This coming Saturday we'll see WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) make her first defense as she takes on mandatory challenger Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (4-0, 1) from Vietnam. The bout might not look like anything special on paper, but it should be a very interesting one, pitting a 40 year old, veteran champion, against a 25 year old, looking to make her mark on the sport and put Vietnam on the boxing map.
Of the two women it's Tada who is the much, much more well known. The veteran has been a professional since 2008 and is one of the most decorated Japanese female boxers in history. During her 26 fight career she has won the WBA, IBF and WBO Minimumweight titles and fought in 18 world title bouts since 2009. It's not just the numbers that are impressive, but also her competition and she holds notable wins over the likes of Cho Rong Son, Ibeth Zamora Silva, Naoko Shibata, Yuko Kuroki, Kayoko Ebata and Ayaka Miayao.
In the ring the champion is an aggressive fighter. Over the years she has developed from a raw fighter, full of energy but lacking in finese, to being more of a pressure-fighter. Sadly her legs have slowed over the years, something that obvious happens in a fighters mid to late 30's, but she applies intelligent pressure, has a good work rate, is incredible tough and has solid power, as Miyao found out. She can be out worked, she can be outsped and out boxed, but few fighters will manage to outlast her over 10 rounds, and she's a genuine nightmare for anyone at 105lbs.
The challenger on the other hand is a bit of an obscure fighter. She debuted as a professional in 2015 and then vanished before returning in 2019 and picking up two low key wins. She then kicked off 2020 with her biggest win to date, beating Kanyarat Yoohanngoh in Camboddia for the WBO Asia Pacific female title. That bout saw the Vietnamese fighter taking a split decision over the Thai, in a 10 rounder, the longest bout of her career. Sadly since that win, in February 2020, Nguyen has been out of the ring, with numerous planned and scheduled bouts falling through due to issues with Covid and covid related travel restrictions.
In the ring Nguyen lighst to fight as a pressure fighter, coming forward behind a tight guard, using good upper body movement and pressing opponents around the ring. She's not the most active with her output, as we saw against Yoohanngoh, but her forward march does look like it could make for some very exciting bouts against the right opponents. Technically her punches aren't particularly crisp, and they don't look like they have a lot of weight on them, yet they seem to have an effect when they land, and we suspect she's a much heavier handed fighter than she looks. Although she likes to pressure she does have very slow feet, and given her lack of output it seems clear she can be out boxed, out worked, and out fought, though it may be easier said than done.
Given the two fighters involved the styles should gel really well. They should meet face to face, and that should allow for a high tempo bout on the inside, something that we strongly favour Tada in. Nguyen can make for good fights, but we feel she's up against a much better version of herself here, and the sort of fighter that she'll not manage to do what she wants against. In fact we suspect Nguyen will be the one looking for plan B and plan C sooner rather than later.
With that comment in mind we do need to bring up the elephant in the room, the promoter. The bout is taking place in South Korea, and a card promoted by Nguyen's team. Nguyen's win over Yoohanngoh did not look on the level, and the two 99-90 scores were atrocious. Tada will need to be aware that she's not going to have the judges on her side, and will really need to win clearly to get the decision. We think she'll look to really hurt and punish Nguyen over the course of the fight and make it clear that the judges can't rob her here, despite maybe trying.
Prediction - SD10 Tada
On January 30th we’ll see the IBF female Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) defending her title against Japanese challenger Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2) in Costa Rica, the first world title fight to feature a Japanese fighter this year. The bout isn’t a huge one, but it is an interesting one, in a division where there are some very good female match ups to be made, and the winner here will find themselves well in the mix for bigger figures. In fact prior to this bout being made there was supposed to be a much, much bigger bout lined up for Valle, but more about that in a few moments. Sadly however this bout has been put together on relatively short notice, and it could end up being a case that neither fighter is quite 100% for this clash. Despite that we do expect an interesting contest.
As mentioned Valle was supposed to be in a much bigger bout. Originally she had planned for a mid-January bout against German fighter Tina Rupprecht, to unify the IBF, WBC, IBO and Ring Magazine titles. That bout was sadly cancelled earlier in January, and the IBF ordered a mandatory between the champion and Hazuki as a result.
