On September 1st we'll see WBO Atomweight champion Nanae Suzuki (11-4-1, 1) look to make her first defense, as she takes on former WBC champion Yuko Kuroki (19-7-2, 9) at Korakuen Hall. The bout might not have two of the top names involved in the bout, but it does promise to be a very exciting, high tempo contest, between two men who like to throw a lot and should gel when they get in the ring.
On paper the champion isn't anything special, but the 30 is a truly fantastic fighter to watch, with a style that involved intense pressure, a refusal to back off, and a mind that is very much focused on making every bout into a fight. She made her debut in 2016, losing 2 of her first 3, but since then she has gone 10-2-1, won the Japanese and WBO Atomweight titles, and we very unlucky in her most recent loss, a split decision to Mika Ikwakawa. Those recent bouts have proven her early struggles really are behind her. She has managed to prove herself as a high work rate fighter, an intense fighter, and the sort of fighter who will always be a nightmare, despite lacking power.
As mentioned Suzuki is a pressure fighter. She can struggle early in bouts, with her first 2 losses coming in 4 rounders, but as bouts get longer and longer she becomes more and more frustrating, and then eventually overwhelming. She's not particularly polished, or a smooth boxer, but she is just pure intensity and when her engine gets going there really is no stopping her. She pressures, she presses, and she throws, a lot. Notably she doesn't seem to be the type of fighter to be discouraged, despite being caught plenty of times, and walks through shots to land her own, and to drag opponents into her fight. Unfortunately she lacks fight changing power, but with her output she is still a nightmare.
As for Kuroki, the 31 year old southpaw once looked like the next queen of Japanese boxing, but now appears to be a fighter looking to just keep her career alive. She began her career in 2008, and lost 2 of her first 3 bouts before working her way to a world title fight in 2013, where she lost a wide decision to Etsuko Tada. She would however make the most of her second shot at a title, in 2014, when she defeated Mari Ando for the WBC title. She would defend that title 5 times, until being dethroned in 2017 by Momo Koseki, who subsequently retired having become a 2-weight world champion. Sadly since her loss to Koseki we've seen Kuroki going 2-2-1, with both of her wins being low key ones, and she now desperately needs a big win to keep her career alive.
In the ring Kuroki is a good already. She has good skills, she's light and relaxed in the ring and fights confidently. She has solid power, a rugged toughness to her, and although there are holes in her technically she is a very solid all rounder who finds holes in opponents and lands solid shots. She has a very nice southpaw jab, and a solid straight left hand, which are her key weapons. Sadly for Kuroki she can be out worked, and although she has a lot to like, she can be seen posing a little bit too much at times, and not letting her hands go quite enough, which is an issue at 102lbs and 105lbs, where fighters set high work rates and impress judges with activity.
Coming in to this one Kuroki is the more skilled fighter, and we expect to see her skills shine early on. We expect to see her foot work, her movement and her clean accurate punching impress early on. Sadly though as the rounds go on the work rate of Suzuki will begin to shine, she will simply out work and fight Kuroki as the challenger slows and tires. The early lead of Kuroki will be clawed away at in the the middle rounds with Suzuki edging the bout thanks to the final rounds.
Prediction - UD10 Suzuki
This coming Friday we'll see an interesting rematch as WBO Atomweight champion Mika Iwakawa (10-5-1, 3) makes her second defense, and takes on Nanae Suzuki (10-4-1, 1), the woman she retained the title against in a brilliantly contested bout in 2020. It's due to how good their first bout was, and how hotly contested it was, that we now see the two facing off again.
For those that missed the first bout between these two, which took place in Kobe on a show promoted by Shinsei Promotions, that bout was a really great one. Through out the bout Suzuki made the fight, pressing the action from the first round and setting a high tempo with a very impressive work rate. She came forward constantly whilst Iwakawa was forced to box and move, and use her feet, looking to create space and work at range. As the bout went on however Iwakawa was forced to fight Suzuki's fight as her legs and movement began to fade and she was forced to hold, wrestle, survive and even run away, making things very close on the cards. After 10 rounds the scores were 97-93 Iwakawa, 97-93 Suzuki and 96-94 to Iwakawa, who took a questionable split decision win.
Sadly the rematch between the women, which really should have taken place in 2021, is taking place almost 18 months after their first bout, and neither fighter has fought since their first clash. Which is genuinely disappointing, but a sign of what 2021 did to the careers of a number of Japanese fighters, who were unable to stay busy.
At her best Iwakawa is a talented technical boxer. She likes using range and distance, countering, and has sharp movement. She's a really solid technical fighter in a division where output, work rate and energy are typically more important than boxing skills. Sadly though she's now 38 and given she's never been the most active fighter in the ring, and does depend on timing and reactions, we do worry about her here. Her inactivity and age will not be doing her favours here, especially given she seemed to run out of steam in the later rounds last time she faced Suzuki.
As for Suzuki she it very much a fighter who's technically limited, she lacks power, and her defense is questionable, but she's a little bundle of energy, who comes forward, lets her hands go, a lot, and looks to make fights into a war. She can be out boxed, as she was against Eri Matsuda in 2019, but few will beat her in a tear up, especially over the longer distances as her aggression, work rate and stamina grinds opponents down and makes her a very tough woman to beat.
