking place on a Golden Boy promoted card in Los Angeles. Of the two bouts, the more interesting will see WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (28-12-1, 16) clash with WBA female Minimumweight champion Seneisa Estrada (20-0, 8), in what is a bout that promises to be something very special.
On paper it's easy to over-look this bout, and generally it's easy to over-look female bouts in general, after all Tsunami has 12 losses and a draw to her name in just 41 contests. However she's a real veteran who has been consistently competing at the world level over the last decade, has shown no fear of opponents, and is going through one of the best runs in her time as a boxer.
Estrada may well be the best female fighter in the sport, and the potential face of female boxing, but this bout promises to be among her toughest, and she's in there with someone who embodies the samurai spirit of Japanese boxing. When you combine the explosive skills and power of Estrada, with the work rate and determination of a fighter like Tsunami you tend to get something incredibly fun to watch. The sort of bout female boxing needs more of.
For those who haven't followed female boxing until recently the exploits of Tsunami are really worth talking about. The 36 year old has been a professional since 2005, boxing before the Japan Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She quickly climbed through the ranks, despite some early setbacks, and won the WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. She managed to make 4 defenses of that title before losing to the huge punching Naoko Yamaguchi in 2012. That loss saw her fall to 18-4 (7) and began a downfall in her career that resulted in her losing 5 of her following 6 bouts, with the losses coming to a who's who of female boxing stars like Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Yessica Chavez and Arely Mucino. After that string of results it appeared she had become a journey woman with a 19-9 (8) record. Since then however she has rebuilt her career, and is 7-1-1 (6) since 2016, with a move down to Light Flyweight really helping her re-establish herself as a world class fighter. Not only has she captured the WBO female Light Flyweight title since moving down in weight, stopping former amateur standout Chaoz Minowa, but she has also defended the title 3 times.
In the ring Tsunami lives up to her name. She simply keeps coming. She's tough, she has a really good work rate, she comes forward and she likes a fight. For a 36 year old she has a great engine, and real toughness. The fact she was a world champion at 115lbs before re-emerging at 108lbs shows her physical toughness and strength. Sadly she isn't the most technical fighter out there. She can be out boxed, she is slow of foot, and she she's not great when chasing an opponent, as we saw in her 2015 loss to Carolina Rodriguez, but in a toe to toe war there are few better than Tsunami.
Whilst Tsunami is part of the old wave of female boxing Estrada is certainly part of the newer wave, despite making her debut all the way back in 2011. In fact her career really struggled to get going as she fought twice in 2011, fought her third bout in 2014 and then took over a year away before her 4th bout. Thankfully however since 2015 she has been in action regularly and has really built a reputation as one of the best female fighters in the sport. That has really been on show in recent years with wins over notable opponents like Anahi Torres, Debora Rengifo, Gretchen Abaniel, Marlen Esparza and most recently Anabel Ortiz. She hasn't just been beating fighters however, she has been dominating them and rarely losing a round. In fact not only has she been out boxing and out fighting decent opponents but she has also been scoring some really blistering stoppages as well, most notably her blow out over Miranda Adkins. She really does look like one of the few female boxers who can do it all, and given her in ring style, her personality and her looks she really does seem poised to become the star of female boxing, and at 29 "Super Bad" could very easily be exactly what female boxing needs to build on.
In the ring Estrada is aggressive, she sometimes takes a risk or two that she doesn't need to as a result, but she's quick, sharp, technically very solid, heavy handed, can box, move, fight, brawl and punch and she really does tick every box. Not only is she capable of doing everything in the ring, but she's doing it against some top opponents, making Anabel Ortiz, one of the longest reigning champions in boxing history, look like a second rate fighter. Estrada is special. She's the type of fighter than can change perceptions about female boxing, if she gets the right opponents, and genuinely we think she has the perfect opponent to show what she can do here.
As mentioned in a fire fight Tsunami is going to be very, very hard to beat. Estrada might well try to have a fire fight, but we don't think she'll try that, or at least not for long. Tsunami's slow feet will instead allow Estrada to bounce in and out, to unload shots, and to use Tsunami as target practice. Tsunami's toughness, will to win and aggression will mean she'll refuse to back down, and she'll keep coming and coming.
