The final Asian world title bout before Christmas comes on December 20th with fans in Fukuoka being the lucky ones who get the chance to watch it. Not only is it the final title bout before Christmas but it is also a very well matched one, between two world class fighters looking to ensure their place among the top in their division for the start of 2016.
If there is something to hold against the bout it is a female bout, but it really a brilliant one as WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (14-4-1, 7) defends her title against former IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-6-2, 4). For Kuroki this will be her third defense, as she looks to continue her reign that began in May 2014, whilst Franco will be looking to become a 3-time world champion.
The champion, who is regarded as one of the few fighters who really combines looks with ability, turned pro back in 2008 and surprisingly lost 2 of her first 3 bouts, albeit one of those did come to future champion Naoko Shibata. Since the less than great start Kuroki has improved, going 13-2, losing to the world class Etsuko Tada and the fringe world class Saemi Hanagata.
Since those losses Kuroki has shown yet more improvement, winning 5 in a row. That 5 fight run has seen her claim the WBC title, beating Mari Ando for the title, and defending it against Katia Gutierrez and Masae Akitaya.
Aged 24 the champion is still a very young fighter. Despite that she has been in 4 world title bouts, racked up 19 career bouts and 106 rounds. She is very experienced and has been fighting at the top level for the past few years, those bouts with top opponents will have helped her develop her skills significantly. She is however lacking in power and still a flawed fighter, she is also rather short at just over 5'0”. Despite not being a puncher she is a busy and tough southpaw, a real night mare to fight.
Mexican fighter Franco is interesting fighter who has, much like Kuroki, come through the hard way. The 26 year old “Chatita” debuted in 2008 and in her third bout took on Arely Mucino, who stopped Franco inside a round. After just 8 bouts Franco was 3-3-2, having also been stopped by the fantastic Ibeth Zamora Silva. Since hen however Franco has been excellent going 13-3, becoming a 2-time world champion and spending the last few years mixing with top class competition.
Among those that Franco has fought recently are Ana Arrazola, Kayoko Ebata, and Victoria Argueta. Of those opponents she has beaten Ebata in Japan, out pointe Arrazola and went 1-1 with Argueta. In those bouts she has proven her ability, her will to win and her desire. She's not the most technically impressive
Last time out Franco won the IBF female Minimumweight title, she was however stripped of that belt meaning this isn't a unification bout. That however shouldn't take away from the fact the she is among the elite fighters in the division and is a fighter who has given up her title, travelled around the world and chosen to face another champion, when she could have chosen a much easier match up instead.
Given the ability of both fighters we're expecting something very special here. An all action, high skilled, 10 round battle. Generally however those bouts go to the home fighter and we suspect that will be the case again here with Kuroki claiming a very narrow, and likely debatable, decision.
Professional boxing has spread to almost every country out there as the search for global stars and a new market of fans continues to go on. This coming Sunday we see another country added to the long list of others that have hosted world title bouts, that country is Sri Lanka.
The bout in question will see Japanese veteran Nao Ikeyama (16-3-1, 4) defending her WBO Atomweight title against experienced Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-15-1, 8). The bout is, obviously, an historic one given the host nation of the bout, and is one that is likely to receive more attention due to it's historical status than anything regarding it, such as the fighters involved.
The champion is a 46 year old who is really enjoying an Indian summer in her career. She turned pro back in 2003, as a 34 year old “whippersnapper”, fighting outside of the remit of the JBC, who at the time didn't sanction female boxing. Despite struggling to get recognition early in her career she did manage to claim the JWBC 102lb title and the WIBA Minimumweight title.
After running up a 10-1-1 (4) record Ikeyama faced her biggest test, the then WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki. Koseki showed the difference in ability dominating the then 39 year old Ikeyama, who struggled to win a round. That was following by 3 more fights in around 19 months, including another loss to talented Korean fighter Ji Hyun Park, in a fight for an IFBA title.
Having moved to 12-3-1 (4) by the end of 2010 Ikeyama then vanished from the boxing for 3 years before resurfacing in 2013 and beginning a remarkable rise which has seen her claim the WBO world title, courtesy of a victory over Jessebelle Pagaduan, and secure two defences.