The now 28 year old Valle has been a professional since 2014, and has really proven herself as a talented fighter in recent years. That was despite a slow start to her professional career in which she fought a lot of low level bouts early on. Despite the slow start to her professional career she did claim the IBF Atomweight title in December 2016, beating Ana Victoria Polo to become the inaugural champion. Sadly she didn’t actually defend that title, instead looking to face bigger names, and in 2017 that led her to facing Naoko Fujioka in Japan, and suffer her first loss. Just 6 months after losing to Fujioka she travelled to Germany and lost to Tina Rupprecht. Within just a few months Valle had gone from 3-0 to 13-2, but had fought two highly talented fighters and proven her ability.
Since the back to back losses Valle has claimed the IBF female Minimumweight title, beating the hard hitting Jaoana Pastrana in Spain in 2018, and defended it once, stopping Carleans Rivas in 2020.
In the ring Valle is an aggressive fighter, who throws a lot of leather and believes in herself. She’s tough, energetic, and has more than a respectable amount of pop in her punches. She throws a very nice, crisp jab and a clean, straight, right hand. Given her power, work rate, big over hand right and speed and movement she’s not an easy fighter to beat, and she really does know her way around the ring. Unlike some female fighters she’s not all out aggressive and is more of a boxer-fighter than some of the swarmers we see out there in the lower weights.
The Japanese challenger, who also debuted in 2014, is now 36 and is likely on the back end of her career. Despite that she’s not got a great deal of wear and tear and will be getting her first world title in just her 14th professional contest. Despite not having much wear and tear she’s also not proven herself as a viable world title contender, with her most notable win coming over the then 5-0 Eruka Hiromoto in 2019, a win that netted her the OPBF female Minimumweight title. That win aside has little else of note on her record in terms of success. In fact the other notable results on her record are losses to Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki, and a draw to Suzuki.
Despite her less than stellar results it’s hard to fault Hazuki’s work rate. In the ring she’s all effort, all energy and always coming forward letting her hands go. There’s a lack of quality and crispness to her work, but few can fault her tireless engine, with to win and all out fighting mentality. Sadly though she lacks the nuance to make the style work and the power needed to get her opponents respect. A lot of her shots are slapping shots, and there’s a really trudginess to her pressure. She’s a fun fighter to watch, but someone who’s deficient in too many areas to really compete at world level.
Although Hazuki is an all aggression fighter we don’t really see that aggression working too well against Valle, who we suspect will use her feet well, set up the counters and land big, heavy, clean shots. Hazuki will come forward all night, but eventually an accumulation of clean head shots, and the gulf in skills, will prove to be the difference, and we suspect Hazuki will end up taking a lot of leather until the referee steps in.
Prediction - TKO 8 Valle
It's fair to say that whilst 2020 has been an horrific year for most there have been some positives to take from it including some in boxing. We have seen a massive improvement in match making in Thailand, to the point where we are genuinely looking forward to Thai shows when they take place. Another big winner has been female boxing, which has really been able to blossom in the UK during the no-crowd era, where cheaper purses has made female boxing a show saver. Fingers crossed both of those things continue when global normality resumes.
On the subject of female boxing one thing the UK is missing is a female domestic title scene, which we expect they will create in the coming years.
One country that has already got this is Japan and we see the next Japanese female national title fight this coming Sunday in Osaka. That title bout will see Yumi Narita (4-4-3, 1) defending her Japanese female Minimumweight title against Mont Blanc Miki (4-3-1, 1) at the EDION Arena Osaka. For the champion this will be her first defense, since winning the title in January, whilst the challenger will be looking to make the most of her latest opportunity.
The 31 year old Narita won the title this past January in her third title shot, after coming incredibly close in two previous bouts. She fought to a draw for the title in 2018, against Chie Higano, then lost a split decision to Higano in early 2019. In fairness she could have won either of those bouts. That has been pretty much the problem through her entire career, "she could have won that bout". In total she has had had 5 bouts that could have gone her way with the judges, and had that happened she'd be sat with a 9-2 record, and would certainly be seen differently in the eyes of fans.