We suspect Estrada's skills will neutralise Tsunami for the most part, with the Japanese fighter having just enough moments to make the fight exciting, but nowhere near enough to make it competitive. After 10 rounds there won't be any confusion over who deserves the win, but Tsunami's heart will recieve a lot of praise, as will Estrada's boxing, aggression,and skills.
Prediction - UD10 Estrada
Fans of female boxing are set for a big day this coming Sunday with two notable shows featuring female boxing. The first of those is an all female show, headlined by a Japanese domestic title fight. The second card is headlined by a much higher profile bout as WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) defends her title, for the third time, and faces Shione Ogata (11-6-1, 3) in a solid looking match up.
Although not a huge profile bout it's certainly an interesting one, and one that should give us some great action, in fact every Tsunami bout gives us great action.
The 36 year old Tsunami is a true veteran of the female boxing scene. She has been a professional since 2005 and has faced a genuine who's who of who of female boxing during her long, 40 bout, career. Among the many fighters that she has faced are the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Kayoko Ebata, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Jessica Chavez, Carolina Rodriguez and Naoko Fujioka. Through out her career she has always been a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with an aggressive, exciting, style. She's proven to be tough, durable, and with a great engine.
Despite being 36 Tsunami doesn't seem to be coming to the end of her career. In fact she has had a real Indian summer in recent years. She became the WBO female Light Flyweight champion in 2018, more than 5 years after losing the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, and has recorded 2 defenses of the title as well as fighting to a thrilling draw with Naoko Fujioka in a Flyweight world title fight.
The talented Tsunami lives up to the "Tsunami" moniker. She throws a lot of leather, comes forward a lot and despite fighting at Light Flyweight she's a physically strong fighter, likely explaining why she had success at Super Flyweight in the past. She's one of the most fun female fighters to watch but she's also a flawed fighter, and she can be out boxed at range, and isn't particularly quick on her feet or the sharpest puncher out there. She's a nightmare to fight, but a good game plan can neutralise her aggression.
At 32 years old Ogata is no spring chicken herself and she's has been a professional since 2012. In that time she has had 18 bouts with some very mixed results. Early on she struggled to get her career going, and lost 5 of her first 6 bouts. Since then however she has gone 10-1-1 (3) and has really found her form. Not only has she been on a good run of form but she has also been tasting success and winning belts. In fact she has managed to win the WBA Asia, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF female Light Flyweight titles. Not only that but she has also scored a massive win over Saemi Hanagata, who later won the WBO Atomweight title.
In the ring Ogata is a more technical boxer than Tsunami, looking to box off her jab, use her footwork, and box, rather than fight. She's crisp, light on her feet, has nice movement and really does seem to be a well schooled fighter. Sadly though she does lack power and struggles to get the respect of opponents, who do try to walk her down. Despite her record she is much better than the numbers suggest and is a fighter who has really developed so much in recent years under the guidance of Nobuhiro Ishida. This is, however, a big step up in class for her, and the first time she has faced a world class Light Flyweight.
Coming in to this we're happy to say that Tsunami is the better fighter. The much, much better fighter. She's also the more aggressive, stronger and more powerful fighter, but also the slower fighter. However Ogata is the better boxer, the smarter fighter and the more well rounded professional.
Style wise this is going to be an interesting one. It will have Tsunami's pressure and aggression taking on the movement and speed of Ogata. This should make for a compelling battle of skills and wills. Sadly for Ogata however the bigger problem for her will be the gulf in experience. She's the better boxer, but she is taking on the biggest, strongest and most proven opponent of her career and we suspect that will play a major role here.
Ogata will box, move, and look to use her skills, but as the fight goes on we see Tsunami beginning to out work, out battle, out muscle and break down Ogata. In the end we suspect a gutsy Ogata will come up short on the cards of a thrilling 10 rounder.
