In recent times we've seen a number of top former female amateur fighters turn professional, with almost all of them coming to the professional game with notable success as the Olympics. Prior to the current of female stars we did have a number of lower key female fighters who had made their mark on the amateur scene. One of those was Nana Yoshikawa (7-1, 4), who was a 3-weight Amateur champion with an impressive 55 wins in the unpaid ranks. As a professional she claimed her first world title last year, narrowly beating Eun Hye Lee for the WBO female Flyweight title.
This coming Sunday Yoshikawa looks to make her first defense of that title as she takes on Mexican challenger Monserrat Alarcon (8-3-2), who has proven tricky to find much footage of, but has proven to be popular for images. That's because the young Mexican is very photogenic, and it does appear her looks have gotten her some notable attention, perhaps more than her boxing so far.
Although that sounds like we're being harsh “Raya” has proven to be a tough competitor so far, suffering 2 narrow losses to current world champion Alondra Garcia and she holds two good wins over Branda Ramos, to become the Mexican Female Minimumweight champion.
Although there is very limited footage of the Mexican it does look like she is well skilled and moves around the ring well. There is a certain wildness to her punches, but there is plenty to like about her too, and she does look very quick and seems to strike with good counters, though they aren't the sharpest. It's possibly her lack of sharpness which has lead her to never having scored a stoppage, but by that same token she has never been stopped and she does look sturdy in the footage out there.
As with many former amateur standouts Yoshikawa is very well schooled. She might be heading towards her 39th birthday but she's in great shape, with good boxing form and a style that has developed since her 2015 loss, a wide decision defeat to Anabel Ortiz in a bout at 105lbs. She has a filled out frame at Flyweight and can hit hard enough to hurt opponents. It should be said that she was look to over-come Eun Hye Lee last year, but Lee is a world class fighter herself and would be a handful for many Flyweights out there.
On paper Yoshikawa is the more proven fighter here, winning OPBF and world titles, and she's also a fighter with the deep amateur background. She is however a fighter who has been in wars with Ortiz and Lee and could well be on the slide, despite being such a “professional novice”. She has got nice skills, but with age comes the slowing process and she could struggle with stamina and timing as the bout goes on.
Although we think Yoshikawa is heading to the end of her career she does look like a fighter with a few more good fights left in her, and we think that'll show here with her superior skills being too much for the younger, but less talented Alarcon. As Alarcon looks tough we suspect she will go the distance, but we think she'll lose a pretty wide decision here.
Last weekend we saw two of the truly elite female fighters face off for a female Flyweight title, as Jessica Chavez and Naoko Fujioka traded blows for the WBC crown. Despite high expectations for that bout it ended up being a stinker with Chavez doing her best to spoil and Fujioka doing her best to look for a 1-punch KO, resulting in a frustrating and messy bout that lacked drama. This coming Sunday, just 8 days after that highly anticipated stinker, we get another female Flyweight title fight, as the once beaten Nana Yoshikawa (6-1, 4) takes on former Light Flyweight champion Eun Hye Lee (8-0, 3).
For the 38 year old Yoshikawa this will be her second world title bout, following a loss to Anabel Ortiz last year. Since that kiss Yoshikawa has fought twice, stopping two limited opponents. Although Yoshikawa was embarrassed by Ortiz she has moved up form 105lbs to 112lbs and let her body fill out rather than continue to try and make a lower weight. At 112lbs she is a fully fledged fighter and can rely on her skills, which are really solid courtesy of a very strong amateur background. She's not close to the level of Fujioka, and we dare saw Chaoz Minowa would beat her already, but she's accomplished, confident and has been developing with good training in Mexico.
Whilst Yoshikawa is talented we can't ignore than fact she is 38 years old. Yeah she's still younger than Fujioka, who we still view as one of the top female fighters on the planet at 41 years old, At that sort of age fighters do decline and it's fair to say that it's now or never for Yoshikawa, who turned professional when she was 35. A loss here will likely be the end of her dreams of being a champion. That's a double edged sword though, the age may inspire her to put it all out there, refusing to losing with out giving everything, or it could simply be a case of trying too much too late in her career.
Aged 33 the Korean visitor is the much younger fighter though she's fighting outside of Korea for the first time and will also be ending a 12 month break from the ring, a break that has seen her career being plagued by financial problems. Those problems have not only left her being inactive but also saw her having to give up the WBO female Light Flyweight title, after seeing a bout with Louisa Hawton fall through multiple times. In fairness Hawton would have been a real handful for Lee but it would still have been nice to have seen that bout happen.