Given how the first bout between these two ended, and how long it's been since that bout, we can't help but feel a determined, hungry Suzuki will out work, out fight, out battle and grind out a victory against Iwakawa. Early on Iwakawa will have real success, but by rounds 4 and 5 Suzuki will be coming on hard, and will for Iwakawa into survival mode. This time around we suspect a judge will take a point from Iwakawa as she grapples to survive, and that will seal her fate.
Prediction - UD10 Suzuki
On September 26th at we'll get the first world title fight in Japan since the restart of boxing in the country, with the bout taking place in Kobe. Sadly it's not a huge bout, but it is an interesting one, as WBO Atomweight champion Mika Iwakawa (9-5-1, 3) makes her first defense, around 26 months after first winning the title back in July 2018. In the opposite corner to the world champion will be former Japanese national champion Nanae Suzuki (10-3-1, 1). On paper this doesn't look amazing, but should still be a pretty interesting bout for the Atomweight division, and could shake things up, or take us a step towards a potential unification.
The 37 year old Iwakawa made her debut in 2011, though found her career on the rocks early on following an injury to her eye, and a bad run of form. At the end of 2013 it seemed her career was done. She was 3-3-1 (1), the wrong side of 30 and had lost gone win less in 2013, losing Mako Yamada and Nao Ikeyama and drawing with Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, all of whom went on to win world titles. She returned in 2015 and despite losing on her return she began to build some moment and moved her record to 6-5 (2), claimed the OPBF title and got her first world title fight. She lost in that world title fight, to Yunoka Furukawa, but less than 2 years later she beat Nao Ikeyama to claim the WBO Atomweight title.
Sadly since winning the title in July 2018 Iwakawa has taken a leaf out of Gary Russell Jr's playbook, fighting just once in 2019, in what was a none title fight against Momoko Kanda.
Sadly there isn't a lot of footage of Iwakawa out there, but what there is shows a tough, aggressive fight. She likes to let hooks go, but she has some awful footwork, squaring up a lot and looking to have a fire fight. Against Furukawa that had some real success, but in the end the youth and energy of Furukawa was the difference maker at times.
Aged 28 Suzuki is the much younger fighter and actually only turned professional in 2016. Like Iwakawa she struggled early on, and lost 2 of her first 3, but since than has gone 9-1-1, with her only loss coming to the excellent Eri Matsuda. Her wins haven't been at a mega high level, but they have included victories over Chie Higano, Sana Hazuki and Kanyarat Yoohanngoh, and she has claimed the Japanese national title.
Although Suzuki is an aggressive fighter as well, her style is very different to that of Iwakawa. Instead of squaring up and firing hooks, Suzuki boxes aggressively. She does still square up sometimes, but throws far more straight shows, and looks to wear opponents down with volume, rather than huge power swings. She takes risks, with 2 handed assaults being a common thing, but she also moves around the ring well and seems like she has a lot of energy to burn.
Although Iwakawa is the champion, and before the bout was talking about seeking unification bouts, this is actually a bout that we see her struggling with. She may have the edge in terms of physical strength but in reality the speed, stamina, work rate and footwork of Suzuki will prove to be the difference over the 10 rounds.
We see Iwakawa having moments early on, but being out pointed at the end by Suzuki's more sustained and busy aggression.
For fans wanting to watch this one, it will be streamed live on BOXING REAL.
Prediction - UD10 Suzuki
Unification bouts in boxing are rare, whether they are bouts to unify world titles, or regional titles they are still rare. Even more so when they involve relative professional novices. With that in mind there's a bout on March 13th to get really excited about, especially if you follow the female boxing scene, as OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) takes on JBC counter part Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1), with the two women looking to join the most notable regional title with the Japanese title.
Of the two it's Matsuda who is the more interesting. She was a former amateur standout who has already impressed, beating a former Japanese title challenger on debut, taking a competitive win over Sana Hazuki, before schooling Minayo Kei over 8 rounds to claim the OPBF title. The 24 year old from Team 10 count is one of the smoothest female boxers on the planet, with really well rounded skills, a very sharp punches and lovely movement. She's a rangy southpaw who knows how to use the ring, though when she needs to bite down and fight she has shown she can do that too.
Despite being a professional novice Matsuda has already fought 14 rounds of professional boxing. She has proven her stamina over 8 rounds already and will not worry about the 8 round distance against Suzuki, have done 8 rounds at a good pace against Kei.
With 11 professional bouts under her belt Suzuki is the much more experienced fighter, and she has already been involved in 4 Japanese title fights, going unbeaten in those 4 bouts. Her first title back, back in December 2017, saw her fight to a draw with the previously mentioned Suzuki, though she would take the title in a rematch 3 months later. Since then she has defended the bout against Akari Arase and Sayaka Aoki. Despite having a couple of losses and a draw on her record already she has actually beaten every one she has fought, avenging losses to Aoki and Yumiko Shimoooka.
Watching Suzuki we see a relatively basic fighter. That's not to say she's bad, but she is basic, with a good work rate, a pretty solid looking right hand and aggressive mentality, coming forward behind her jab. Technically there is a lack of that crispness we see with Matsuda, but she has got a battlers mentality, coming forward and letting her hands go up close.
Suzuki has the type of style we see bothering Matsuda, a come forward style that involves working in the pocket. Thankfully for Matsude the limitations of Suzuki mean that she probably won't actually have too many issues here. If Suzuki was a bit quicker, a bit sharper and a bit lighter on her feet she could be a problem. Instead we see Suzuki being too sharp, too quick and establishing her range, tempo and jab en route to a wide 8 round decision win.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.