One of the top, if not the top, female fighter in Japan has long been the sensationally talented Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7), who became Japan's first ever 4 weight champion earlier this year. The 42 year old Japanese veteran has claimed titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight. To end 2017 Fujioka drops down to Light Flyweight, to face Yokasta Valle (13-0, 5) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. Interestingly Fujioka is dropping down from Flyweight for this bout, whilst Valle is a former IBF Atomweight champion, having claimed that title last year.
Fujioka has had a genuinely remarkable career and is regarded by some as one of the top 10 female fighters, pound-for-pound, in the sport. She debuted at the age of 34 and after just a year in the sport claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title. The following year she claimed the WBC title, stopping Anabel Ortiz. In 2013 Fujioka claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title, she added the WBO Bantamweight title in 2015 and then the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year. Whilst Fujioka has obviously been collecting titles she has also been facing stiff competition, with bouts against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi, Susi Kentikian, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Jessica Chavez.
In the ring Fujioka can fight, box or brawl. She's the type of fight who can adapt, and when she needs to make things rough she can, as she did in the final stages against Mariana Juarez. Although she has two defeats against her name both were close and controversial, and more importantly on the road with the loss against Chavez being one of the most questionable decisions of recent years. At 42 there is some question marks about how many more top performances she has in the tank, but she's not yet showing signs of slipping.
Aged 25 Valle is one of the stars of Costa Rican boxing, and has ben a professional since mid 2014. Much of her career has been spent at home, in Costa Rica, though she did venture to El Salvador for a bout last year. It was at home last year that she defeated Ana Victoria Polo to claim the IBF title at 102lbs, though since then she has moved up to 105lbs, where she beat journey woman Yadita Perez. Sadly the key thing to note about Valle is her level of competition, and it has been dire, with none of her opponents having any name value, and very few having any sort of a record.
Although Valle's best win has been down at 102lbs she is actually a big fighter for the lower weights and shouldn't have any issues making 108lbs and being a fully fledged fighter at the weight, in fact she may be stronger than she has been whilst draining herself down. The problem for her however is that she's not really shown herself to be world class. There is some ability there, and it's clear that a really top level trainer could take her quite far, but the fact she's so untested and stepping up in such a huge way that it's hard to see he she can win here.
We don't think Fujioka is a huge puncher,but she certainly holds solid power in both hands, and we suspect that power will have telling effects late on, with a stoppage for the Japanese in the later rounds.
Korean boxing used to be something special, with fighters like Jung Koo Chang, Myung Woo Yuh and Sung Kil Moon being stars of yesteryear. Now a days however the scene is a bit of a shambles, mired in political wrangling and a relative lack of money. There is however one shining beacon in the country for boxing, and that is female star Hyun Mi Choi (14-0-1, 4), a North Korean refugee who has carved out a remarkable career and deserves to, one day, have her life documented on film. This weekend Choi looks to continue her amazing career as she seeks the next defense of her WBA female Super Featherweight title, in a bout against Mexican challenger Jessica Gonzalez (7-3-2-3, 1).
Choi's career began when she was a little girl, being scouted in North Korea ahead of the 2008 Olympics in China. The plan from the North Korean government was to have her, as a teenager, compete in the Games and look to put their country in the limelight. Those plans were thwarted when female boxing missed out on Beijing and not long afterwards Choi and her family would defect, and end up in Seoul.
In Seoul Choi would have to battle with the prejudices of being from Pyongyang, though did so whilst continuing to box, making her mark on the Korean amateur scene before debuting in 2008, aged 17! Not only did Choi debut at the 17 but, remarkably, she also won a world title on her debut, defeating Chunyan Xu for the WBA Featherweight title, creating history with the win. She would hold that title until until 2013, when she decided to move up in weight and quickly win the "interim" WBA Super Featherweight title. She would later be upgraded to full champion, and has subsequently defended the title a number times so far.
In the ring Choi is a well schooled boxer, with some lovely movement, a lot of very nice straight punches and a good boxing brain. She can fight on the inside, though it's clearly the weakest part of her game and she does prefer to hold rather than have an up and close battle of attrition. From range she's really fantastic but a fighter who can get in her face can give her problems, and she has shown some issues with stamina late in bouts. She also doesn't have fight ending power, which has caused a number of her bouts to go the distance, despite being very 1-sided.
Mexican fighter Gonzalez is much less well established than the Korean, but has had an interesting career. She has competed in a reality TV show, which took place way back in 2011 and did score back-to-back wins over Irma Garcia and Yazmin Rivas, to claim the "interim" WBC female Bantamweight title, which she defended once. Sadly since beating Rivas Gonzalez has gone 2-2-2, suffering losses to Liliana Palmera and a rematch with Yazmin Rivas. She has also fought to Estrella Valverde and Melissa St Vil. She has also moved up from Bantamweight to Super Featherweight in recent times.
In the ring Gonzalez can certainly fight. Her technical skills are limited, and her punches are wide slaps, but she seems happy to have a brawl. Often she fights off the back foot, but can be dragged into a slugfest. In many ways it's the slugging it out that could give Choi problems, but it should be noted that Gonzalez really lacks power, with just a single stoppage win so far. She looks tough, and rugged, but lacks power, speed and sharpness, which she would need to compete against Choi.
What we're expecting to see here is Choi boxing at range, using her natural size advantages and her speed to out box Gonzalez, out manoeuvrer the challenger and and take a wide decision without too many issues. Stylistically Gonzalez looks made to order, with her wide offense and her relative lack of power, and although Choi won't be expected to blast her out, it would be a surprise to see the Korean losing more than a round or two.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.