On September 1st we'll see a new Japanese Atomweight champion being crowned as the unbeaten pairing of Sumire Yamanaka (5-0, 1) and Honoka Kano (4-0-2, 2) battle for the vacant title at Korakuen Hall. The bout is expected to be a major stepping stone in the career of both women, who are both eying up future success well above domestic level, however both will also know this is set to be the toughest bout of their career. A win would be huge for either woman, though both are young enough to take a loss, and bounce back stronger in the future, and defeat is certainly not the end for them.
The more well known of the two women involved in this bout is 20 year old hopeful Sumire Yamanaka, the younger sister of former world champion Ryuya Yamanaka. The diminutive Yamanaka has been ear marked for success by Shinsei Gym but has struggled a little bit in the professional ranks, despite her unbeaten record. Sadly for her, her lack of size, standing at less than 5', and lack of physicality has made life hard for her, and at just 20 there is significantly physical development for her to still go through. Despite that there is no doubting her hunger for success and she did look to find a bit of killer instinct in her most recent bout, which took place in Thailand. It seems fair to say that Yamanaka isn't the complete article, but even as a work in progress there is a lot to like about her. She's aggressive, gutsy and does have a nice mix of skills and weapons in her arsenal.
For us Yamanaka seems to be the type of fighter who is 3 or 4 years away from what she'll become, but is still a very notable female prospect in a division which has long been dominated by fighters from Asia.
As for Kano, the 27 year old she made her debut in 2019 and looked big and powerful in her first bout, before being held to a draw just a few months later. Through her career so far she has continued to look power, big, strong and like someone who has the physical attributes to compete well above the Atomweight division, and she will easily tower over Yamanaka in this fight. In the ring Kano is aggressive, she looks to cut the distance, use he physicality and bully opponents, whilst throwing and landing big, heavy shots. Given her aggression she is often willing to take on to land one, and is defensively poor, but is tough and strong enough to know she can take one to land one, especially at this level. Her biggest issue is her balance and footwork, with very sloppy footwork and the technical side of her game is lacking, but that's typical for a fighter with just 5 bouts to their name.
Whilst we feel that Yamanaka is very much a work in progress, and will look like she's being dwarfed by Kano, we do feel her aggression, and the style of the two women will play in her favour. If Kano was the type of fighter who kept things long, and used her size to box at range this would be a really, really tough for Yamanaka. Instead Kano will look to bring the fight, Yamanaka will respond, getting inside and working away with shorter, crisper shots up close. The power and strength of Kano could be the difference maker, but we feel that the inside work of Yamanaka will actually be the key to her taking a narrow decision win.
Prediction - UD6 Yamanaka
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.