Prediction - UD10 Tsunami
The first world title fight to feature an Asian fight for the new year takes place this coming Saturday in Mexico as Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5) takes on WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) in Jalisco. For the Mexican this will be her 4th defense of the title she won back in May 2017 whilst Minowa will be looking to claim a world title at the third time of asking, and do so after more than a year away from the ring.
Although female boxing isn't huge in the English speaking world, despite growing notable in recent years, it has been popular in Latin American for years with numerous Mexican and Argentinian stars. The 26 year old Enriquez looks to be on her way to becoming another female star of the sport. She has bounced back excellently from her sole defeat, to Melissa McMorrow way back in February 2015, and is riding a 9 fight winning run at the moment. Whilst Enriquez hasn't yet beaten a who's who of the female scene she has scored notable wins over Katia Gutierrez, Maria Salina and Jessica Nery Plata and has become one of the clear faces of the female scene at 108lbs.
Watching Enriquez in action is different to watch many Latino female boxers. She doesn't look to set a hectic pace. Instad she's actually quite deliberate, but that's not an insult. She throws crisp, clean straight shots, works off her jab and is very accurate. She slips shots well and puts together heavy shots. She's not a concussive puncher, but she's someone with the thudding power that fighters feel every single time she connects. From a technical stand point she is very good, though perhaps a little on the slow side.
In 2016 Ayako Minowa turned professional, adopting the Chaoz Minowa fighting name. She was full of confidence and seemed like the sort of fighter that had success ear marked for her. She had been a fantastic amateur, had heavy hands, through combinations, looked tough and like a real handful. Just 3 months after her debut she had claimed the OPBF female Flyweight title and had spoke about winning titles in numerous weight classes. Sadly when her competition stepped up in 2018, when she took on Tenkai Tsunami she came up short, being broken down by the rugged Tsunami. A second world title fight that same year saw her fight valiantly but lose a clear decision to Ibeth Zamora Silva. Now aged 32, and with more than a year away from the ring, it's now or never for Minowa.
At the early stages of her career Minowa often fought like she was going to rip through opponents. That changed somewhat later in her career, and against Zamora she boxed smartly, though had her legs taken away through the fight and really slowed down in the second half of the fight. Whilst some of that slow down can be attributed to the altitude credit also needs to be given to Zamora for forcing a high tempo and going to the body. Here we're expecting to see Minowa fight smartly again, and with less problems from altitude she could well find her gas tank last better, especially given that Enriquez doesn't set a tempo like Zamora.
If Minowa wasn't coming in after such lengthy break we'd give her a decent shot, she has got the skills in her locker to give Enriquez issues. Sadly however the lengthy absence from the ring is a major issue, and we see that being a problem here for the challenger. That, combined with the effectiveness of Enriquez, and the Mexican crowd behind the champion doesn't bode well for Minowa.
We see the challenger having moments, she's too good not to, but we also see her coming up short, and losing a close but clear decision to the local favourite. We suspect Minowa will be in the lead early, but when Enriquez gets into the groove she'll start racking up the points and taking the decision.
Prediction - UD10 Enriquez
On December 14th Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) will return to the Light Flyweight division as she seeks her second defense of the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In the opposite corner to the champion will be 2-time world title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5), from the Philippines, in what looks like a very interesting match up on paper.
The champion, who is a proper veteran, has been a professional since 2005 and this will be her 40th professional bout. On paper her record does look blotchy to say the least, but she has been in 12 world title bouts and faced a genuine who's who of female boxing during her long career. During that she has faced the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Naoko Fujioka. Given that level of competition there is no wonder she has picked up losses, with all of them coming by decision and the majority coming in her opponents back yard.
Although not an elite level fighter Tsunami is clearly world class and is a 2-weight world champion, having won the WBA Super Flyweight title more than a decade ago before dropping in weight to win her current title last year. She's tough, sets a good work rate and hits solidly, without being a concussive puncher. To beat her an opponent needs to keep her off balance, using quick feet and making her chase them. That however is easier said than done and few have the stamina, toughness and physicality to do so over 10 rounds.
