Earlier this year we saw Japanese fighter Yuko Kuroki (11-4-1, 6) prove she was more than just a pretty face as she over-came Mari Ando to claim the WBC female Minimumweight title. The bout was Kuroki's second world title shot in a little over a year though the improvements in her as a fighter were remarkable. In her first world title bout she looked totally out of her depth as Etsuko Tada dominated her on the score cards. In the second she looked very good in over-coming Ando, herself a 2-time world champion.
In her first defense Kuroki will find herself up against the much more experienced Katia Gutierrez (19-4, 4) of Mexico. herself a former IBF world champion with notable wins over Hollie Dunaway, Ara Arrazola, Olga Julio, Susana Cruz Perez and Gretchen Abaniel, in fact she's the only fighter to have stopped Abaniel.
Kuroki is a tough fighter who, like we mentioned, is improving quickly. When she began her career she lost 2 of her first 3 bouts, both were closes losses but losses all the same, including one to Naoko Shibata. Since then however she has only lost twice, the loss to Tada and a close loss to Saemi Hanagata, who she later drew with in an immediate rematch. The improvements have come fight after fight and at just 23 years old some seem to believe she has the potential to be a cross over star given her good looks and marketability outside of the ring.
With the 25 year old Mexican challenger have a very experienced and world class fighter looking to gate crash Kuroki's rise to stardom. Although she is experienced, and has shared the ring with some big names, including both Jessica Chavez and Irma Sanchez who have inflicted 3 of the 4 losses on Gutierrez's record. Notably however this bout will be her first outside of Mexico where she has fought all 23 previous bouts
For Kuroki this is a bout that she needs to win to authenticate her title reign. A win over Ando won her the title but she'll need this to really make it feel real. As for Gutierrez she'll come into this bout feeling it's a great opportunity to become a 2-time world champion, something she would likely love.
For us the deciding point isn't skills, style or experience of the two. We think in all honesty they are very similar fighters, both lack the power to score stoppages on a regular basis so both throw a lot and both work incredibly hard to win rounds to win fights. When it comes to winning rounds away from home, half way around the world, a fighter needs to win them cleanly. We think that due to how equal the two are, and that Kuroki is improving markedly, the champion will retain her title, though she will have to really work for it in what we suspect will be a very hard fought contest.
(Image courtesy of http://yukofbg.com)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.