This coming Monday we'll see OPBF female Featherweight champion Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 3) return to the ring as she hunts her second defense, and takes on the once beaten Yoshie Wakasa (6-1, 2) at the EDION Arena Osaka. On paper this bout does show the lack of depth in female boxing, but that's not to take away from a bout that should be very entertaining and hotly contested.
The champion is 38 but has proven to be a late bloomer. She was stopped on debut, and was 1-2-1 after 4 bouts, but since then she has gone 7-1-1, with her only loss in that stretch coming to world champion Hyun Mi Choi this past June. Not only has Fujiwara's record turned around but she's go one to avenge one of her losses, stopping Kana Fukuda in 2017 to avenge her debut loss, and has scored two wins over veteran Kimika Miyoshi, a 3 weight OPBF champion. Unfortunately for her she's what we'd describe as a "battler", with a lack of world class power. She can box, but tends to find herself involved in wars on the inside, which are entertaining but she up her lack of boxing IQ. Like many female fighters at this level, skills seem to come second behind work rate, which is fun to watch, but does magnify the difference between the fringe contenders and the truly world class.
Aged 31 Wakasa is no youngster herself, but she is still significantly younger than the champion. She debuted more than 5 years ago and began here career with 6 straight wins, though they were mostly against limited opponents with the best being Asami Jinnari and Tomoko Okuda. last time out she stepped up, massively, to take on Miyo Yoshida and suffered a wide decision loss to Yoshida in a Japanese female Bantamweight title fight. When you consider that she's going up from 118lbs, for that bout, to 126lbs for the bout, that's a big ask for Wakasa, who will be up against her second best opponent so far.
There's a chance that, over the next few years, Wakasa will cement herself as a title level fighter. Here however we see her taking on someone in form. who's, stronger, bigger and more experienced. Fujiwara is unlikely to ever win a world title herself, but we see her taking a very, very comfortable decision over her fellow Japanese fighter here, even if she does end up resorting to using her size to take the win.
Prediction - UD8 Fujiwara
The Japanese female scene is one that looks set to really build in 2019, with a number of rising hopefuls looking to be fast tracked through the ranks. The creation of the Japanese female titles has been a really great addition and given female fighters something to aim for on their way up the ranks.
On March 13th we see the Japanese female scene take center stage with Victoriva Vol 4, which will feature only female fighters. One of the main bouts on that card will see OPBF and JBC female Bantamweight champion Miyo Yoshida (11-1) defending her national title against JBC #1 ranked contender Yoshie Wakasa (6-0, 2).
The 30 year old Yoshida has been one of the big revelations of the Japanese female scene in the last few years. She began her career in 2014 and despite some struggles to really get going, wining her first two bouts by close decision and losing her 5th bout, she has really shined, winning her last 7 in a row. That current run of wins has seen her avenge her only loss, beating Yuki Koseki just 6 months after losing to her, as well as winning the Japanese female title, defeating Tomomi Takano, and the OPBF female title, defeating Gretel de Paz. Not only has Yoshida won both titles but she has also defended both belts.
Yoshida isn't a big Bantamweight, she's not a quick fighter or much of a puncher. What she does well however is apply intelligent pressure, bringing the fight to her opponent and landing clean shots. Her jab seemed to land more often than that of Tanako when the two fought, despite Takano having a clear reach and height advantage, and her timing when she throws her straight right is very impressive. There is, at times, a messiness to her work, but that tends to lend it's self well to her using his physical strength on opponents, and despite being a small fighter she really is a physically strong one, often able to push opponents around.
The unbeaten Wakasa, also 30, also began her career in 2014 though has not been as active as Yoshida, or accomplished as much, in part that was due to real inactivity in the ring in 2016 and 2017. Despite the lack of experience she is the JBC #1 ranked contender and is an unbeaten fighter with notable domestic wins over Asami Jinnari, who later challenged for the Japense female Featherweight title, and Tomoko Okuda. In just 6 fights she has already taken 2 unbeaten records, and has shown steady improvement through her career.
Watching Wakasa we see a fighter with good timing, a sharp jab, and the ability to cut the distance pretty well. She has managed to beat quicker, more naturally gifted fighters, and moves smartly, using intelligent footwork. She sets an educated work rate, and does appear happy to throw eye catching shots, even if they aren't the crispest. If we're being honest we thought she was lucky against Okuda, but she did land the more eye catching shots, even if she was out landed.
Given the styles of the two fighters we tend to feel that Yoshida will bring the pressure and force Wakasa to fight at her pace. The lack of power, from both, would suggest this is going the distance, but the 6 round distance is something Yoshida has more experience with, as Wakasa has only gone 6 rounds once, and could end up helping the champion further stamp her authority on the bout.
We're expecting a clear but competitive decision win for Yoshida here, who may well move into world title bouts before the end of the 2019.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.