Pagaduan has twice challenged for world titles in Japan, and twice been rather unfortunate. Her first world title fight came back in 2014 when she came up against the excellent Nao Ikeyama, who was simply too good for Pagaduan and came far too early in Pagaduan's career. Her second ended after a round with a technical draw against Kumiko Seeser Ikehara. Since then she has won 5 in a row, though all 5 wins have come against very limited opposition.
Footage of Pagaduan isn't too great, though what is available shows an aggressive, speedy yet small fighter. She has the speed and aggression to be in some exciting fighters, and if she can get back down to 102lbs she could be a really fun fighter down there with the other small fighters. Sadly at Light Flyweight, and against a strong Light Flyweight like Tsunami, her size is going to be a real issue and she'll be bullied around.
We suspect that Pagaduan will come to will and will start fast, with a lot of early success thanks to her speed. That however will change as the bout goes on, and the weight, strength and power of Tsunami will wear her down, breaking her spirit and stopping her late on.
Prediction - TKO9 Tsunami
This coming Saturday fight fans in Mexico will get the chance to see WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3-1, 6) defending her title against Japanese challenger Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4). For Gomez this will be her first defense, following her title win last September, whilst Hanawa will be competing in her second world title fight, following a loss to Kayoko Ebata in a WBO female Minimumweight title bout back in May 2017.
Gomez won the belt last year, at the age of 22, by defeating veteran Esmeralda Moreno in what was the second bout between the two ladies who had fought to a draw the previous May. The win was Gomez's first victory in over 2 years, though she had actually gone 0-1-3-1 in her previous 5 bouts fighting two a draw not only with Moreno but also two draws with Jacky Calvo and a no contest with Lourdes Juarez.
Early in her career Gomez struggled to get her career going, losing 2 of her first 3, to go to and 4 of her first 10. Since that 6-4 start she has gone 8-1-3-1 and really developed into a solid fighter. She has learned to use what she has to build her career and gain her success. Notably that success is built on her speed, her jab, her movement and her work rate. She's a smart fighter, who boxes well off the back foot and although she lacks power she is accurate and lands clean shots. They aren't damaging shots, but they are typically clean and consistent.
The 28 year old Hanawa has been a fighter who typically fallen short in her biggest bouts, but did show what she can do last time out, when he stopped Jujeath Nagaowa to claim the OPBF female Minimumweight title. Going into that bout Hanawa had started that she was fighting for her career, and it showed in her performance and her emotion after Nagaowa retired in the corner after 4 rounds. For, arguably, the first time Hanawa put it all together and did what she needed to win a big one. Prior to this she had come up short in bouts for the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and WBO world titles. Those losses came to good fighters, with Kayoko Ebata in the WBO world title fight, Saemi Hanagata in the OPBF title fight and Shione Oagata in the WBO Asia Pacific title fight, but still came every time she stepped up in class.
Interestingly whilst Hanawa is known for losing big fights, she is actually 3-0 in fighters outside of Japan, and with this bout taking place in Mexico that may be a good sign. She may well believe the judges will be against her if it's close, and will instead have to set the pace, and fight with a high work rate. It's unclear if she can do that for 10 rounds, but that will surely be in her mind when the bell goes to begin the fight.
Whilst Gomez has struggled to get over the line in recent fights we see her taking the win here, with the title boosting her confidence and helping her to put on a complete performance. Hanawa won't travel to lose, in fact she'll be there hungrier than ever and full of confidence on the back of her win over Nagaowa, but we expect her to come up short and lose a clear, yet hard fought, decision here.
One of many notable bouts this coming Sunday will see Japan's Tenkai Tsunami (25-12, 14) defending her WBO female Light Flyweight title against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (18-9, 6). For the champion the bout will be her first defense, following her title win in March against Chaoz Minowa, whilst Abaniel will be looking to finally win a big one and become a world champion, after having come up short in a number of title challenges.
