The first world title bout to take place in Japan this year is a female one between two former world champions, who can't afford another loss at this stage of their career, if they are to remain relevant as top contenders. Both are heading towards and neither is in their prime, as injuries and age catch up with them. Despite that we are expecting a genuine fantastic fight as Etsuko Tada (19-3-2, 6) and Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6) meet for the WBO female Minimumweight title.
Of the two it's Tada who is the older fighter. The Shinsei promoted 38 year old is a former WBA, IBF and WBO female Minimumweight champion who has fought at world level for a decade or so. She won her first world title in 2009, following an excellent amateur career, and has faced a genuine who's who of female boxing in the lower weights. She took her first title from ChoRong Son and went on to defend it against the likes of Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki before being dethroned by Anabel Ortiz. She would claim the IBF title 2 years later, beating Kareli Lopez, before losing in her first defense to Cai Zong Ju, then claim the WBO title in 2018 beating Kayoko Ebata.
In her prime Tada was fast, aggressive, a solid puncher, highly skilled, tough and a nightmare for anyone. As she's aged he speed has slowed, her combinations don't flow as they once did and she struggles to apply the same pressure she did when she was younger. She's still an excellent fighter, but often needs the right sort of opponent to shine against. Against a mover she struggles, and she's much better against a fighter who stands their ground. Despite that can chase, just not in the way she once could.
At 36 years old Miyao is no youngster herself, and she's no novice either, having made her professional debut in 2004, before the JBC even recognised female boxing. Her early career was tough, and she was 4-4-1 after her first 9 bouts. Since then however she has gone 19-4 and become a major figure in the Atomweight division, where she is a former WBA and WBA interim champion, who also fought in a unification bout with the then WBC champion Momo Koseki. During her long career she has beaten the likes of Mari Ando, Masae Akitaya, Gretchen Abaniel, and Nao Ikeyama.
At her best Miyao was a lighting quick fighter who could fire off lightning quick shots, and move around the ring with very quick footwork. She's been slowing down in recent years, but is still quick, skilled and hard to pressure. Notably she is moving up from Atomweight, 102lbs, to Minimumweight, 105lbs. It's going to be interesting to see how she copes with the extra weight, and the extra weight of her opponent. One other thing to note is that Miyao has previously suffered a nasty knee injury. She has fought twice since then, but it does leave some question marks about her body.
Here we expect to see Tada pressing, coming forward and Miyao boxing and moving on the back foot, using her feet to try and stay away from Tada's pressure. From there it really depends on who controls the distance as to who wins. We suspect that Miyao will have the early success with her foot work, but Tada will come on strong and begin to take control in the second half. This will not make it easy to score, but will make it very, very competitive, and very close.
Prediction - Draw (Split)
On April 28th we'll see Japan's Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) look to announce herself on the world stage, as she takes on once beaten Mexican Elizabeth Lopez (6-1-4, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Minimumweight title, a title vacated by stablemate Etsuko Tada. For Saeki this is a chance to win a world title in just her 4th bout, whilst also looking to prove she is more than just a talented prospect. For Lopez the bout will be her first outside of Latin America, and also her first for a major title.
The 22 year old Saeki is a novice professional. She only turned professional in 2018, making her debut on May 27th 2018, though had had a solid amateur background with a 35-9 record including bouts on both the national and international stage. That amateur background showed on her debut as she showed flashes of genius in a 6 round decision win over Floryvic Montero on debut. Following up her debut Saeki would score a stoppage win over Kanyarat Yoohanngoh, who would subsequently win the OPBF silver female title, and then stop Wassana Kamdee, to become the WBO Asia Pacific champion.
Saeki is a real natural talent. She is one of the purest female boxers out there, with exceptional skills, lightning speed, alarming accuracy and amazing ring IQ. even this early in her career she looks to be a special fighter, not just a special prospect. She looks to have all the tools to go a very long way, has already shown she can do 6 rounds. Given the fact she's in the Shinsei gym will have really helped her develop her skills and it's clear that she will have been working alongside Etsuko Tada to prepare for this bout.