Despite her age the champion is a talented fighter with good timing, good stamina, a wonderful will to win and a steely toughness. She's not a big puncher but her work rate seems to make up for that and unlike many older fighters it doesn't seem that father time has taken too much from her, yet. Saying that however there is always a chance that she could “get old over-night” and suddenly look like a shot fighter.
At 28 years older the challenger has a significant age advantage, however looking at her record she does look like a very limited title challenger, in fact she has one of the worst records of any recent title challenger. Saying that however records only tell part of the story, especially with Filipino fighters like Nagaowa.
Nagaowa has been a professional boxer since 2006 and has faced a veritable who's who. Included in those that she has fought are the likes of Shindo Go, Samson Tor Buamas, Saemi Hanagata, Ju Hee Kim, Teeraporn Pannimit, Naomi Togashi, Momo Koseku, Ji Hyun Park, Mari Ando and Louisa Hawton. Whilst the only one of those that she beat was Hanagata she was also unlucky against Kim and gave both Hawton and Ando problems.
In the ring Nagaowa is aggressive and tough. She's not the most skilled, and often depends on will as opposed to skill, but can be a real handful, as Kim found out. Her style can be neutralised by real world class fighters but those outside of that top level will always struggle with her, and importantly she has been improving through her career, even if the results don't show it.
For Ikeyama a win is expected, but, as mentioned, she is giving up a lot of age to the challenger who could force the pace and action and really force the champion to dig deep. If Ikeyama can control the pace she wins this comfortably, however if Nagaowa can close the distance and force the fight then this will be a brilliant way to begin professional boxing in Sri Lanka.
We know that many boxing fans tend to over-look female boxing but there are some brilliant fighters out there and the lower weights are full of them. One such fighter is in action on December 11th as she looks to become a 2-time world champion. That fighter is former WBA female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (14-2-2, 4) who faces Mexican fighter Kareli Lopez (8-5-3, 2), who has come in to the bout to replace the more established Victoria Argueta (13-2, 4), in a bout for the IBF female Minimumweight title.
Tada took up boxing after having been a street fight as a youngster. The boxing allowed her to develop her fighting and get paid for it as she began a very successful career. In just her 5th professional she became a world champion, dethroning the then unbeaten Cho-Rong Son to claim the WBA female Minimumweight title. Two fights later she tried to unify titles before being held to back-to-back draws.
As a champion Tada's reign only ended in her 10th defense, as she lost a close decision to Anabel Ortiz. By then she had notched notable wins over Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki, all of whom have since become staples on the world scene. Sadly for Tada she has since suffered another loss, in a rematch to Ortiz who holds the only two professional victories over Tada.
Aged 34 Tada is no longer a spring chicken however she still has a fantastic engine, a great will to win, impressive speed and a desire to climb back to the top of the sport. She's aggressive, talented, exciting and tough and will refuse to just accept a loss. Not only does she have that desire to be the best but she has the ability to go with it, and her long career as a fighter has seen her rack up an incredible amount of experience, including a brilliant 47-3 record.
Mexican fighter Lopez is a much less well known fighter than Tada, and as mentioned she has filled in for the very talented Victoria Argueta. She debuted back in 2009 and got off to a troubling start as she went 5-5-3, including a run of 0-4-2 over a 28 month win-less period. Since then however she has strung together some confidence building wins, including a brilliant victory over Brenda Flores for a Mexican title and a pair of wins over Carol Castro Madrid, with the second win seeing her claim the WBF title.
Although Lopez lacks a stand out win she has mixed with very talented fighters, including Jessica Nery Plata, Katia Gutierrez and Kenia Enriquez. She has lost to all 3 of those women, but did show her competitiveness in her bout with Plata, losing a split decision. Sadly however this will be her first world title bout and her first bout outside of Mexico, suggesting that she will be found wanting at the highest level and may well find herself feeling pout of place in the Lion(esses) den.
Whilst we think Lopez will try her heart out, this does seem to be too much of a step up for her and we can't see her really testing someone as good as Tada.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.