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.
So, May has finally ended and we're now in June. What a perfect time to look back on the fights we've had over the past 31 days.
The action kicked off almost immediately with an intriguing Japanese show on May 1st. The headline bout saw Ryota Murata (7-0, 5) score an impressive TKO against Brazilian fighter Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-2-1, 6) and in fairness to Murata it was the sort of finish that he needed after going the distance in back-to-back fights. There is still a lot of questions regarding how far Murata will go but at times he looked world class, especially with the way he finished of Ataide, who had never previously been stopped.
Although Murata's bout was, technically, top of the bill there was also a world title fight on the card as Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) took care of Australian Billy Dib (39-4-0-1, 23) with a very destructive stoppage. This was Miura's 4th defence of the WBC Super Featherweight title and he's now looking to break out his passport and fight in the US or Mexico in the hope of building his international fan base.
The day wasn't all good for Japanese fighters however as Takahiro Ao (27-4-1, 12) got stopped in a WBO Lightweight title bout by Raymundo Beltran (30-7-1, 18). Beltran, who had failed to make weight for the bout, looked significantly bigger than Ao and made light work of the under-sized Japanese fighter. Interestingly a story has since broke that Beltran has failed a drugs test and if that story is confirmed this bout will be changed to a No Contest.
Just a day later we saw the richest fight in history as Manny Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38) and Floyd Mayweather Jr (48-0, 26) finally got it on. Sadly the bout failed to live up to the expectations of many and although the bout made an insane amount of money it really did little to advertise our great sport. Pacquiao, who lost the bout by unanimous decision, did himself no favours following the bout by citing an arm injury for his performance and numerous people have since filed court cases against the hugely popular Filipino.
On May 6th we had more title action with a Watanabe promoted triple header. The most impressive performance here saw WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) blast away Thai challenger Jomthong Chuwatana (9-1, 4) in just 2 rounds. Uchiyama looked sensational at times in one of his most impressive performances since winning the title more than 5 years ago. Although the Japanese fighter looked amazing he did later require surgery on his left elbow.
On the same show Uchiyama's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) retained his WBA Light Flyweight title with an 8th round TKO of Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-4-1, 26). Kwanthai brought the fight for the most part but was dropped numerous times by the champion who certainly his harder than his record indicates.
The third champion to defend their title on this show was WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) who managed to take a very close technical decision over Kayoko Ebata (8-6, 4). Sadly for Ebata this was her 4th loss in world title bouts and it now seems unlikely for her to get another.
We saw more Japanese world title action on May 9th as WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (13-4-1, 6) retained her title with a wide points win against Masae Akitaya (9-6-2, 3). For Kuroki this was the second defense of her title and it seems likely that the 24 year old is only going to get better and better. Sadly for Akitaya this was her 4th set back in world title bouts and the 37 year old, who actually fought on her birthday, is clearly coming to the end of her career.
Also in action on May 9th was the iconic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) who put on a stellar performance to clearly defeat the heavy handed Mexican Horacio Garcia (29-1, 21). The bout was Hasegawa's first for more than a year and he looked like a fighter who had more fight in him than we had expected. On the other hand Garcia was disappointing and never looked like really testing the talented Japanese southpaw.
Sadly May 9th wasn't all good for Japanese fighters as it ended with Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffering his first professional defeat. Kameda, who vacated the WBO Bantamweight title, took on WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12) and despite dropping McDonnell in round 3 Kameda came up short on the cards. The Japanese fighter suffered his first loss though there has since been a lot of talk regarding a rematch later in the year.
On May 12th we saw the ring return of former world champion Kompayak Porpramook (51-5, 36). The Thai had been out of the ring for 21 months following his October 2013 loss to Koki Eto in a FOTY contender. His return was a very low key affair against the debuting Fahpratan Kwanjaisrikot (0-1) and it was no surprise when Kompayak stopped his foe in the 2nd round.
We had one of the biggest upsets of the year, so far, on May 16th when unheralded Filipino Eden Sonsona (34-6-2, 12) shocked previously unbeaten Mexican fighter Adrian Estrella (22-1, 20). Estrella had been touted as a future world title contender though was stopped in the 2nd round by Sonsona who may well find himself capable of getting a sizeable payday next time out.
On the same night we saw Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30) continue his reign of terror in the Middleweight division. Golovkin, defending his WBC “interim” and WBA “super” titles saw off Willie Monroe Jr (19-2, 6) in the 6th round. Monroe had given a spirited effort, especially given that he was down twice in round 2, though it did often seem like Golovkin was toying with his American foe.
May 23rd saw our attention turning to South Korea where Hyun Mi Choi (10-0-1, 3) retained her WBA female Super Featherweight title with a wide decision win over Japanese veteran Chika Mizutani (14-5, 7). Choi was in control through out the bout and looked very talented whilst Mizutani generally looked out classed but brave.
On May 28th we saw Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (34-4-1, 31) score one of his best wins to date as he mowed down Mexican Jose Salgado (34-3-2, 27) in 4 rounds. This bout was for the WBC “silver” Super Flyweight title and with the win Srisaket is now the mandatory challenger for WBC world champion Carlos Cuadras, the man that actually took the title from Srisaket last year.
The final highlight of the month came on May 30th when Japanese teenager Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) claimed the WBO Minimumweight title in just his 5th professional bout. The youngster over-came Mexican Julian Yedras (24-2, 13) in a compelling 12 round affair which saw Tanaka show off everything he was capable off in the ring, including a few defensive issues that will hopefully be worked on when he gets back in to the ring. The youngster became the “quickest” Japanese world champion beating the previous record of Naoya Inoue by a single fight.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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).