On January 30th we’ll see the IBF female Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) defending her title against Japanese challenger Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2) in Costa Rica, the first world title fight to feature a Japanese fighter this year. The bout isn’t a huge one, but it is an interesting one, in a division where there are some very good female match ups to be made, and the winner here will find themselves well in the mix for bigger figures. In fact prior to this bout being made there was supposed to be a much, much bigger bout lined up for Valle, but more about that in a few moments. Sadly however this bout has been put together on relatively short notice, and it could end up being a case that neither fighter is quite 100% for this clash. Despite that we do expect an interesting contest.
As mentioned Valle was supposed to be in a much bigger bout. Originally she had planned for a mid-January bout against German fighter Tina Rupprecht, to unify the IBF, WBC, IBO and Ring Magazine titles. That bout was sadly cancelled earlier in January, and the IBF ordered a mandatory between the champion and Hazuki as a result.
The now 28 year old Valle has been a professional since 2014, and has really proven herself as a talented fighter in recent years. That was despite a slow start to her professional career in which she fought a lot of low level bouts early on. Despite the slow start to her professional career she did claim the IBF Atomweight title in December 2016, beating Ana Victoria Polo to become the inaugural champion. Sadly she didn’t actually defend that title, instead looking to face bigger names, and in 2017 that led her to facing Naoko Fujioka in Japan, and suffer her first loss. Just 6 months after losing to Fujioka she travelled to Germany and lost to Tina Rupprecht. Within just a few months Valle had gone from 3-0 to 13-2, but had fought two highly talented fighters and proven her ability.
Since the back to back losses Valle has claimed the IBF female Minimumweight title, beating the hard hitting Jaoana Pastrana in Spain in 2018, and defended it once, stopping Carleans Rivas in 2020.
In the ring Valle is an aggressive fighter, who throws a lot of leather and believes in herself. She’s tough, energetic, and has more than a respectable amount of pop in her punches. She throws a very nice, crisp jab and a clean, straight, right hand. Given her power, work rate, big over hand right and speed and movement she’s not an easy fighter to beat, and she really does know her way around the ring. Unlike some female fighters she’s not all out aggressive and is more of a boxer-fighter than some of the swarmers we see out there in the lower weights.
The Japanese challenger, who also debuted in 2014, is now 36 and is likely on the back end of her career. Despite that she’s not got a great deal of wear and tear and will be getting her first world title in just her 14th professional contest. Despite not having much wear and tear she’s also not proven herself as a viable world title contender, with her most notable win coming over the then 5-0 Eruka Hiromoto in 2019, a win that netted her the OPBF female Minimumweight title. That win aside has little else of note on her record in terms of success. In fact the other notable results on her record are losses to Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki, and a draw to Suzuki.
Despite her less than stellar results it’s hard to fault Hazuki’s work rate. In the ring she’s all effort, all energy and always coming forward letting her hands go. There’s a lack of quality and crispness to her work, but few can fault her tireless engine, with to win and all out fighting mentality. Sadly though she lacks the nuance to make the style work and the power needed to get her opponents respect. A lot of her shots are slapping shots, and there’s a really trudginess to her pressure. She’s a fun fighter to watch, but someone who’s deficient in too many areas to really compete at world level.
Although Hazuki is an all aggression fighter we don’t really see that aggression working too well against Valle, who we suspect will use her feet well, set up the counters and land big, heavy, clean shots. Hazuki will come forward all night, but eventually an accumulation of clean head shots, and the gulf in skills, will prove to be the difference, and we suspect Hazuki will end up taking a lot of leather until the referee steps in.
Prediction - TKO 8 Valle
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
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.