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
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
The Minimumweight division in female boxing seems to be widely dominated by Asian fighters. We recently saw Mako Yamada announce herself on the world stage by winning the WBO female world title, we also saw Mari Ando win the WBC title late last year and in the past fighters like Naoko Fujioka and Etsuka Tada have dominated the division.
With that in mind the division is an important one to Asian fighters, especially those form Japan who appear to have a genuine desire to become the best female fighters at 105lbs.
With that in mind we feel that there is more to the upcoming contest between Saemi Hanagata (8-4-2, 3) and Satomi Nishimura (6-0, 1) than just the OPBF Minimumweight title that both women will be trying to claim. We feel that this bout is more about the winner planting themselves as a top contender in the division and making a claim for being a future world title contender.
Of the two fighters it's Hanagata who probably has more to lose. She has the more damaged record already and will know that one more set back could well send her well back down the rankings and she would likely lose her #5 WBC ranking with a loss, whilst a win would certainly boost her place from #13 with the WBA.
The reason Hanagata has got a somewhat muddied record is down to the fact she has faced several good fighters. These have included former world title challengers such as Jujeath Nagaowa, Masae Akitaya and Yuko Kuroki as well as current world champion Momo Koseki. Those fighters, between them, would mess up anyone's record in the lowest weight divisions.
Whilst Hanagata has lost to the likes of Koseki and drawn with Kuroki and Akitaya she has also experienced what it's like to fight some top fighters. Those fights will have done more good in terms of her development and helping her improve than 14 fights against complete novices who lined up to lose. They will also have instilled a real grit and confidence in her that she will, one day, become a champion herself despite failing in previous title fights.
With an unbeaten record Nishimura looks better on paper than Hanagata though unfortunately when you look beneath the surface of Nishimura's record you see how deceiving it is. Her 6 bouts so far haven't come against anyone of note and in fact 4 of her 6 opponents have been debutants. Between all 6 their combined record has been 11-10-1 with Thai journey woman Nongbua Lookprai-aree accounting for 8 of the wins and 9 of the losses.
Unfortunately for Nishimura she hasn't been given any sort of experience building fights. Instead she's been given record padding fights. That's all well and good when you're young but at 33 years old that lack of development tends to come back and bite you.
With the difference in experience levels it's hard to pick against Hanagata who may have won just 1 of her last 5 but she has been very competitive in those she didn't win, including the Koseki fight, one of Koseki's toughest. Nishimura will likely start well but Hanagata's experience will see her figure out Nishimura early on and beat her down the stretch with Nishimura wondering why Hanagata is hitting her back unlike her previous 6 opponents.
The winner will likely only be a win or two away from a world title fight so we'd keep a serious eye on the result of this one.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.