Sadly for Narita her issues are, like many lower level female fighters. She lacks concussive power, her bouts end up being competitive and being a high tempo slugfest with both able to take the power of the other. The action often seems tit for tat and bouts can get messy very quickly. Sadly for Narita she makes life quite tricky for herself by lacking accuracy and throwing a lot of wide shots and seems to lack straight shots from her arsenal, something she will need if she's going to progress beyond Japanese title level. Thankfully she did put things together last time out, when she beat Yumiko Shimooka for the title, but in fairness Shimooka is a very limited fighter who had lost 5 of her previous 6.
In Mont Blanc Miki we have a 28 year old challenger who turned professional in 2017. She started her career with a win but was stopped in just her second bout, as tested the water above Light Flyweight. That loss sent her back down the scales she found success, and reeled off 3 more wins before. A move up to Light Flyweight in 2019 didn't bode well, as she was stopped in 2 rounds by Chan Mi Lim in South Korea. Sadly since that loss she has gone 0-1-1, though that did including a loss to Japanese Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda, last year. We had expected Matsuda to really have her way with Miki, though Miki held her own for 4 rounds before being stopped in round 5, in what was probably her best performance to date.
Although there is quite a few fights of Miki out there the one against Matsuda looks to be the most suitable to get a read on what Miki can do. In that bout she proved to be a super hungry fighter, who pressures a lot, can hold her own up close and has surprisingly good footwork. She loads a bit too much for our liking, though she seems much more accurate than Narita and physically stronger. Like Narita she's not the most accurate, but she's a very capable fighter, with a real aggressive attitude in the ring and she will be there pressing forward, looking to land big right hands and left hooks. Notably all 3 of her losses have been by stoppage, and she's not proven to have the best chin, despite her pressure style.
Despite entering as the challenger we actually think Miki will be the favourite here, or at least she should be viewed as the favourite. The advantages Miki has work well in her favour here. She's the physically stronger, more imposing and more accurate fighter of the two. Her work rate might not match that of Narita, but she's much more effective with her work than the champion. Also Miki's biggest flaw, her toughness, isn't likely to be an issue here given Narita doesn't have much in terms of power. Miki will get hit, probably quite a lot, but won't be in trouble from anything Narita throws at her.
Don't get us wrong, Narita is a live under-dog, and she won't want to give up her title, but she's certainly up against it here against a stronger, more powerful fighter than herself. Narita needs a perfect gameplan to win whilst Miki just needs to be herself and out hustle the champion.
Prediction - Miki UD6
Way back on January 28th we saw a thrilling female world title bout between Ayaka Miyao (23-8-2, 6) and Etsuko Tada (19-3-3, 6), which resulted in a split decision draw, leaving the WBO female Minimumweight title vacant. The bout wasn't the biggest or the most amazing, but it was compelling and thoroughly engaging through out. And given the inconclusive result there was, clearly, some desire from both fighters to go again.
Originally it seemed seem we weren't going to see them re-run it, with Miyao signing for a bout in Vietnam. Sadly that bout fell through to the on-going global situation leaving the door open for Miyao and Tada to face off again, which they will on December 3rd at Korakuen Hall. Like their first bout, more than 10 months ago, this will also be for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title.
In their first bout it was Miyao who seemed to sharper fighter early on. She moved well, landing eye catching single shots and got in and out well. She impressed with her speed, her timing and her movement, and certainly didn't look like a fighter who was 36 years old. In the middle rounds her single shots become bursts and combinations and she was certainly the one with the higher work rate. Sadly for her however she was also the one with the out the physicality and power really needed to make a dent, and Tada's shots all looked nastier, particularly early on when neither fighter was really throwing much in terms of combinations. Tada was being out landed through the bout, but the quality and sting on Tada's shots certainly looked more impactful than anything Miyao was landing.
In the final rounds Tada looked old, worn and like a woman who was edging towards retirement and at the time we did say a rematch would be interesting.
Given their first bout we can't help but feel Miyao should be seen as the favourite. She seemed to do enough, at least for us, to deserve a win in their first bout. A somewhat slow start may have cost her, but when she went through the gears and began to step it up she seemed like the much fresher, younger and hungrier fighter.
The new 37 year old Miyao has been a professional since 2004, and began making her name as pupil of Hideyuki Ohashi, who really did help her build her career, and lead her to winning the WBA Atomweight title. Following a lot of success at the Ohashi Gym she then joined the Watanabe Gym and has had mixed success with them, whilst continuing to prove she is a world class fighter. In 2016 she suffered a nasty injury against Nao Ikeyama, that seemed likely to end her career. Since then however she has rebuilt, avenged that loss, suffered a narrow defeat to Monserrat Alarcon and fought to a draw with Tada.