Having previously held a world title at 108lbs Lee will be looking to become a 2-weight world champion, however her competition so far hasn't been great and her most notable wins, over Eun Young Huh and Ploynapa Sakrungrueng are hardly outstanding, even for female for boxing. She looked in control of both of those bouts but neither has really proven her as a world class fighter, and both of those notable wins has been stopped by the naturally smaller Momo Koseki, with being stopped quicker by Koseki than by Lee. Don't get us wrong, she's good, but she's not outstanding and she lacks any sort of break out, world class performance.
We think, with home advantages and the pressure of needing to perform, Yoshikawa should take this, She won't have it all her own way but should be favoured to sneak a competitive decision. However the winner should be careful with Fujioka making it clear she wants a Flyweight title and likely seeing the winner of this as a better, more suitable target than fighting on the road, especially after last weekend's hugfest. Neither Yoshikawa or Lee would stand a chance against Fujioka and so neither will want to catch her eye, or the beating that the Japanese boxing queen would give them.
Th bout will almost certainly be better than last weeks, which was such a huge disappointment, but don't expect to see two world class fighters in the ring, as both are a long way from the divisional elite.
In boxing there are a number of reasons to be fast tracked. For some fighters, such as Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, the reason to be fast tracked is to make a statement and make the world sit up and take note. For other fighters it's a case time not being on their side, effectively it's now or never.
One fighter who falls into the second category is female fighter Nana Yoshikawa (4-0, 2) who, on April 29th, challenges for her first world title in what is just her 5th professional contest. The 36 year old from Osaka turns 37 in June and she really doesn't have time to develop her professional experienced any more than she already has.
Unfortunately for Yoshikawa she's not just fighting for a world title in late April but she's going up against a woman who is widely regarded as the best in weight class, Anabel Ortiz (16-3, 3). Not only is Ortiz the WBA champion but she also has a very good record against Japanese fighter with 3 wins and just a single loss, which came to amazing Naoko Fujioka.
Yoshikawa, for those who haven't followed her career, has been moved fast following a successful amateur career that saw her winning 55 of 77 bouts. Those wins came across a number of weights, starting at Flyweight in 2005 and going all the way up to Featherweight in 2012, and saw her claiming 3 weight titles on the Japanese national scene. As a professional she began her career in August 2013 fighting in 6 rounders. In her second bout she claimed an OPBF ranking and just a fight later she claimed the OPBF female Light Flyweight title in just 101 seconds.
Since winning her OPBF title Yoshikawa has fought just once, scoring a 2nd round stoppage over Kledpetch KKP, a former Flyweight world title challenger who went 8 rounds with the world Shindo Go. The last 2 wins for Nana have been been at Light Flyweight and both have shown her power, something we didn't see in her first 2 bouts which were both fought at Super Flyweight, The fact she's dropping to Minimumweight to fight Ortiz suggests that she will be the bigger fighter, though do wonder how she will look losing those 3 extra lbs.
Whilst Yoshikawa is only known by the hardcore of the hardcore, fans may actually recognise Ortiz's name. She is a 2-time world champion who has faced a who's who of female boxing. She her first world title back in 2009 with a win over Carina Moreno and successfully defended it in Japan against Nanako Kikuchi before being beaten Fujioka. Since that loss Ortiz has gone 8-1 (2) with her only loss coming to Argentinian star Yesica Yolanda Bopp. In those 8 wins she has twice beaten Etsuko Tada, albeit in 2 razor thin decisions with the second being a much disputed bout.
In the ring Ortiz is a nightmare to fight. She comes forward, throws a lot of shots and makes everything into a war. Technically she's flawed but she's like a pitbull and once she gets her teeth into an opponent she is almost impossible to force backwards. It takes a very special fighter to beat her and a sensational to look good doing it.
At 5'0” Ortiz is short, even for a Minimumweight, but she's all fighter and when she gets into the ring she's not going to back down. Her size often becomes and advantage and with her aggressive mentality she's absolutely vicious on the inside, despite a lack of power. As well as her style she's also experienced, tough and and the type of fight who will give anyone a nightmare.
For Yoshikawa this is a baptism of fire. She was a good amateur but there is a world of difference between being a good amateur and being one of the best fighters in your division. Ortiz has shown the ability to gut out a few bad rounds and turn things around. For Yoshikawa she needs to keep her boxing at range, she needs to make the most of her 4” height advantage, and most importantly she can't get discouraged by Ortiz's work rate, aggression or toughness. If the challenger can't keep Ortiz at range then we suspect the title will be going back to Mexico. Unfortunately we suspect Ortiz will just know that bit too much and be that bit too good for Yoshikawa, though we wouldn't be surprised to see this being very close on the cards with Yoshikawa having a good start before Ortiz takes over in the middle of the fight and does enough to retain her title.
(Image courtesy of http://www.ynana.jp)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.