With 11 bouts to her name the 4'9" Lopez has one of the sports oddest looking records, with 4 draws from her 11 contests. The 26 year old, who made her debut in March 2015, would strangely begin her career 2-1-3, with her loss coming to the under-rated Yesenia Gomez who has since become the WBC female Light Flyweight champion. As well as those 3 early draws Lopez actually drew last time out, fighting to a 6 round draw with Kumora Yang Badillo.
Footage of Lopez is hard to find, though what is available makes her look quite slow and clumsy. She's wild and rough around the edges, but does seem tough and marches forward. She has an aggressive style, but it is a very agricultural style and she does seem wild and reckless at times. Despite being aggressive she has only scored 1 stoppage win in 11 bouts, showing a lack of power and it seems like that will cause her bouts to go longer than she would like.
From the footage available of both it seems hard to see anything but a win for Saeki. She has too much skill, too much speed and too much polish for someone as sloppy as Lopez. Lopez will come to fight, but we expect to see her wide shots beign countered time and time again as Saeki goes on to take a wide, and clear decision. The only worry about Saeki is whether her lack of professional experience will be exposed, though with her training at the Shinsei gym we don't imagine that will actually be a problem here.
December 1st is set to be a hectic day for fight fans in Japan with 7 different title bouts taking place across 3 shows and 2 venues. Those 7 title bouts include a female world title bout, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) defends her title against former WBA champion Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout pits two real veterans against each other in what could out to be a real thriller for fans at the venue.
The champion, who is 42, is one of the oldest female fighters in Japan and is also a fighter with one of the most remarkable careers. Ebata debuted at the advanced age of 31 and would fight for a world title in her second professional bout, losing a razor thin decision in Camboia against Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. Despite the loss it was clear she was an excellent fighter, and she was good enough to get 3 more title fights in his following 5 bouts, though sadly lost all 3 of those bouts, including a WBA female Super Flyweight title bout to Tenkai Tsunami. Despite being a fantastic fight she found herself quickly falling to 3-4 (2). She then managed to rack up wins at the lower level, but came up short in 3 world title fights, losing to Nancy Franco in 2013 and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara in 2015 and 2016. With a record of 0-5 in world title fights she was essentially given one final chance in 2017, against Erika Hanawa for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, and she took that opportunity by defeating the then 7-0 Hanawa for the belt. A belt she has defended once, narrowly, since winning. It's fair to say that if Ebata loses the belt her career is likely over, though she has accomplished a dream of being a world champion.
At 37 years old the challenger also can't really afford a loss, though Tada has had a distinguished career. She would win the WBA female Minimumweight title in her 5th bout, defeating ChoRong Son for the belt in 2009. She would make 9 defenses of the title before losing it to Anabel Ortiz in 2013. Prior to losing the belt she had twice fought in unification bouts, drawing both, and had notched up notable wins over the likes of IBeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki. Following he loss to Ortiz we saw Tada become a 2-time champion, as she beat Kareli Lopez for the IBF title in 2015, though lose in her first defense in 2017 to Cai Zong Ju. Her only bout since that loss was a WBO Asia Pacific title win against Naoko Shibata, in November 2017. Sadly in her most recent bouts she has lacked the tenacity, hunger and fire that she once had. She's still a hungry fighter, but one that fights like a tamer version of her once fearsome self.
At their best these two were great fighters, but now they are shadows of their former selves. Neither is bad by any stretch, but they aren't what they once were. Here we favour the challenger. She's younger, looked better last time out and despite not fighting in over a year is likely to be the sharper fighter. Ebata struggled to retain her title in her first defense, and we can't see her getting much luck against Tada, especially given that Tada is the fighter managed by the promoter of the show.
We suspect Tada will take the decision, and we expect a real action bout. It's just a shame these two didn't fight earlier in their career's.
All female shows aren't a regular thing, but they have been seen a few times recently in Japan. The next of those will take place on March 8th at the Korakuen Hall, where the main event will be a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Kayoko Ebata (11-7, 6) and Korean challenger Ji Hyun Park (22-2, 6). On paper this looks like a mismatch in favour of the challenger, but the reality is that things aren't quite that simple, and Ebata's career has never been quite as straight forward as her record may suggest.
