Last week we saw Japanese female fighter Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1) make her first defense of the JBC female Atomweight title, stopping Mont Blank Miki. The performance was a long way short of a perfect outing from the unbeaten champion, but it was clear she was happy to show more to her boxing than the outside fighting that we had seen in her first few bouts, and she showed she can hang on the inside if she needs to. Given how she has been matched and moved so far it made her an ideal fighter to cover in our "Five for..." series, as we look at 5 fighters who could be next for Matsuda.
1-Mika Iwakawa (8-5-1, 3)
If you're part of Matsuda's team you surely have to believe the focus is on getting her a world title sooner rather than later, which will be a theme through this article. The easiest of the title holders, on paper, is WBO champion Mika Iwakawa. The champion won the WBO title in July 2018, when she narrowly defeated Nao Ikeyama, and hasn't fought since. Instead of being active the 36 year old has been picking up ring rust on the side line, and has only had 14 rounds since the start of 2017. Given her age, her inactivity and her style, which is aggressive but clumsy, she should be the perfect target for Matsuda to pick up her first world title. Don't get us wrong, Iwakawa is a good fighter, but from the champions in the division she's the weak link, and the one with most flaws for Matsuda to pick apart.
2-Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7)
On paper the most interesting, and toughest, bout out there for Matsuda would be a bout with IBF Atomweight Saemi Hanagata. Hanagata, who defended her title last week, is a heavy handed fighter who has shown an ability to box, brawl, fight and move though her career. She's not a destructive fighter or the best pure boxer, but she does everything well, when she's on form. The biggest issue with Hanagata is her inconsistencies and whilst she is a nightmare when firing at 100% she can come up short against fighters she should beat, like she did in 2017 against Shione Ogata and in 2014 against Mida Oda. If Hanagata is on song she'd likely drag Matsuda into a fight and come out on top, but for Matsuda she'd certainly be interested in facing Hanagata, arguably the division's top fighter now, and planting her flag as the best out there.
3-Monserrat Alarcon (13-4-2)
Mexican fighter Monserrat Alarcon recently unified the WBA Atomweight throne, unifying her "regular" title with the interim title of Ayaka Miyao. Last week the talented Alarcon proved she was willing to travel, that she was world class and solid little fighter. She does however lack power, and despite being a good, aggressive counter-puncher she certainly doesn't look unbeatable. If you're part of Matsuda's team you'll have seen Alarcon in action, you'll have been able to scout her recently and been able to pick up flaws with the champion. You could even turn to Miyao as a sparring partner, getting her insight into Alarcon, her flaws and strengths. If you're Alarcon you likely see a bout with Matsuda as a chance to collect another solid Japanese pay day and take a win over their rising star, before Matsuda matures and builds her experience.
4-Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6)
The one fighter on this list that makes sense for Matsuda to pursue a bout with is fellow Japanese fighter Ayaka Miyao. Miyao lost last week to Alcaron, but is still regarded very highly in the division as a former world champion and someone who has a style which could test Matsuda as a boxer. Miyao, even in her mid 30's, is a speedy fighter who uses her foot speed to control distance and her hand speed to land before opponents can respond. At the moment Miyao's career is struggling, with 3 losses in her last 6, but she would likely see a win here as a chance to remain in the title mix. This would be a high-risk bout for both but the winner would be well deserving of a shot at any of the champions.
5-Fabiana Bytyqi (14-0-1, 5)
The final of the champions in the division is the WBC queen Fabiana Bytyqi, from the Czech Republic. The unbeaten 23 year old is a real unknown, despite being the first world champion from the Czech republic. Bytyqi won the WBC title a year ago, almost to the day, by beating Britain's 47 year old Denise Castle, in what was Castle's second world title bout and first bout for more than 4 years, and since then she has defended the belt once, with a draw against Maria Soledad Vargas. She makes for an interesting match up for Matsuda, but on the other hand it will take a solid offer to get her to Japan for a bout, and that makes her the least likely of the world champions for Matsuda to face next.
The month of September was a month with a few stand out days, October however looks mouth watering with numerous days of note.
Waseem Muhammad Vs Min Wook Lee
The new month kicks off with an intriguing debut in South Korea. The bout in questions sees Pakistani debutant Waseem Muhammad (0-0) battle against Korean local Min Wook Lee (2-2) in a bout for the South Korean (KBC) Bantamweight title. On paper it looks a strange one but Muhammad is based in Korea and AK Promotions seem to have invested heavily in the former Pakistan amateur stand out. A win for Muhammad as we may see him become the first Pakistan born fighter of real note.
Shusaku Fujinaka Vs Randall Bailey
On the same card as Muhammad's debut we'll see an intriguing match up between Japan's Shusaku Fujinaka (12-5-2, 8) and American veteran Randall Bailey (45-8-0-1, 38), with the two men fighting for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight crown. Fujinaka isn't a great fighter but this bout has garnered real attention with Bailey, a former multi-time world champion, bringing genuine attention to the South Korean boxing scene. With Bailey contracted to AK Promotions this could end up being the first of many fights in Korea for the “KO King”.
