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.