Miyao has always been a super quick, sharp, boxer-mover. She rarely sits on shots but does land a lot and uses the ring well. Even in her mid-30's she's continued to be a bundle of energy.
Tada on the other hand is heading towards her 40th birthday, which comes next May, and she was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2008. She was one of the trend setters for female boxing in the 00's, hunting unification bouts in 2009 and 2010. She was aggressive, exciting, and fun to watch. She was technically solid, physically imposing and a real handful. Sadly though as she's aged she has lost some tenacity and hunger. In 2013 and 2014 she suffered losses to Anabel Ortiz, then she struggled to get notable bouts, with opponents not fancying bouts with her. She bounced back well in the end but then lost to Cai Zong Ju in 2017 and looked like a faded force during that bout. Then she rebuilt again with wins against Naoko Shibata and Kayoko Ebata.
In the ring Tada can be out-worked, she can be out sped, and she can be out-boxed. At range she is limited, slow and struggles to cut range now a days. On the inside however she's strong, tough, and a physical force, pushing opponents, tying them up, and battling hard up close.
In their primes we would give Tada the advantage, but with both fighters on the slide and the nature of their first bout, we have to feel that Miyao has more left in the tank, and will use what she learned in their first bout to take the win here.
We see Miyao again boxing at range early on, but getting combinations off as early as round 2, taking the initiative, and trying to wear down Tada as the bout goes on. We don't see her breaking down the older woman in a way to force a stoppage, but we do see Miyao out working Tada to the point where the judges won't see this as being particularly close.
Prediction - UD10 Miyao
On February 8th Costa Rican fighter Yokasta Valle (19-2, 8) will be making her first defense of the IBF female Minimumweight title, ash she goes up against Filipino challenger Carleans Rivas (8-6-4). This will not only be Valle's first defense but also Rivas' first world title challenge, after having fought numerous times for regional titles.
Although not a global name by any means Valle is a talented fighter, The 27 year from San Jose has shown a willingness to travel and to take on the best. This has seen her lose on the road to the likes of Naoko Fujioka and Tina Rupprecht, running Rupprecht very close in Germany, and actually winning this title in Spain last August. The belt she currently holds is her second, after having previously held the IBF's version of the 102lb title in 2016, and she has proven to be a tough fighter to beat.
In the ring Valle is small, even for a female fighter at 102lbs or 105lbs, but she uses her diminutive size well. She makes herself seem smaller, darts in an out well, and is very aggressive. She's not the most powerful puncher out there but she throws a lot of leather, has a busy lead hand and throws in bunches, often getting flurries off before an opponent can respond. It's her activity and aggression that make her a nightmare to fight and not many fighters will have the work rate to go with her, or the power to make her think twice about letting shots go.
The 31 year old Rivas has really struggled when she has fought above Filipino level, and in fact even at domestic level she has been beaten by the likes of Jessebelle Pagaduan and Lady Love Sampiton. Above domestic level she has lost to the likes of Tamao Ozaw, Chaoz Minowa, Tenkai Tsunami and Yumeni Ikemoto. Sadly for her she hasn't been able to win when she's stepped up and she's also rarely even been competitive at regional level. She is also 0-4 outside of the Philippines.
Whilst she's not totally terrible she isn't particularly good either. She lacks power, throws a nice jab but a very slow and loopy right hand and often puts herself off balance. There's a fighter that could have been competitive at regional level if her team had managed to polish her rather clear visible flaws, but instead those issues are still clearly there and clearly limit her potential to go far in the sport.
Although we don't see Valle as an emerging superstar of female boxing, she is a talent and we expect her to make this first defense look very, very easily. We would be massively surprised by anything but a dominant win by the Costa Rican champion.
Prediction - TKO8 Valle.
The first world title bout to take place in Japan this year is a female one between two former world champions, who can't afford another loss at this stage of their career, if they are to remain relevant as top contenders. Both are heading towards and neither is in their prime, as injuries and age catch up with them. Despite that we are expecting a genuine fantastic fight as Etsuko Tada (19-3-2, 6) and Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6) meet for the WBO female Minimumweight title.