Ken Shiro Vs Rolly Sumpalong
It's again minor title action that has our attention as Japan's fast rising Ken Shiro (4-0, 3) battles against unbeaten Filipino Rolly Sumalpong (9-0-1, 4) in a bout for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Ken Shiro since his debut, last year, and if he wins here we're expecting to see him fight for a Japanese title in early 2016. Sumalpong on the other hand has gone under our radar but did claim the WBC Eurasia Pacific Boxing Council Minimumweight title earlier this year and could himself be one to watch.
Yoshitaka Kato Vs Ricky Sismundo
On the same card as the Ken Shiro Vs Sumpalong fight is a potentially explosive Lightweight clash between Yoshitaka Kato (29-5-1, 9) and Ricky Sismundo (29-8-2, 13). This bout will likely go under-the-radar for many fans but it really does look like it could be a very special bout between two tough guys with under-rated power and under-rated skills. It is only scheduled for 8 rounds but it could end up being one of the best 8 round bouts of the year.
Kohei Kono Vs Koki Kameda
In a genuinely historic bout fans will get the chance to see two Japanese fighters fight for a world title on US soil, the first time such a bout has taken place in America. The bouts will see current WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8-1, 13) take on mandatory challenger Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) in what is likely to be a must win bout for both men. At 34 years old Kono will be unlikely to get another shot if he loses here to Kameda whilst a loss for Kameda would end a horror year for the Kameda clan, which has also seen Tomoki lose twice and Daiki suffer a huge shock loss. A loss for Koki and the Kameda's really will have lost the appeal they once had.
Gennady Golovkin Vs David Lemieux
It's rare to have bouts with every ingredient, but we think we may have one here with hard hitting Kazakh king Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) facing off against Canadian destroyed David Lemieux (34-2, 31). Coming into the bout both men are major punchers and world champions, with Golovkin holding the WBA “super”, WBC “interim” and IBO titles whilst Lemieux is the IBF title holder. Potentially this has “FOTY” written all over it, though could be over in a blink of an eye given the power, and styles, of the men involved. It's been a while since a world title bout had us this excited, and we've got it admit it might be a while before we see another, equally as exciting, unification bout.
Roman Gonzalez Vs Brian Viloria
Teiken promoted Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (43-0, 37) looks to continue his rise to the top of the sport as he faces Filipino-American Brian Viloria (36-4-0-2, 22) in what looks to be another brilliant bout. Coming in to this one Gonzalez is looking for the 3rd defense of his WBC Flyweight title whilst Viloria is fighting to remain relevant in the sport. A win here for Gonzalez helps cement his place atop the pound-for-pound rankings and could move us a step closer to the potential super fight between the Nicaraguan and Japan's Naoya Inoue whilst a win for Viloria will give his career one more run at the top and continue his up-and-down career.
Donnie Nietes Vs Juan Alejo
In another title bout fans will get to see talented Filipino Donnie Nietes (36-1-4, 21) make his US debut as he defends his WBO Light Flyweight title against little known Juan Alejo (21-3, 13) of Mexico. The bout, which is to take place in California, is part of ALA's first US show and is part of their move towards establishing their outfit as a world wide promotional outfit. A loss for Nietes would be disastrous for both the fighter and the promoter, but he hasn't been matched hard here and it'd be a shock to see Nietes given any real problems.
Naoko Fujioka Vs Hee Jung Yuh
Former 2-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (13-1, 6) looks to continue her brilliant career as she attempts to claim a 3rd divisional world title. The exceptional Japanese fighter faces South Korean fighter Hee Jung Yuh (15-2, 6) in a bout for the WBO female Bantamweight title in what looks, on paper, like a brilliant fight. Aged 40 Fujioka is certainly “old” but she's in great shape and will be favoured over Yuh, who has won 14 in a row. Interestingly Yuh is married to another fighter Young Kil Bae, who set to fight for a world title himself in early November.
Hikaru Marugame Vs Jonathan Baat
On the same show as the Fujioka/Yuh bout is a great test for one of Japan's most under-rated prospects, Hikaru Marugame (5-0, 3). The talented Marugame steps up massively here as he takes on the highly experienced Jonathan Baat (30-6-3, 14), a Japanese based Filipino. A win for Marugame is expected, but Baat has scored notable upsets in the past, including popping 4 cherries and this is clearly a dangerous assignment for the 25 year prospect.
Momo Koseki Vs Ayaka Miyao
We get the second world title unification of the month a week after the Golovkin/Lemieux bout as WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki (20-2-1, 7) takes on WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (20-5-1, 4). This bout has been on the radar of fans for a while and is finally happening due to the fact both fighters have, essentially, run out of worth while opponents. We're expecting a lot of action here and although it won't be the cleanest action it should be sensationally exciting and amazing fun to watch. Interestingly the winner will claim a place in history as the first ever unified Atomweight champion.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Hideyuki Watanabe
Japanese Featherweight champion Satoshi Hosono (28-2-1, 20) returns to the ring for his second defence in the space of about 9 weeks af he takes on the tough and gutsy Takuya Watanabe (36-5-1, 12). Hosono, a multi-time world title challenger, is looking to record his 4th successive defence but will be up against a man who simple doesn't know how to quit. Watanabe came to our attention last year, in the wake of his “bloody” bout with Jaesung Lee and having seen that war we suspect he'll go through anything in an attempt to claim the title. This could be the perfect bout to close out the month.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).