The Japanese fighter is a true veteran, having made her debut back in 2005, and since then she has faced a real who's who whilst becoming a 2-weight champion. Her first reign, as the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, began in 2009 and saw he hold the title until 2012. She would then attempt to become a 2-time champion but failed in title bouts against the likes of Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz and Jessica Chavez. Given that level of competition there is little wonder why Tsunami began to collect losses but she always put up a good effort, fighting hard for the 10 rounds. Although she was gritty and determined she just kept coming up short to elite level opponents.
In March it seemed like Tsunami was getting her last shot as she took on Minowa for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. At the age of 30, and having had a hard career, it was unclear what Tsunami had left until she out worked and broke down the former amateur standout in 8 rounds, with Minowa being saved by her corner whilst looking completely exhausted by the time they saved her.
The 32 year old Abaniel has been a true servant to Filipino boxing since making her debut back in 2006. Since then she has regularly competed with world champions, fighting the likes of Cho Rong Son, Samson Tor Buamas, Katia Gutierrez, Teeraporn Pannimit, Ayaka Miyao, Kumiko Seeser Ikehara and Cai Zong Ju. Like Tsunami she has often come up short against the best opponents she's faced, but has regularly given good value as a valiant loser.
Abaniel is technically capable, though lacks power and physicality especially given that she's someone who has fought much of her career at Atomweight and Minimumweight. For this bout she's going up to be up at Light Flyweight, against someone who has been a world champion at Super Flyweight. Whilst she's technically very good we see the strength and power difference here being huge and we suspect it will be too much for Abaniel.
We're expecting to see Abaniel start quick, and have moments in the early rounds, but be worn down by the pressure and aggression of Tsunami, who we believe will stop the challenger in the second half of he bout.
This coming Thursday is a big day for women's boxing in Japan, with a show featuring 6 title bouts, including 2 world title bouts. On paper the better of those bouts is a WBO Light Flyweight title bout, as the unbeaten Chaoz Minowa (5-0, 4) takes on veteran Tenkai Tsunami (24-12, 13), with the two fighting for the currently vacant title. On paper the bout might not look anything special, but given the styles of the two women and their experiences, both amateur and professional, we're expecting to see something very special.
Of the two fighters it's Tsunami who is the more proven and experienced, which should be no real surprise given she has 7 times more fighters under her belt. In fact not only that but she also has more world title fights than Minowa has total professional bouts. She might also have more losses, but when you get a fighter like Tsunami the losses only tell a fraction of the real story, and don't have context. The real context to those losses is that she has fought a real who's who of the female boxing world and suffered losses to world class fighters like Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Jessica Chavez, Zunila Munoz, Arely Mucino and Carolina Rodriguez. She could have padded her record, but instead fought a who's who, often above her natural weight.
Whilst it's easy to focus on the losses of Tsunami we can't ignore the fact she's a formerworld champion, having held the WBA female Super Flyweight title from February 2009 to July 2012. During her reign she made 5 defenses, beating the likes of Kayoko Ebata and Rie Fujimoto ahd she showed her world class ability.
In the ring Tsunami is an all action fighter. She is technically limit, but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate, a gritty determinedness, a solid toughness and always makes for good action bouts. She lacks the speed or skills to really test the very best, hence her double digit losses, but is a hard night for pretty much anyone, and could easily have had a better looking record with just a tiny bit of good luck.
Whilst Tsunami has fought almost everyone of note the same clearly can't be said of Minowa, who has only been a professional for about 18 months. So far she has faced very limited opponents from across Thailand, Korea and the Philippines and really not been tested that much. The one test she had came from Carleans Rivas, who Tsunami stopped in 2, and even then she took a clear 8 round decision over the Filipino. In the ring Minowa is an ultra-aggressive fighter who looks to stop every opponent as quickly as possible. So far it has seen her stop 4 of her first 5 opponents and she has racked up only 18 rounds in her first 5 bouts, but she has looked very aggressive and very exciting so far.
Minowa has impressed, but also left us with a lot of questions. We don't know what she's like in the later rounds, how her stamina holds up, what she's like under pressure, how copes with a step up in class and a lot of other questions. From what we've seen, and from what we know of her amateur background, we expect that she'll be able to step up and rise to the challenge, but this is a huge step up in class.
