This coming Wednesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see a new OPBF female Bantamweight champion being crowned, as Makoto Kikuchi (1-1, 1) and Marina Sayama (4-3-1, 2) clash for the currently vacant title. Although neither fighter is a major name, and neither is likely to become a major player in the division internationally, we do anticipate this being a very interesting and potentially very entertaining bout.
Coming into the bout Kikuchi is the older woman. The 35 year old southpaw his highly ranked by the JBC at Bantamweight and was a stellar domestic amateur, though was surprisingly upset on her professional debut, when she lost to Aka Ringo. Thankfully for her she bounced back from that loss earlier year, when she stopped Ai Sugimoto and put herself in the regional and domestic title mix.
As for Sayama the 34 year old debuted in 2017 and won her first 2 bouts, before moving her record to 4-1-1 (2). Sadly however she has lost her last two bouts, including a Japanese Flyweight title bout in 2019. Although she hasn't had much success recently there is a real hunger from her to make a mark in the sport, after crossing over from Football (soccer).
In the ring Kikuchi is a big strong looking Bantamweight, with some technical ability, an aggressive style, and nice, natural, fluid footwork and movement. Against Sugimoto she looked like a natural boxer, with heavy hands, and a relaxed in ring demeanour. She's not the smoothest or most active, but it's really clear that she's a well-trained and powerful fighter with bricks for hands. Defensively she isn't the tightest, but fighters will have to take risks to make her pay for her poor defensively skills, and with her power that risk is one that some won't be in a rush to take. Go to war with her at your own risk.
As for Sayama she is a natural athlete and has good stamina, good movement and good energy. Sadly however she doesn't have the polish of a boxer and is very much an athlete who turned to boxing late, rather than someone who was an athletic boxer. As a result she doesn't have the subtle things that fighters have from years of boxing, and instead relies on athletic ability, rather than boxing ability. Whilst that's not great for her to have success, she does need applauding for showing what she has, in a sport she didn't really focus on until later in her life.
Sadly for Sayama her issue here isn't necessarily her lack of boxing background. Instead it's her lack of size and physicality. We suspect with her speed and movement she will have success early on. She will take rounds on her feet. Sadly though as her feet begin to slow, and she holds her ground more, she will get broken down by the heavier hands, and sheer physicality of Kikuchi.
Prediction - TKO 7 Kikuchi
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.