Of the two it's Tada who is the older fighter. The Shinsei promoted 38 year old is a former WBA, IBF and WBO female Minimumweight champion who has fought at world level for a decade or so. She won her first world title in 2009, following an excellent amateur career, and has faced a genuine who's who of female boxing in the lower weights. She took her first title from ChoRong Son and went on to defend it against the likes of Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki before being dethroned by Anabel Ortiz. She would claim the IBF title 2 years later, beating Kareli Lopez, before losing in her first defense to Cai Zong Ju, then claim the WBO title in 2018 beating Kayoko Ebata.
In her prime Tada was fast, aggressive, a solid puncher, highly skilled, tough and a nightmare for anyone. As she's aged he speed has slowed, her combinations don't flow as they once did and she struggles to apply the same pressure she did when she was younger. She's still an excellent fighter, but often needs the right sort of opponent to shine against. Against a mover she struggles, and she's much better against a fighter who stands their ground. Despite that can chase, just not in the way she once could.
At 36 years old Miyao is no youngster herself, and she's no novice either, having made her professional debut in 2004, before the JBC even recognised female boxing. Her early career was tough, and she was 4-4-1 after her first 9 bouts. Since then however she has gone 19-4 and become a major figure in the Atomweight division, where she is a former WBA and WBA interim champion, who also fought in a unification bout with the then WBC champion Momo Koseki. During her long career she has beaten the likes of Mari Ando, Masae Akitaya, Gretchen Abaniel, and Nao Ikeyama.
At her best Miyao was a lighting quick fighter who could fire off lightning quick shots, and move around the ring with very quick footwork. She's been slowing down in recent years, but is still quick, skilled and hard to pressure. Notably she is moving up from Atomweight, 102lbs, to Minimumweight, 105lbs. It's going to be interesting to see how she copes with the extra weight, and the extra weight of her opponent. One other thing to note is that Miyao has previously suffered a nasty knee injury. She has fought twice since then, but it does leave some question marks about her body.
Here we expect to see Tada pressing, coming forward and Miyao boxing and moving on the back foot, using her feet to try and stay away from Tada's pressure. From there it really depends on who controls the distance as to who wins. We suspect that Miyao will have the early success with her foot work, but Tada will come on strong and begin to take control in the second half. This will not make it easy to score, but will make it very, very competitive, and very close.
Prediction - Draw (Split)
The Japanese female title scene is a very mixed one. Some of the title fights are brilliant, well matched bouts between two fighters on their way up the ranks. Other times it appears the JBC just want to full a vacancy, and anyone will do. On January 27th we get a bout that firmly fits in the latter category as Yumiko Shimooka (4-7, 1) and Yumi Narita (3-4-3, 1) battle for the Japanese female Minimumweight title.
Coming in each fighter has won just 1 of their last 6 bouts, and for both women they without a win in their last 3. These aren't the best female fighters in Japan at 105lbs but with a vacancy that needs filling they are facing off for the belt.
The 38 year old Shimooka made her debut in 2014, and immediately struggled. She was stopped on debut, and despite winning 3 of her following 4 bouts never really built any career momentum. She has now lost 5 of her last 6 and hasn't fought since a decision loss to Mont Blanc Miki in November 2018. You need to go all the way back to December 2017 for her last win, which came in an upset against Umi Ishikawa.
Watching Shimooka you can see why she's lost so many bouts. She's crude, lazy, wide open, slow and not particularly busy. She telegraphs her punches and stumbles forward, often eating more than she throws as a result, and what she does throw is so horribly off balance.
Aged 30 Narita is the younger fighter, and the more active, with 2 fights last year. Incidentally she lost both of them by split decision, including a title fight to Chie Higano and a close loss to Sana Hazuki. Although she's win-less in 3 she was competitive in all 3 of those bouts and has interestingly drawn 3 of her last 6. One thing to realise when it comes to Narita is, win, lose or draw, she has generally been in close bouts.
Sadly however her limitations are very visible, much like Shimooka. She lacks power, she lacks variety and although she does have a busy jab, it lacks snap. It's more thrown as a stay away punch then a real scoring shot. Sadly when fighters walk through that jab she no real answer and often holds, leading to some messy action. Watching her she really doesn't appear to have anything at all on her back hand.