The bout really comes down to whether Minowa can fight at a high pace for 10 rounds, whether she can avoid the heavy shots from Tsunami and whether she has the skills to out box someone of Tsunami's ability and experience. The step up is what makes this so interesting and such a hard to call bout. We edge towards Minowa having the movement and amateur background to out manoeuvre, though can certainly imagine Tsunami's pressure getting to Minowa and the veteran taking a notable win over her younger foe.
One of the top, if not the top, female fighter in Japan has long been the sensationally talented Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7), who became Japan's first ever 4 weight champion earlier this year. The 42 year old Japanese veteran has claimed titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight. To end 2017 Fujioka drops down to Light Flyweight, to face Yokasta Valle (13-0, 5) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. Interestingly Fujioka is dropping down from Flyweight for this bout, whilst Valle is a former IBF Atomweight champion, having claimed that title last year.
Fujioka has had a genuinely remarkable career and is regarded by some as one of the top 10 female fighters, pound-for-pound, in the sport. She debuted at the age of 34 and after just a year in the sport claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title. The following year she claimed the WBC title, stopping Anabel Ortiz. In 2013 Fujioka claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title, she added the WBO Bantamweight title in 2015 and then the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year. Whilst Fujioka has obviously been collecting titles she has also been facing stiff competition, with bouts against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi, Susi Kentikian, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Jessica Chavez.
In the ring Fujioka can fight, box or brawl. She's the type of fight who can adapt, and when she needs to make things rough she can, as she did in the final stages against Mariana Juarez. Although she has two defeats against her name both were close and controversial, and more importantly on the road with the loss against Chavez being one of the most questionable decisions of recent years. At 42 there is some question marks about how many more top performances she has in the tank, but she's not yet showing signs of slipping.
Aged 25 Valle is one of the stars of Costa Rican boxing, and has ben a professional since mid 2014. Much of her career has been spent at home, in Costa Rica, though she did venture to El Salvador for a bout last year. It was at home last year that she defeated Ana Victoria Polo to claim the IBF title at 102lbs, though since then she has moved up to 105lbs, where she beat journey woman Yadita Perez. Sadly the key thing to note about Valle is her level of competition, and it has been dire, with none of her opponents having any name value, and very few having any sort of a record.
Although Valle's best win has been down at 102lbs she is actually a big fighter for the lower weights and shouldn't have any issues making 108lbs and being a fully fledged fighter at the weight, in fact she may be stronger than she has been whilst draining herself down. The problem for her however is that she's not really shown herself to be world class. There is some ability there, and it's clear that a really top level trainer could take her quite far, but the fact she's so untested and stepping up in such a huge way that it's hard to see he she can win here.
We don't think Fujioka is a huge puncher,but she certainly holds solid power in both hands, and we suspect that power will have telling effects late on, with a stoppage for the Japanese in the later rounds.
On May 14th fans in Kyoto get the chance to see two female fighters trading blows as they battle for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In one corner will be local hopeful Tamao Ozawa (12-3, 4) whilst the other corner will have Korean visitor Su Yun Hong (14-1-1, 7), who looks to become a 2-weight world champion.
Of the two fighters the 30 year old Hong is the more well known. She debuted back in 2010 and become one of the more notable Korean's of recent years. She's a talented southpaw based in Hwaseong City and has been known on the world stage for around 5 years. Her first title was the WIBA Light Flyweight title but she really made her mark by winning the WBO female Minimumweight title in June 2012, when she beat Teeraporn Pannimit in Macau.
As the WBO female Minimumweight champion Hong was one of the faces of Korean boxing and made 2 defenses of the belt, including a split decision win over Mari Ando, before losing the belt to teenager Mako Yamada in 2014. Following the loss to Yamada Hong moved up in weight, and reclaimed the WIBA title which she has held since October 2014, defending it 4 times.
Although not well known by Western fight fans Hong does hold some decent wins, but her loss to Yamada showed her limitations, with Yamada ripping the title from the Korean. Also needs to be noted that her opponents since the Yamada bout haven't been great and she hasn't fought in over a year, since beating Filipino veteran Jujeath Nagaowa.
