This coming Wednesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see a new OPBF female Bantamweight champion being crowned, as Makoto Kikuchi (1-1, 1) and Marina Sayama (4-3-1, 2) clash for the currently vacant title. Although neither fighter is a major name, and neither is likely to become a major player in the division internationally, we do anticipate this being a very interesting and potentially very entertaining bout.
Coming into the bout Kikuchi is the older woman. The 35 year old southpaw his highly ranked by the JBC at Bantamweight and was a stellar domestic amateur, though was surprisingly upset on her professional debut, when she lost to Aka Ringo. Thankfully for her she bounced back from that loss earlier year, when she stopped Ai Sugimoto and put herself in the regional and domestic title mix.
As for Sayama the 34 year old debuted in 2017 and won her first 2 bouts, before moving her record to 4-1-1 (2). Sadly however she has lost her last two bouts, including a Japanese Flyweight title bout in 2019. Although she hasn't had much success recently there is a real hunger from her to make a mark in the sport, after crossing over from Football (soccer).
In the ring Kikuchi is a big strong looking Bantamweight, with some technical ability, an aggressive style, and nice, natural, fluid footwork and movement. Against Sugimoto she looked like a natural boxer, with heavy hands, and a relaxed in ring demeanour. She's not the smoothest or most active, but it's really clear that she's a well-trained and powerful fighter with bricks for hands. Defensively she isn't the tightest, but fighters will have to take risks to make her pay for her poor defensively skills, and with her power that risk is one that some won't be in a rush to take. Go to war with her at your own risk.
As for Sayama she is a natural athlete and has good stamina, good movement and good energy. Sadly however she doesn't have the polish of a boxer and is very much an athlete who turned to boxing late, rather than someone who was an athletic boxer. As a result she doesn't have the subtle things that fighters have from years of boxing, and instead relies on athletic ability, rather than boxing ability. Whilst that's not great for her to have success, she does need applauding for showing what she has, in a sport she didn't really focus on until later in her life.
Sadly for Sayama her issue here isn't necessarily her lack of boxing background. Instead it's her lack of size and physicality. We suspect with her speed and movement she will have success early on. She will take rounds on her feet. Sadly though as her feet begin to slow, and she holds her ground more, she will get broken down by the heavier hands, and sheer physicality of Kikuchi.
Prediction - TKO 7 Kikuchi
So far this year boxing has been relatively disappointing. Sure we've had a few highlights but on the whole it has been pretty poor with very little in terms of notable matches. Thankfully this changes, in a big way, in March as fights start to come thick and fast at every level.
One of the many interesting looking female bouts takes place on March 7th as the hard hitting youngster Honey Mae Bermoy (6-2, 6), AKA Honey Katsumata, attempts to claim the vacant OPBF female Bantamweight title. Unfortunately for Bermoy she'll not be handed the title and will instead have to go through former world champion Tenkai Tsunami (19-9, 8) in a bout that is likely to give Bermoy the toughest test of her career so far.
Bermoy, aged 20, has proven so far to have venom in her hands. Despite turning professional at just 17 years old she managed to record back-to-back stoppages to begin her career in her native Philippines.
In less than 3 months Bermoy had moved her record to 3-1 (3) and had shown a natural fighting mindset even though she lacked boxing knowledge. The lack of boxing fundamentals saw her falling to 3-2 when her power failed to stop the naturally bigger Leslie Domingo at the start of 2013.
Thankfully for Bermoy her style, power and heart caught the eye of Japanese outfit Katsumata gym who have helped her train in recent bouts and helped her turn her 3-2 (3) record into a 6-2 (6) record which has included a very notable stoppage over Saki Yamada, the older sister of current WBO Minimumweight champion Mako Yamada.
Although Saki was inexperienced as a boxer she was a well schooled former kick boxer and Bermoy was supposed to be the next stepping stone in the development of the young Japanese fighter. Bermoy hadn't read the script and managed to score the upset.
Whilst Bermoy is really just a novice with 8 bouts and 25 professional rounds, none of which have been fought in a title fight, Tsunami is a genuine veteran of the ring. She has been in 28 bouts, she has fought in 8 "world" title fights, a total of 196 professional rouds and is a former WBA Super Flyweight champion.
Tsunami made her debut almost a decade ago and fought her way up the rankings before the JBC even recognised female boxing. By the time she had her first bout sanctioned by the JBC, in 2008, she had participated in 15 contests, winning 12 of them.
Since the JBC has recognised female boxing Tsunami has fought a further 13 times with several of those bouts taking place on enemy turf. Unfortunately it's been Tsunami's willingness to fight on the road and to only fight the best which has seen her drop from 12-3 to 19-9. On paper losing 6 of your last 13 bouts is awful but she had been in with a veritable who's who of female boxing and battles Naoko Yamguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juaurez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino losing to all 6 women who have proven themselves as world class.
Although she has 9 losses on her record Tsunami's last 6 losses have come to genuinely elite level fighters. We don't think that Bermoy is anywhere near that level at the moment. The young Filipino may develop into a top level fighter somewhere down the line with the right experience building fights and developmental work in the ring and in the gym, though we don't imagine that's going to happen any time soon. In fact if anything her lack of experience is going to prove to be her major undoing here against Tsunami who will look to establish herself as the boss early before taking Bermoy into deep water and drowning her.
We do think Bermoy has the potential to win a title in the future, but at this moment in time she's jumping up from domestic level to fringe world level and we think she'll find that that jump is far too difficult for her at this particular moment.
Will Honey Mae survive a Tsunami? Our guess, no chance.
(Picture courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com/, Tsunami and Bermoy feature
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.