One of the big complaints about women's boxing is the lacks of depth. Everyone seems to either be very limited, or too advanced and too developed as a fighter for the top prospects. This means we either see prospects thrown in to world title fights very early, after a short development process, or we see them battering very limited opponents, or see champions facing C tier challengers. One thing we want to see more often is prospects taking on former champions, and taking risks, whilst preparing themselves for a world title fight.
This coming Monday we see one perfect of a prospect doing just that, as Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1) takes a huge leap up in class and battles former world champion Yuko Kuroki (18-6-2, 8) in a bout for the OPBF female Minimumweight title. A title both fighters will be wanting as they look to take a leap into the direction of major fight later in the year.
Of the two fighters it's Kuroki who is the more well known, the more established and the more proven fighter. She turned professional way back in 2008 and had some early trouble, losing on her debut and losing in her third professional bout. Despite that she gritted it out, and ended up getting her first world title fight in 2013, losing to Etsuko Tada when she was 21. Despite losing that fight, and struggling to get going afterwards, she finally bounced back in 2014 and went on a brilliant 8 fight winning run which saw her claim the WBC female Minimumweight title and defeat the likes of Mari Ando, Katia Gutierrez and Nancy Franco before losing to Momo Koseki in 2017. Sadly since the loss to Koseki we've not seen Kuroki at her best, and instead she has gone 1-1-1 since that defeat, and hasn't fought in over 2 years.
At her best Kuroki is a legitimate world class fighter. She's gritty, sets a good work rate, and fights hard, every round. She's quick, she's got respectable power, good stamina and a hunger to win. Sadly though she is lacking in terms of polish, and her career has been one based around learning on the job. She's also been so inconsistent through her career. At her best she's one of the best female fighters at 105lbs, at her worst she looks unfocused and struggles to find a groove. She to be someone who lacks full belief in her skills, and this shows in some of her performances. Given her recent results and lack of activity, we do wonder about that confidence leading into this bout.
Aged 27 Chimito is a is a bit of professional novice, but don't let that lead you into thinking she is a boxing novice. That simply isn't true and she was a former amateur standout in Japan, running up an excellent 45-12 amateur record whilst competing in major national tournaments and being guided by her older brother. She has been moved aggressively in the professional ranks due to her amateur experience and that really is the key to her getting this OPBF title fight so early in her career. As well her amateur career she has already answered plenty of questions about her ability as a professional, having already won her first title, the Japanese female Minimumweight title in just her second professional bout. So far she's looked really good, but it's clear she is a work in progress as far as the professional ranks go. Sadly she, like Kuroki, has been out of the ring for quite some time, with a planned bouts in December 2019 and December 2020 both being cancelled, leaving her out of the ring since June 2019.
As with many of the advanced Japanese female amateurs who turn professional, there is a clear level of schooling there with Chimoto, who has a nice sharp jab, good movement, and an understanding of range and distance. She likes to her jab, stay busy, and control the range with it, setting up her arsenal behind the shot. She also picks a really nice uppercut. She was however running on fumes late in her final bout, and certainly seemed to tire under the pressure of Chie Higano, at least rounds 5 and 6. That could prove to be a real issue here, over the 8 round distance against someone who has shown an ability to fight 10 rounds.
On paper Kuroki is the easy pick. She's experience, proven and has shown an ability to do 10 rounds. She's also been active more recently than Chimoto. On the other hand Chimoto is the more skilled and the more intelligent boxer and she's the fighter with a point to prove after pulling out of two previously scheduled bouts. A loss here, after 18 months of inactivity, would be a massive hit to her career.
We go into this knowing Kuroki should be the favourite, but we're picking the under-dog. We think Chimoto will have a lot of hunger to prove a point, and will get into the ring fully focused. Will pick her spots, control the tempo behind her jab, and despite some wobbles late on will do enough to take hom a decision win, and the OPBF female Minimumweight title.
Prediction - Chimoto UD10
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
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.