The 42 year old champion has seemingly fought by the mantra “if at first you don't succeed try, try again”. She won an OPBF title in her third attempt, over-coming Cho Rong Son for the OPBF Female Flyweight title in 2013, 4 years after her first shot at the title, and a world title in 6th world title fight, winning the WBO female Minimumweight title last year more than 9 years after her first world title bout. Not only did she have multiple shots at the titles, but her world title win didn't come until she was 41 years old, out pointing the much younger Erika Hanawa for the title last May.
On paper it's easy to rag on Ebata, who has lost more than 33% of her career bouts. Those numbers however don't reflect the fact she has come up short against fighters like Samson Tor Buamas, Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Nancy Franco and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, twice. They also don't reflect the fact she could have had wins in 3 of those bouts, at least, and was fighting well above her natural weight.
Ebata is a grizzled veteran, she's flawed, limited, but a tough, hard working, experienced fighter who is much better than her record suggests, and had she been able to get regular fights at 105lbs there is a good chance that her record would better reflect her ability. Instead she is saddled with a misleading record and a tough career full of hard luck.
As for the Korean she's the much younger fighter, at 32, but has had a weird career herself. She lost in 2 of her first 8 bouts, losing a Korean Flyweight title bout to Hwa Won Lee in 2005, with Hwa Won Lee later claiming a world title at Featherweight, and would also lose in North Korea in 2007 to Hye Sung Kim, in what is recorded as Kim's debut. Following those losses she has gone 16-0 and is unbeaten in over a decade! Not only that but she was a long term IFBA Minimumweight champion, and she defended that title against accomplished fighters like Hollie Dunaway, Nao Ikeyama, Krisztina Belinszky, Ana Arrazola, Jujeath Nagaowa and Anahi Torres and has a non-title win against Gretchen Abaniel.
Sadly for Park she hasn't actually fought since August 2015, when she beat Abaniel. That sort of lay off can be career ending for some fighters, and it's going to be very interesting to see what she has left here. At her best, she would probably be a little bit too good for Ebata, but she's certainly not going to be her best with so much ring rust, and her timing, speed and sharpness might be a little bit off. For a boxer like Park, who doesn't have much in terms of fire power, the ring rust will likely play a major part in the bout.
At the primes the bout would be a close one, where Park would be favoured. Now however with Ebata beyond her prime and Park inactive we'd go with the active champion, especially at home. We don't see Park being stopped, but we do see her being out worked and Ebata earning her first defense.
This coming Friday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall get an all Japanese world title fight as between veteran Kayoko Ebata (10-7, 6) battles novice professional Erika Hanawa (7-0, 2) for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, which was vacated by former champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara.
Of the two fighters it's clear that Ebata is the more experienced. She has as many losses as Hanawa has total fights, but she is far from a professional loser. In fact she's a genuine world class fighter who has continually competed at the world level, but unfortunately has come up short every time she has faced a world class fighter.
Ebata debuted back in 2007, as a 31 year old, and in just her second bout she challenged Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. That was one of 5 world title bouts that Ebata has come up short in, along with 2 losses in OPBF title bouts. Whilst that sounds horrific for Ebata she has been in with not only Samson but also Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Nancy Franco and former champion Ikehara, twice.
Aged 41 now Ebata is almost certainly in last chance saloon, and will know that another loss will probably be the end. She has flirted with retirement a number of times but seems to be determined to hold a world title before retiring, adding it to a short reign as an OPBF Flyweight champion. That determination has been seen through her career, and despite her age she has a great engine, but sadly determination doesn't always equal titles, and she does have a lot of rough edges and can be out fought and out boxed.
Aged 26 Hanawa really is a novice to professional boxing, and only made her professional debut in July 2015. Her early bouts were are against fellow novices, before she beat professional loser Christine Latube for the WBC ABC Continental female Minimumweight title in June 2016. The win over Latube hasn't been followed by anything too major, but she did defeat Norj Guro back in March, in what is her best win to date.
Little is really known about how good Hanawa is, something that is almost impossible to judge given her level of competition so far. What has been seen of Hanawa suggests there is real skill there, but we're very much unsure of just how much skill she really has. What is very clear however is that this is a huge step up in class for her, as she takes on her first foe coming to win, and one who has fought at world level.
