Earlier today in Sakai City, and around the world thanks to the Boxing Real YouTube channel, had the chance to see Japanese veteran Tenkai Tsunami (28-12-1, 16) [有馬真波] record her third defense of the WBO female Light Flyweight title, as she over-came Shione Ogata (11-7-1, 3) [緒方汐音].
On paper this was a really interesting match up, despite the records of the two women.
The 36 year old Tsunami had seen better days. She was a proper veteran of the sport, debuting back in 2005, and had been in her share of wars including a 2019 thriller with the legendary Naoko Fujioka. She was in a good run of form coming in, but father time, or should that be mother time, can catch up with a fighter in their 30's very quickly. On the hand Ogata had turned around her career in recent going 10-2-1 in her last 13 bouts, whilst taking 3 regional titles along the way. The challenger was in great form, had developed really well in recent years, guided by Nobuhiro Ishida, and was the local favourite, coming from nearby Neyagawa city.
At the start of the bout Ogata was on her toes, knowing that Tsunami can bring a lot of pressure and high work rate. The movement and jab approach is one we've seen have success against Tsunami in the past and we the right approach from Ogata, who was clearly the quicker fighter. Sadly for Ogata however the pressure from Tsunami was relentless yet intelligent and by the end of the round Tsunami was starting to close the distance. Regularly.
Ogata continued to try to use her feet to create space in round 2, but by then Tsunami was starting for force Ogata to fight the wrong fight and things were getting fought up close, with Ogata losing her composure, getting involved in a brawl and being dropped towards the end of the round.
Despite it only being round 2, the winner was looking very easy to predict and the only real question was whether Ogata would regain her composure and avoid being stopped. To her credit she did grit out some hairy moments in the first half, being hurt in round and really failing to fighter her own fight.
After being dropped in round 2, in trouble in round 3 and under intense pressure in round 4 it seemed inevitable that Ogata was going to be broken down. She was simply taking too many clean, heavy shots from Tsunami, she couldn't avoid Tsunami's over hand right, she couldn't get the space she needed to use her speed and she was looking more ragged by the round.
Surprisingly however she managed to get Tsunami's respect in round 5. It seemed, finally, like the nerves were starting to calm down, and that she was beginning to relax a little more. She was still taking more punishment than was good for her, but it was clear that she didn't feel the need to stand and trade as much. She was using her brain, rather than just fighting. It wasn't a round she won, but it was a significantly better round for her.
Despite showing more composure in round 5 Ogata was still in trouble, in a huge hole, and losing the rounds. It was as if she realised that it was better for her to try and box her fight in the second half rather than trying to win. When she did that she had some success. She wasn't doing enough to wins rounds, but was doing enough to keep Tsunami honest, and we saw this right through the second half of the fight. The challenger was challenging the champion. Not beating her, but challenging her, asking questions and trying to make sure she could take a moral victory from the bout. Something she did when she heard the final bell.
After 10 rounds we went to the scorecards. There was no real questioning the scores as all 3 judges had the bout 100-89 to Tsunami who was the worthy winner. At best you could have given Ogata a sympathy round, a pity round, though in fairness to her, surviving 10 rounds after how things looked early on was a big moral victory.
For Tsunami there are some potentially big options out there for her, and a clash with Seneisa Estrada would be something her team should look at for later in the year. As for Ogata, this was a loss, but a learning experience and hopefully we see her bounce back from this. She has character and determination and that allowed her to at least make a fight of this.