On august 11th we'll see a new OPBF female Light Flyweight champion being crowned as Yumi Narita (5-4-3, 1) and Kaoru Iga (4-1-1) battle for the currently vacant title in Osaka. On paper this doesn't look like the most competitive of bouts, given the respective records of the two women, but in reality it should be a much more compelling bout that the records suggest.
Of the two fighters the more well known is Narita, who debuted in 2016 and has 12 professional bouts to her name, including 4 Japanese title level. Notably she is 2-1-1 at Japanese title level, having won and defended the Japanese female Minimumweight title in 2020. Although she lacks in terms of notable wins, she has held Chie Higano to a draw and did beat Mont Blanc Miki last time out, in her sole Japanese title defense.
In the ring Narita isn't a particularly tidy fighter, her defense is open, she can be hit and does get hit. She is however the sort of fighter who looks have her say in every exchange, and if you hit her you better be expecting to take one back in exchange. Sadly for her however her lack of power, her only stoppage came in 2016 in her first professional win, does mean that having exchanges doesn't result in getting respect from her opponents.
Iga on the other hand has only been a professional since 2019, and she actually failed to win either of her first two bouts, drawing on debut and losing in her second bout. After that disappointing start she's gone on to win her last 4 bouts, though has yet to beat a fighter with more wins than losses. She was last seen out in April, beating Sachiko Kondo in a 6 rounder and that bout will serve her well here, but she is still stepping up significantly from that win, and her competition really has been poor so far.
In the ring Iga is certainly inexperienced, and light punching, but is aggressive, comes out to fight, launches a lot of shots and and seems to enjoy an actual fight. Sadly for her she's not very polished, and is really reliant on her hunger and stamina rather than her skills, but it does make for fun to watch action fights.
Watching the two women in action one this is clear, there is more to Narita's game than there is to Iga. Iga is very much aggression, and throwing a lot, whilst Narita does know her way around the ring a bit, she can box or move, and whilst both are crude there is a clear difference in skill set between the two women. We suspect that, and the experience edge of Narita, will be the difference maker here, with Narita doing enough to earn a very close and competitive decision, and claim the OPBF title.
Prediction - SD8 Narita
It's fair to say that whilst 2020 has been an horrific year for most there have been some positives to take from it including some in boxing. We have seen a massive improvement in match making in Thailand, to the point where we are genuinely looking forward to Thai shows when they take place. Another big winner has been female boxing, which has really been able to blossom in the UK during the no-crowd era, where cheaper purses has made female boxing a show saver. Fingers crossed both of those things continue when global normality resumes.
On the subject of female boxing one thing the UK is missing is a female domestic title scene, which we expect they will create in the coming years.
One country that has already got this is Japan and we see the next Japanese female national title fight this coming Sunday in Osaka. That title bout will see Yumi Narita (4-4-3, 1) defending her Japanese female Minimumweight title against Mont Blanc Miki (4-3-1, 1) at the EDION Arena Osaka. For the champion this will be her first defense, since winning the title in January, whilst the challenger will be looking to make the most of her latest opportunity.
The 31 year old Narita won the title this past January in her third title shot, after coming incredibly close in two previous bouts. She fought to a draw for the title in 2018, against Chie Higano, then lost a split decision to Higano in early 2019. In fairness she could have won either of those bouts. That has been pretty much the problem through her entire career, "she could have won that bout". In total she has had had 5 bouts that could have gone her way with the judges, and had that happened she'd be sat with a 9-2 record, and would certainly be seen differently in the eyes of fans.
Sadly for Narita her issues are, like many lower level female fighters. She lacks concussive power, her bouts end up being competitive and being a high tempo slugfest with both able to take the power of the other. The action often seems tit for tat and bouts can get messy very quickly. Sadly for Narita she makes life quite tricky for herself by lacking accuracy and throwing a lot of wide shots and seems to lack straight shots from her arsenal, something she will need if she's going to progress beyond Japanese title level. Thankfully she did put things together last time out, when she beat Yumiko Shimooka for the title, but in fairness Shimooka is a very limited fighter who had lost 5 of her previous 6.