Aged 31 Ozawa is the slightly older fighter, and the one with the less impressive looking record. Despite that she probably starts the bout as a fighter full of hunger and as someone who will see this as their chance to win a world title, adding it to an OPBF title. Talking about that OPBF title that belt was up at Super Flyweight, where she beat Terumi Nuki for the belt, and it's worth noting that Ozawa has fought much of her career at 115lbs, where she has suffered all 3 of her losses.
Although Ozawa has been stopped 2 times during her career, including a blow out to Tomoko Kawanishi and a 2nd round loss to Kai Johnson, she did recently prove her toughness by going 10 rounds with Mariana Juarez in Mexico last May.
Ozawa hasn't proven herself at world class, yet, but moving down in weight to Light Flyweight might well help her do so, and her last two bouts where at Flyweight where she does look like a more imposing fighter than she had at Super Flyweight. If she can make Light Flyweight comfortably she could end up being a very imposing fighter at the weight class.
On paper Hong should be favoured, she has the better record and is the more proven fighter, but we suspect that the move down in weight by Ozawa will really help her here and we're predicting a win for the Japanese fighter, who will be strongly supported by the fans in Kyoto. Hong may be the more naturally talented fighter, but we're expecting to see the local take home the decision here.
On March 4th we have a hectic day with a Japanese title fight in Tokyo and then a world title fight, featuring a Japanese fighter, in action in Jalisco. For Japanese fight fans it's going to be a long 24 hours, but will it be worth staying up for, and will their fighter manage to come out on top in the world title bout?
The world title bout in question will see IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (16-3-1, 5) travelling to Mexico to take on Alondra Garcia (16-3-1, 1), the woman she originally beat for the title back in November 2013. In their first bout it was a then unbeaten Garcia getting on a plan to face Shibata for the vacant title, in what many though was going to be Shibata's final world title shot. This time around however the Japanese champion will be on the road whilst seeking her 6th defense of the title whilst Garcia will be fighting to get her career back on track after a number of recent set backs.
At her best Shibata is a real nightmare to fight. She's tough, hard working, well experienced and seems to get better as fight go on. She's certainly not the most skilled fighter in the sport but with her stamina and determination she has become of the toughest fighters to actually beat. In fact it's around 4 years since her last loss, to Ibeth Zamora Silva, and her only other losses have come to world class fighters in the form of Etsuko Tada and Naoko Fujioka. Whilst it's true that Shibata has been run close in recent bouts, narrowly over-coming Saemi Hanagata and Maria Salinas, as well as fighting to a draw with Salina, she has managed to grit her teeth and continue to retain her title.
Although a veteran with an 8 year career, 20 bouts and 7 contests at world level, this will actually be Shibata's first contest outside of Japan. More tellingly she has only fought 4 times outside of Tokyo, with this being her 5th contest outside of the Japanese capital. The travel to a new country here could well be a major problem for the 35 year old, who is showing signs of coming to the end of her career at the top.
As mentioned Garcia was unbeaten ahead of her first bout with Shibata, which was a clear loss on the cards. Since that defeat the Mexican has gone 7-2-1, losing to Victoria Argueta in a title bout at Minimumweight and Sabrina Maribel Perez in a Bantamweight title bout. More notable than those two defeats is a draw to the then debuting Eloisa Martinez. In the ring Garcia lacks power, and hasn't scored a stoppage since her second bout, when she scored a 2nd round TKO win over Norma Ojeda, despite that she is quick and comes to fight.
With the crowd behind her, we know that Garcia will get cheers every time she does anything. With that in mind we suspect we'll see Garcia pick moments to strike, and with the crowd cheering her work she'll get into the mind of the judges, who we don't imagine will make life easy for Shibata. Whilst we're not expecting a robbery, or a bout that leaves a nasty after taste like last year's Chavez Vs Fujioka bout, we do think Garcia will get the nod thanks on the score cards.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.