With the limitations of both should make this competitive but we can't help thinking that Narita, the younger, fresher, more active fighter, will do enough, just, to take this. Neither is particularly good but the jab of Narita, and her younger legs, are likely to prove the difference maker in a fight we expect to be very, very messy.
Prediction - SD6 Narita
The female boxing scene in Japan is an interesting one, with a wave of young and emerging talent looking like it will create a golden generation, lead by Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda. Others following in the lead of those two include talented teenager Eruka Hiromoto (5-0), who looks to extend her perfect record this coming on November 17th, when she defends the OPBF female Minimumweight title against Sana Hazuki (7-4-1, 2).
Aged just 19 years old Hiromoto is one of the youngest Japanese female prospects actually making a mark of some sort on the sport. She made her professional debut in October 2017 and quickly impressed, take 3 unbeaten records in her first 4 fights. Although her competition wasn't great she was stepping up and won a 6 rounder in her 4th bout and the OPBF title, over 8 rounds, in her 5th bout. She's not looked super impressive all the time, but there is a lot to like about the talented youngster, who is maturing and growing into the sport.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance Hiromoto is a talented and quick fighter with a sharp jab and intelligent movement. She does however lack power, works incredibly hard for her success and always looks a little bit like a child in an adult's sport. She looks like for all her skills, and she really is a talent, she can be bullied and a strong, aggressive pressure fighter could really be her Kryptonite and she does need to be careful. What also needs to be noted is that she slows down, a lot, as the fights goes on, and in an 8 rounder she needs to be more conservative early on.
Aged 35 Hazuki is certainly closer to the end of her career than Hiromoto, but she's not shown real signs of ageing and in fact like many female fighters seems to be getting with age, and has "only" been a professional for 5 years anyway. She's proven to be a handful and win or lose she's always in the fight with an intense and aggressive mentality that makes her a real nightmare to go up against. Even with 4 losses in 12 bouts she has never given anyone an easy night, and even gave the sensational Eri Matsuda a serious test in 2018.
Although not the most naturally skilled of fighters or the biggest puncher Hazuki is a rugged, ugly, pressure fighter, who applied pressure from the first round, popping her jab out as a distraction whilst trying to get close and work away on the inside. For fighters who can't get her respect Hazuki is a complete horror to go up against, even if she's up against someone more skilled and with better ring IQ.
We think Hiromoto is a real talent and a proper one to watch for the future. This however is a bout that we suspect will be very, very tough for her. Hazuki is a really horrible match up for Hiromoto, especially this early in her career. In a few fights time, when Hiromoto has a few 8 rounders under her belt, this might have been a good test to see how far she has improved. Here however it's a very high risk bout for a talented young fighter with a lot of promise. We suspect that Hiromoto will do enough to win, but only just in a very, very close bout. Though we certainly wouldn't be massively surprised by an upset here
PRediction - SD8 Hiromoto
Female boxing is on the rise, with more attention being given to it than ever before and more and more female fighters being involved in interesting match ups. No longer is female boxing a case of a trained athlete against going up against someone who has little idea of the sport in a world title fight, but instead we're getting two trained fighters meeting a pure contest of skills. One of the best things about the rise in female boxing is that the previous generation's fighters are being met by a rising wave of young prospects who have come through the amateur ranks and look like polished fighters straight away.
We've already seen fighters like Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda race away to titles, and we're now expecting to see Mizuki Chimoto (1-0, 1) follow suit. The unbeaten 25 year old from the Watanabe gym gets a chance to claim a title in just her second professional bout as she takes on Japanese female Minimumweight champion Chie Higano (8-8-1, 2) on June 25th. A win for Chimoto will see her match Matsuda's achievement of winning a title in just her second bout, whilst a win for Higano would be her first successful defense of the title.
Chimoto was a stellar amateur, running up a 45-12 record in the unpaid ranks, placing in national competitions and gaining some valuable international experience. That foundation saw her turn professional last year with big expectations on her shoulders. She debuted in November, on an all female card, and impressed as she stopped Thai visitor Kannika Bangnara in 3 rounds. It was clear from the start that Shimoto knew her way around the ring, she judged distance well, made the Thai flail at the air and landed her own sharp shots. She looked incredibly relaxed and calm, sharp and smart, and mixed up her shots really well.