In Mont Blanc Miki we have a 28 year old challenger who turned professional in 2017. She started her career with a win but was stopped in just her second bout, as tested the water above Light Flyweight. That loss sent her back down the scales she found success, and reeled off 3 more wins before. A move up to Light Flyweight in 2019 didn't bode well, as she was stopped in 2 rounds by Chan Mi Lim in South Korea. Sadly since that loss she has gone 0-1-1, though that did including a loss to Japanese Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda, last year. We had expected Matsuda to really have her way with Miki, though Miki held her own for 4 rounds before being stopped in round 5, in what was probably her best performance to date.
Although there is quite a few fights of Miki out there the one against Matsuda looks to be the most suitable to get a read on what Miki can do. In that bout she proved to be a super hungry fighter, who pressures a lot, can hold her own up close and has surprisingly good footwork. She loads a bit too much for our liking, though she seems much more accurate than Narita and physically stronger. Like Narita she's not the most accurate, but she's a very capable fighter, with a real aggressive attitude in the ring and she will be there pressing forward, looking to land big right hands and left hooks. Notably all 3 of her losses have been by stoppage, and she's not proven to have the best chin, despite her pressure style.
Despite entering as the challenger we actually think Miki will be the favourite here, or at least she should be viewed as the favourite. The advantages Miki has work well in her favour here. She's the physically stronger, more imposing and more accurate fighter of the two. Her work rate might not match that of Narita, but she's much more effective with her work than the champion. Also Miki's biggest flaw, her toughness, isn't likely to be an issue here given Narita doesn't have much in terms of power. Miki will get hit, probably quite a lot, but won't be in trouble from anything Narita throws at her.
Don't get us wrong, Narita is a live under-dog, and she won't want to give up her title, but she's certainly up against it here against a stronger, more powerful fighter than herself. Narita needs a perfect gameplan to win whilst Miki just needs to be herself and out hustle the champion.
Prediction - Miki UD6
The Japanese female title scene is a very mixed one. Some of the title fights are brilliant, well matched bouts between two fighters on their way up the ranks. Other times it appears the JBC just want to full a vacancy, and anyone will do. On January 27th we get a bout that firmly fits in the latter category as Yumiko Shimooka (4-7, 1) and Yumi Narita (3-4-3, 1) battle for the Japanese female Minimumweight title.
Coming in each fighter has won just 1 of their last 6 bouts, and for both women they without a win in their last 3. These aren't the best female fighters in Japan at 105lbs but with a vacancy that needs filling they are facing off for the belt.
The 38 year old Shimooka made her debut in 2014, and immediately struggled. She was stopped on debut, and despite winning 3 of her following 4 bouts never really built any career momentum. She has now lost 5 of her last 6 and hasn't fought since a decision loss to Mont Blanc Miki in November 2018. You need to go all the way back to December 2017 for her last win, which came in an upset against Umi Ishikawa.
Watching Shimooka you can see why she's lost so many bouts. She's crude, lazy, wide open, slow and not particularly busy. She telegraphs her punches and stumbles forward, often eating more than she throws as a result, and what she does throw is so horribly off balance.
Aged 30 Narita is the younger fighter, and the more active, with 2 fights last year. Incidentally she lost both of them by split decision, including a title fight to Chie Higano and a close loss to Sana Hazuki. Although she's win-less in 3 she was competitive in all 3 of those bouts and has interestingly drawn 3 of her last 6. One thing to realise when it comes to Narita is, win, lose or draw, she has generally been in close bouts.
Sadly however her limitations are very visible, much like Shimooka. She lacks power, she lacks variety and although she does have a busy jab, it lacks snap. It's more thrown as a stay away punch then a real scoring shot. Sadly when fighters walk through that jab she no real answer and often holds, leading to some messy action. Watching her she really doesn't appear to have anything at all on her back hand.
With the limitations of both should make this competitive but we can't help thinking that Narita, the younger, fresher, more active fighter, will do enough, just, to take this. Neither is particularly good but the jab of Narita, and her younger legs, are likely to prove the difference maker in a fight we expect to be very, very messy.
Prediction - SD6 Narita
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.