Given her age it's clear that Hanawa will have youthful exuberance and energy on her side, she's also never tasted defeat and will have the confidence of being an unbeaten fighter. That youth and confidence might help Hanawa here, or could hinder her against a fighter with the experience and toughness of Ebata.
Although Hanawa is the unbeaten youngster it's hard to favour her here against the talented, though unlucky, Ebata. There is a chance Hanawa is really class, but this is a huge step up and we suspect Ebata, at long last, will win the big one and finally become a world champion, ending her long and hard wait for a major title.
This coming Wednesday we see female world title action return to Japan as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (8-1-2, 3) battles against 40 year old veteran Kayoko Ebata (9-6, 5), in a rematch of a hotly contested bout from May 2015.
Last year these two met with Ikehara taking a 7 round split technical decision over Ebata, with all the cards reading 67-66 one way or the other. The bout was very hotly contested before being stopped, 28 seconds into round 7, following a head clash.
Since their first bout both ladies have been rather inactive with just a single bout each. For Ebata her bout was a 5th round TKO win over Thai novice Sornsawan Sarakarngym, back in March, whilst Ikehara defended her title last November against the limited Momoko Kanda, claiming a 10 round decision.
At her best Ebata was typically a handful for most. Early in her career she pushed Samson Tor Buamas incredibly close in a bout for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. She would later give a competitive effort at Super Flyweight against Tenkai Tsunami in 2010 and a solid effort against Nancy Franco in 2013. It's worth noting however she is now 40, past her best and very inactive with just 2 bouts, combined for 12 rounds, in the last 2 years.
Although a warrior, and tough as old boots, Ebata is still at a very advanced age and has come up short in 4 previous world title bouts, and 2 other OPBF title fights. In fact she is amazingly 1-6 in title bouts.
Aged 31 Ikehara is no spring chicken however she's only been a professional for 4 years and has only featured in 50 professional rounds. Despite her inexperience she is 3-0-1 in world title bouts and has made 3 defenses of her title. That's not to say we don't question her ability, we do doubt she'll be a long reigning champion and her defenses so far lack much in terms of quality, but she's found a win to every bout she's had since September 2009, when she lost to Mika Iwakawa.
Ikehara is less of a battler than her foe but seems to find herself into a war quite regularly. That's resulted in 3 technical decisions, include a pair of opening round technical draws.
Given the fact that Ebata is at the very end of her career we're expecting a shock here and we think she'll just manage to out battle Ikehara and take a narrow decision, likely leading to a third bout in the near future. Maybe we just want to see the fairytale of Ebata winning a title but we'll stick by out prediction, Ebata by decision.
The least significant of two world title fights this coming Wednesday sees WBO female Minimumweight world champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) defending her title against fellow Japanese fighter Momoko Kanda (9-7-2, 3). On paper the bout looks farcical with a world champion defending their title against a fighter with a 50% win rate but in reality the bout should be a good one.
The 30 year old champion won the title back in August 2014 with a split decision win over Gretchen Abaniel. Since then she has defended her title twice, with both bouts ending early due to head clashes.
While Ikehara's last two bouts may have ended in less than brilliant fashion she is a world level fighter. She genuinely won a world title and is unbeaten in over 3 years, following a close loss in her second professional bout. That has seen her rise quickly through the ranks to the point where she is now a world champion and holds a notable victory over Saemi Hanagata, who has since challenged for a world title.
In the ring Ikehara is a hard working fighter who has enough skills to box but seems to get involved “up close” an awful lot of the time, hence why 3 of here bouts including the last 2 have ended with head clashes.
As for Kanda she's relatively unknown by the majority of Japanese fight fans. She has fought some notable names, including Ayaka Miyao who beat her last year, though lacks a notable win of any real relevance. Saying that Miyao is the only fighter to have beaten Kanda in the last 30 months, with Kanda scoring 5 wins in her last 6 bouts.
Given that Kanda hasn't scored a notable win we struggle to see that changing here. Instead we see Ikehara taking a clear decision. Despite favouring Ikehara to win we don't imagine she'll be able to stop Kanda who went 6 good rounds with Miyao and has gone 10 rounds with Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz.
