This coming Saturday we see attention turns to Osaka for an interesting Shinsei promoted female only card, featuring three title bouts.
One of those title bouts will see veteran Yuko Henzan (8-11-4, 2) take on professional novice Aka Ringo (2-0, 1), with the two women battling for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Female Bantamweight title.
Aged 27 years old Ringo is very much a professional boxing novice, having only debuted last year. Her opponents so far were both debutants, and she is taking a huge step up in class for this bout. Amazingly in total she has just 9 rounds of professional boxing experience to her name, a worry as she heads into this bout which is scheduled for 8 rounds it's self. Notably however she isn't a combat sports novice and has come from a Mixed Martial Arts background, and is very comfortable in the ring.
Footage of Ringo as a boxer isn't too widely available, though that shouldn't be a surprise given her short career in the sport, however it is possible to find her second professional bout in full on YouTube, and in that she looks very relaxed and comfortable in the ring. She's not the sharpest fighter, or the best defensively, but she looks tough, strong, powerful, and is willing to take one to land one when she needs to. She likes to apply intelligent pressure, backing opponents up and trying to our work them and out land them. She is open to counter shots, and her defense looks like it could be a major issue for her in the coming years, but it's clear she believes in her chin and her own power and physicality. We do question not just her defense, but her work rate, and although she applies pressure, she doesn't really let her hands go all that much, and that will be an issue when she begins to face solid competition.
As for Yuko Henzan she's a 34 year old veteran of the ring, with 23 professional bouts and 118 rounds to her name, in a career that dates back to 2010. Her career hasn't been littered with success, but she has turned things around since a very poor start to her career. She failed to win any of her first 4 bouts and was 1-5-2 in her first 8 bouts. She actually managed to go on a good enough run at one point to have a record that read 8-7-4 (2), though things have gone down hill since, with 4 straight losses. The biggest success of her career was a short run as the OPBF Bantamweight champion, she vacated the title rather than defending it.
Henzan is very much a battle tested warrior. She comes forward behind a tight high guard and looks to make boxing contests into up close fights. She's aggressive, fun to watch and incredibly flawed. Her issues are numerous. She's got slow feet, she's small at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, her shots don't have much snap on them, and she often falls short with her punches. Despite that she does have a style that could be a real issue for Ringo here, just based on her work rate. If she's willing to take one to land one, and presses to get into the reach of the more naturally skilled Ringo she could make this rough, tough and a bit ugly.
Over 8 rounds we expect to see Ringo doing enough. But certainly being made to answer some real questions, thanks to Henzan's pressure, toughness and willingness to come forward in bursts of activity. Ringo should be too big, too fluid and too strong to lose, but her inexperience will allow Henzan to have moments and maybe take a couple of rounds from the younger fighter.
Prediction - UD8 Ringo
On June 7th we're set for a notable, albeit short, card from Watanabe Gym with three title bouts, which were originally scheduled for May but needed to be delayed due to the State of Emergency in Japan. One of those bouts is rather uneven looking Japanese Female Bantamweight title fight, with Kanako Taniyama (3-1-1, 1) facing Yuko Henzan (8-10-4, 2) for the vacant title. Although the least significant of the three bouts, it's an interesting one, and one that both fighters will likely see as a must win bout. At least if either of them wants to potentially land a world title fight before retirement.
On paper the match looks like it's two fighters in very, very different places. Tamiyama, with just 5 bouts to her name, looks like a woman at the start of her career, whilst Henzan, with a 22 fight record, looks like a journey woman, going nowhere. In reality however both women are 34, neither can afford another set back and another loss, for either, would push them a very long way from a title fight, of any kind. They are also very similar in size, and their desire to claim a title will be huge here.
Of the two fighters Taniyama is the more notable. She was a stand out kick boxer before turning to professional boxing in late 2018, with a lot of hype and expectation on her shoulders. After scoring two quick wins she got her first title fight and fought to an 8 round draw with Tomoko Okuda for the JBC and OPBF female Bantamweight titles. The bout was hotly contested and resulted in a rematch around 4 months later, which was another hotly contested bout, with Okuda taking a 7th round technical decision, giving Tamiyama her first loss. Since then Okuda has gone on to win the WBO female Super Flyweight title, whilst Taniyama herself has gone on to bounce back with a win over Mitsuda.
In the ring Taniyama is a fighter who presses forward, comes with aggressive intent and is very much a kick boxer turned boxer. She's crude, she's rough around the edges, but is very much an aggressive, fun to watch fighter who tries to impose her will on the bout. She's not the quickest, in fact she has had issues with her legs in the past from her days as a kick boxer, but cuts the ring off well and comes to fighter, every time she's in the ring.
Henzan on the other hand has been a professional since 2010, and has fought a genuine who's who. Due to that willingness to fight pretty much anyone she has picked up a lost of losses, including defeats to Miyo Yoshida, Fan Yin, Li Ping Shi and Wakako Fujiwara. During her career she has fought for OPBF and WBO honours, and actually did pick up the OPBF Bantamweight title in 2018, though her reign lead to nothing of note. In the ring she's technically very limited, very light hitting, and relatively open. However she's not an easy fighter to beat or look good against because she's tough, she's tiny and comes forward looking for a fight. She lets her hands go on the inside and really does seem to enjoy a fight. She's a limited boxer but a genuine fighter who will go toe to toe when she needs to and lets body shots go on mass. Sadly however she is under-sized, she lacks physicality and is very flat footed.
Because both are slow of foot, both like to fight and both like to let shots go up close we're expecting this one ton be a genuinely exciting bout. Not the most highly skilled, or intelligent fight, from either, but an exciting, "TV Friendly" fight, with the two women engaging often and trading blows. Sadly for Henzan we suspect her lack of real phsycality will be an issue and she'll come off second best when the two do trade. She'll be the one backing up, the one being pushed around and the one taking the heavier blows. She'll certainly always fight back, but we have the feeling she'll also come up very, very short.
This will be fun, a genuine tear up, but we supect it'll also be a clear win for Taniyama who just has that extra class and extra physical strength.
Prediction - UD6 Taniyama
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.