Earlier this year we saw Costa Rican fighter Yokasta Valle (25-2, 9), the IBF Atomweight champion, score her most widely seen win to date, scoring a very clear and decisive win over Lorraine Villalobos on DAZN. That win saw her impress everyone, and put her hat in the mix to be consider a top 10 pound for pound female fighter, with the performance showcasing her speed, skills, movement and the natural fluidity she has to her in ring style. This coming Thursday we'll see her return to the ring to defend her title in a unification bout against WBO champion Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (5-0, 1), from Vietnam.
Valle really is a sensationally talented fighter who appears to be able to do it all. She might not be the explosive puncher that Seniesa Estrada, but she certainly hits harder than her record suggests and is such a clean, accurate puncher and is a smooth, natural boxer, with an excellent style. Whilst she does have two losses on her record, it is worth noting that she's gone on an excellent run since them. They occurred in late 2017, to Naoko Fujioka, and mid 2018, to Tina Rupprecht, both in her opponents back yard. In both of those fights she made a great account of herself, and showed there was a real talent there, which has been nurtured really well as she's become the face of Costa Rican boxing.
As for Nguyen , the Vietnamese fighter is the first ever world champion from Vietnam, but also someone who has had more than her fair share of good luck. In just 5 fights she has raced to a world title, but her rise has included questionable wins over the very limited Kanyarat Yoohanngo and the talented Etsuko Tada, who she beat for the WBO world title last October. In both of those bouts, which took place away from Vietnam, she was afford some very nice judging. In the ring she's certainly not bad, but nothing about her screams word class. Instead she's been fortunate, with Cocky Buffalo protecting her some what. She's fast, and she's skilled, and gutsy, but lacks power and lacks that know how and experience needed to legitimately compete at the highest level.
Coming in to this we expect to see Nguyen not having favourable judges in her corner, for once, and that will be a major issue against someone as versatile, rounded, and consistent as Valle. Valle will likely take a round or two to see what Nguyen really has to offer and is bringing to the table. She will respect her, as a fellow world champion, but after a few short rounds Valle will have scouted her foe, and begin to find her own range, timing and rhythm, and begin to land at will. Nguyen is quick, and she used that speed well against Tada at times, but Valle is not a late 30's fighter with slow feet. Instead she's a quick, sharp, well school fighter who will close the ring and find her range and do what she wants with the Vietnamese fighter.
Prediction - UD10 Valle
This coming Saturday we'll see WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) make her first defense as she takes on mandatory challenger Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (4-0, 1) from Vietnam. The bout might not look like anything special on paper, but it should be a very interesting one, pitting a 40 year old, veteran champion, against a 25 year old, looking to make her mark on the sport and put Vietnam on the boxing map.
Of the two women it's Tada who is the much, much more well known. The veteran has been a professional since 2008 and is one of the most decorated Japanese female boxers in history. During her 26 fight career she has won the WBA, IBF and WBO Minimumweight titles and fought in 18 world title bouts since 2009. It's not just the numbers that are impressive, but also her competition and she holds notable wins over the likes of Cho Rong Son, Ibeth Zamora Silva, Naoko Shibata, Yuko Kuroki, Kayoko Ebata and Ayaka Miayao.
In the ring the champion is an aggressive fighter. Over the years she has developed from a raw fighter, full of energy but lacking in finese, to being more of a pressure-fighter. Sadly her legs have slowed over the years, something that obvious happens in a fighters mid to late 30's, but she applies intelligent pressure, has a good work rate, is incredible tough and has solid power, as Miyao found out. She can be out worked, she can be outsped and out boxed, but few fighters will manage to outlast her over 10 rounds, and she's a genuine nightmare for anyone at 105lbs.
The challenger on the other hand is a bit of an obscure fighter. She debuted as a professional in 2015 and then vanished before returning in 2019 and picking up two low key wins. She then kicked off 2020 with her biggest win to date, beating Kanyarat Yoohanngoh in Camboddia for the WBO Asia Pacific female title. That bout saw the Vietnamese fighter taking a split decision over the Thai, in a 10 rounder, the longest bout of her career. Sadly since that win, in February 2020, Nguyen has been out of the ring, with numerous planned and scheduled bouts falling through due to issues with Covid and covid related travel restrictions.
In the ring Nguyen lighst to fight as a pressure fighter, coming forward behind a tight guard, using good upper body movement and pressing opponents around the ring. She's not the most active with her output, as we saw against Yoohanngoh, but her forward march does look like it could make for some very exciting bouts against the right opponents. Technically her punches aren't particularly crisp, and they don't look like they have a lot of weight on them, yet they seem to have an effect when they land, and we suspect she's a much heavier handed fighter than she looks. Although she likes to pressure she does have very slow feet, and given her lack of output it seems clear she can be out boxed, out worked, and out fought, though it may be easier said than done.
Given the two fighters involved the styles should gel really well. They should meet face to face, and that should allow for a high tempo bout on the inside, something that we strongly favour Tada in. Nguyen can make for good fights, but we feel she's up against a much better version of herself here, and the sort of fighter that she'll not manage to do what she wants against. In fact we suspect Nguyen will be the one looking for plan B and plan C sooner rather than later.
With that comment in mind we do need to bring up the elephant in the room, the promoter. The bout is taking place in South Korea, and a card promoted by Nguyen's team. Nguyen's win over Yoohanngoh did not look on the level, and the two 99-90 scores were atrocious. Tada will need to be aware that she's not going to have the judges on her side, and will really need to win clearly to get the decision. We think she'll look to really hurt and punish Nguyen over the course of the fight and make it clear that the judges can't rob her here, despite maybe trying.
Prediction - SD10 Tada
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.