On May 6th Japanese fans get a triple header at the Ota-City Gymnasium. Whilst one of those bouts is a mouth watering clash between unbeaten Super Featherweights another is easily over-looked as female veterans collide in a Minimumweight title bout. The bout won't set pulses going but it's one of those interestying match ups which could well end with a fight topping off their career with a big win, at last.
Coming in to the bout the fighter with everything to lose is WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-2, 3). The champion is a 30 year old who comes in to the bout seeking her 2nd defense of the title. Sadly for Ikehara her first defense, back on February 28th, was a forgettable affair with a clash of heads ending the bout after just a round.
For Ikehara that was clearly a disappointing defense however it does extend her title reign that began last September when he took a split decision win over Gretchen Abaniel.
The champion is a nice boxer to watch. She can scrap when she needs to and she can box when she wants. Her ability has taken her two notable wins, the decision over Abaniel and a decision over Saemi Hanagata, though those two wins aside there is little on her record to be impressed by and there is little to really make her seem world class. In many ways she's lucky to have had the chance to fight for a vacant after the sensationally talented Mako Yamada gave up the belt and retired.
Whilst Ikehara is relatively unproven there is plenty to admire about her and she is developing well as a fighter. Despite being 30 she's a young fighter without many miles on the clock, she's growing in confidence and has developed alongside veteran Nao Ikeyama who appears to have really brought the best out of Ikehara.
As for the challenger, that is 39 years old Kayoko Ebata (8-5, 4) who is in last chance saloon and, unfortunately for her, she's not had much luck in her career.
Ebata turned professional back in 2007 and got her first world title fight in just her 2nd professional bout, unfortunately however she was controversially beaten by Samson Tor Buamas in Cambodia. Just 2 fights later later Ebata lost a close one to Nanaka Kikuch and she soon fell to 3-4 with losses to Tenkai Tsunami and Naoko Shibata. All 4 of those losses had come in title bouts and all 4 had seen her mixing with world class opponents. There was nothing coming easy for Ebata.
Since that hard start we've seen Ebata turn her career around and she's since gone 5-1 with a solid victory over Cho-Rong Son for the OPBF Flyweight as well as a loss, at world level, to Nancy Franco.
In an alternate universe Ebata would have won a world title in her second bouyt and have been one of the fighters who would have helped develop female boxing in Japan. Instead she's 1-5 in title bouts and 0-3 in world title bouts.
On paper this looks likely to go with Ikehara. She's got the better record, she's almost a decade younger and she's the defending champion. In Ebata's favour however is the fact she's better than her record, her promoter is in charge of the show, she's among the very best that Ikehara has faced and she knows that this will almost certainly be her last shot at a world title.
We suspect this will be close though we think that Ebata's bad luck will finally change and she'll claim her world title at last. We don't think she'll hold it for long but we think she'll put it out here in a fight that becomes very messy as it goes on. Whilst it won't be the best fight we see this year the emotions at the end of it will have made it worth watching. And for those wanting to watch it, TV Tokyo have said they will stream it on their website for free!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Female boxing in the east may not have many stars but it does have an interesting fight scene with several notable fighters. Sadly however many fighters are over-looked for one reason or another, including many world champions. One of those over-looked world champions is WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-1, 3). The champion, a 30 year old based in Kyoto, won the title last time out when she over-came the more experienced Gretchen Abaniel in what is a career defining win for Ikehara.
Although Ikehara isn't a sensational fighter she is a good one and is much more proven than her record would suggest. The win over Abaniel is the stand out result though she also holds a big win over Saemi Hanagata which is head and shoulders above anything else on her record, other then the win over Abaniel.
At the end of the month we will see Ikehara return to the ring as she attempts to record the first defence of her title and over-come former title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (7-1, 4).
Pagaduan's career defining fight was a previous world title tilt, and her only loss, as she was routed by the then 44 year old Nao Ikeyama in the inaugural WBO Atomweight title bout. That bout saw Pagaduan being completely out classed though coming into this bout she will be allowed an extra 3lbs of weight on the scales which may well translate to a more energetic performance.
Prior to the bout with Ikeyama it was hard to say much regarding Pagaduan. She had won the GAB female Minimumweight title but her opponents were limited to say the least with a combined record of 2-6-6. Against Ikeyama she was coming up against an opponent with a 13-3-1 record and the class difference told. Sadly since he Ikeyama bout we've only seen Pagaduan claim a win over a debutant and learn next to nothing.