Despite being a professional novice it's clear that Chimoto is a very talented and special fighter, and someone who's amateur credentials have marked her as someone who will be fast tracked.
With 17 fights behind her Higano is much more experienced in the pro-ring than Chimoto and she debuted more than 5 years ago. The 34 year old has a very mixed record, but she has been in with a genuine who's who of the Japanese female scene, including Shione Ogata, Saemi Hanagata, Momo Koseki and Nanae Suzuki. In terms of international bouts she has faced the likes of Eun Hye Lee and Casey Morton, and was very competitive with both. Despite being a veteran she only actually won her Japanese title this past February, in her second shot at the title.
Despite losing 8 of her 17 bouts Higano is a really solid fighter, she's aggressive, she sets a high work-rate and comes forward with a lot of upper body movement high volume output. There's a lack of real crispness to her work, but she's a nightmare with her pressure and output and will ask a lot of questions of very good fighters.
Higano certainly has the style to test Chimoto, she has the experience and energy to push the novice all the way in a really tough bout. But, we suspect the amateur skills, the crisp punching and the sharp movement of Chimoto will see her over the line and put her on the fast track to a world title fight. It'll be tough, but we see Chimoto taking the clear decision.
Prediction Chimoto UD6
It's fair to say that April 2019 was a month that will go down in female boxing as a big one. We had a card in Japan, on the 14th, that was an all-female card and, of course, we had "the biggest women's boxing match in history", when Christina Hammer and Claressa Shields threw down on Showtime. We're also set to see Kasumi Saeki battle for a world title in just her 4th bout, on April 28th.
Saeki isn't the only notable fighter on the April 28th card, with former 3-time world champion Etsuko Tada (18-3-2, 5), a stablemate of Saeki's, takes on former Saeki opponent Kanyarat Yoohanngoh (5-2, 3), in a WBC Minimumweight world title eliminator. A win for the Japanese veteran sets her up with a chance to become a grandslam champion, whilst a win for Kanyarat sets her up for a huge year.
At 37 years old, and with her 38th birthday coming next month, Tada will know that time on her long career is running out. She debuted almost 11 years ago and has had a genuinely notable career. She would claim her first world title in her 5th bout, beating ChoRong Son for the WBA Minimumweight title and would twice fight to draws in unification bouts. The first of those was a draw with the then WBC champion Naomi Togashi before then fighting to a draw with the then "interim" WIBA champion Ria Rammarine. To 2013 they were the only marks on her record, which she notched notable wins over Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki.
Sadly a couple of split decision losses to Anabel Ortiz saw Tada losing the WBA title, though she would bounce back by winning the IBF title, which she lost in her first defense to Cai Zong Ju. She would later claim the WBO title in 2018, though vacated without making a defense to pursue her dream of a grandslam.
Although older and slower than she once was Tada is still an aggressive, tough, hard hitting fighter. In a small ring, or at least one that's smaller than she fought Cai Zong Ju in, she is a nightmare. The larger the ring the more she will struggle, but this bout isn't expected to be in a big ring.
The 20 year old Thai is a bit of an unknown, unless you are a hardcore fan of as female boxing in Asia. She made her professional debut at the ridiculously young age of 15, yes you did read that right 15, and took a break after her debut. Since then she's had mixed results, losing on the road, to Zhezhe Ni in China and to the prodigious Kasumi Saeki in Japan, but did score a huge win last time out, stopping Umi Ishikawa this past February. That win was, by far and away, the best of Kanyarat's career, and is a huge boost fert her coming into this bout.
We've seen the Thai look confused and lost, showing no answers to Saeki's speed and skills last July, but with 3 wins in a row she does have confidence. She's proven that she's aggressive, a physical fighter and doesn't mind bending the rules, something she did regularly against Ishikawa. Sadly for her Tada has sene it all before and there will have to be more than a few dirty tricks to pick up a win here.
We suspect Kanyarat will become a fixture on the regional scene in the years to come, however we can't see her having the tools or experience to deal with Tada. The Thai does have some momentum coming into this bout, but we expect to see that being destroyed early before Tada breaks her down and scores a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction - TKO4 Tada
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.