Whilst Pagaduan is pretty limited she also has another thing to worry about. That's the fact Ikehara and Ikeyama are close friends and stable mates at the Kyoto Fitness Gym. Essentially Ikehara has seen her stablemate dominate Pagaduan and will know what to expect of her challenger here. We're not saying Ikehara is something exceptional but she's a solid fighter and will have had an excellent scouting report on her opponent here.
We suspect Ikehara could beat Pagaduan “going in blind” though with Ikeyama's win and a chance to see Pagaduan in action this really is almost certainly going to be a clear an easy win for the champion who should be too good, too busy and too clever for the challenger.
Female boxing, at least in Asia, seems to have been very slow to kick off after the new year with next to no really notable bouts having taken to place. That's not to say that we've had no bouts but in terms of big bouts, we've sadly had nothing. No world title bouts, no OPBF title bouts and no really interesting contender style bouts. It's been disappointing.
Thankfully on February 9th things change as unbeaten fighters collide in the first Asian female title bout of the 2014.
In one corner will be the defending WBO Minimumweight champion Su-Yun Hong (9-0, 5), who will be seeking the 3rd defense of the title belt she claimed back in June 2012. In the other corner will Japan's unbeatn Mako Yamada (6-0, 2) who will be taking part in her first title bout of any variety.
On paper this should be an easy contest for Hong. Not only is she fighting at home in South Korea but she's also the more experienced, more tested, more powerful and so far more impressive. She really should be a clear favourite, though Yamada certainly won't be a push over.
Despite being the favourite the 26 year old southpaw, defending her belt against a second successive Japanese challenger, will know that she needs to be at the top of her game. Fighters with unbeaten records don't fight like they want to give up their "0" but will instead do all they can to remain unbeaten, and if they are fighting in a title bout they will do all they can to win the belt as well. This was exactly what Hong did when she was 6-0 herself and went on to beat Teeraporn Pannimit for the title.
Since winning the title Hong hasn't been the most active with just 2 defenses, a 5th round TKO over Buangern OnesongchaiGym and a split decision over Mari Ando. Those 15 rounds haven't been a lot considering she won the title well over 18 months ago, and she may well be suffering from some ring rust if she's not stayed active in the gym.
Aged 19 Yamada is the young and fast rising jewel of Japanese female boxing. She turned professional back in 2012 aged just 17, and defeated an unbeaten fighter on debut. Since then she has gone from strength to strength scoring a notable 81 second blow out over Yinglek Sithsaithong and an impressive decision over Mika Iwakawa.
Yamada's most recent performance, an 8 round decision over Chamagorn Sithsaithong, was arguably her best as she went 8 rounds and controlled the bout whilst acquiring much needed experience over a longer distance. Prior to that bout she had had just 18 rounds experience and really needed to get rounds under her belt. Despite having so few fights however she will feel her activity, 6 fights in less than 2 years, will have served her very well and may active as a very valuable advantage for the challenger.
The reason why Yamada has effectively been fast tracked to a world title fight isn't her boxing experience but in fact her kick boxing experience. As a kick boxer the youngster ran up an incredible record in the amateurs. She continued in to the pros though appears to be set on making a name for herself as a professional boxer and a victory over Hong would certainly allow her to do that.
If anything will be testing to Hong it's the "non-boxing" experience of Yamada who was very accomplished in other combats sports. She knows how to look after herself, she knows how to fight and she knows what it feels like to be hit. She isn't a "19 year old novice" despite what some may think. If Hong mistakes Yamada for a young novice it will bite her.
We however expect Hong to know all about Yamada's past and know she's in with a very good rival. If she does show the right respect to Yamada we think Hong will see out some issues in the early rounds, using her straight accurate shots and movement before taking over the bout late on as she moves through the gears and makes Yamada pay for her lack of late round experience. We don't think the champion will stop the challenger, who is tough, but we do expect the decision to be a clear, though hard fought one.
Had Yamada managed to get a few more 8 rounders under her belt we think that could have made things a lot more interesting though we assume she'll learn more here, win or lose, than almost any other bout could have taught her.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.