Today Japanese fans at the Komagatani gym in Hyogo saw two new WBO champions being crowned. One of those was Katsunari Takayama, who claimed the WBO Minimumweight title with a technical decision over 18 year old Riku Kano, with the bout being stopped in the 6th round. The other was Australian warrioress Louisa Hawton (7-0, 3) who managed to out box and out fight the naturally bigger Kei Takenaka (11-0, 3).
The opening round was a cautious one, with neither wanting to take too many risks too soon. Takenaka tried to make the most of her size advantage, fighting behind a quick, but often wayward, jab, whilst Hawton looked for an opportunity to attack but didn't rush in. It was a technical type of round with neither wanting to make the first big mistake.
Unfortunately for Takenaka it seemed like she missed her early opportunity to strike and soon afterwards Hawton had found her groove, realising that Takenaka's key advantage was just her size. From then on Hawton went on the front foot, landing aggressive shots from round 2 and securing an early lead over Takenaka, who looked rather lost at times due to the aggressiveness and speed of the visitor.
The Japanese local knew she was behind going in to the middle rounds and tried to change the tempo of the bout, but she was met by Hawton who raised her own game to out battle Takenaka. It was as if Hawton was able to do everything Takenaka could do, better than her and that showed again in the later rounds with Takenaka being staggered in round 10 and being forced to look for counter shots.
By the final it was clear that the title, which had been vacant at the start of the day, was heading to Australia with Hawton, who claimed her first world title with a unanimous decision. The scorecards read 98-91, 97-92 and 96-93, with only the closeness of the third card really getting any criticism.
Sadly for Takenaka, who has claimed she wants to retire before her 31st birthday, this is a serious setback in her dreams to become a world champion before she walks away from the sport.
The Atomweight division is, in all honesty, not one of the most glamorous or attractive divisions but it have a new star in the form of Yunoka Furukawa (8-1-2, 6) [古川 夢乃歌] who showed all the traits fight fans love, including serious power.
The 22 year old was taking a major step up in class to face world title challenger Satomi Nishimura (9-2, 1) [西村 聡美] in a bout for the vacant WBA Atomweight title, a title that had been given up Momo Koseki who is focusing on extending her WBC reign. Despite stepping up in class, she was dropping down in weight, moving from Flyweight all the way down to Atomweight. Despite the big drop in weight Furukawa looked like a sensation in her new division and bulied Nishimura around.
The bullying saw Furukawa establish herself as the boss of the fight but the finish was spectacular as she dropped Nishimura in jaw dropping fashion, leaving the veteran flat on her back.
This was Furukawa's 7th straight win and her 4th successive stoppage and opens up doors to fight other world class fighters with her intention now being to solidify herself on the world stage. Sadly for Nishimura this was a second loss at world level and it seems likely the 35 year old will never become a world champion.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today fans in Saitama saw female IBF Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (16-3-1, 5) [柴田 直子] narrowly retain her title with a razor thin majority decision against Mexican challenger Maria Salinas (11-5-3, 4).
The two women had fought last year fighting to a split decision draw with both fighters looking to over-come that stale-mate today. Unsurprisingly however both fought in a really competitive match again today with neither really managing to establish their dominance over the other.
The challenger started well, landing several solid shots to Shibata and also seemed to take round 2 before Shibata fought back in rounds 3 and 4 as she began to up the work the rate and pressure. In round 5 Shibata seemed to have a real break through getting Salinas on the ropes but Salinas saw off the threat and fought back in rounds 6, 7 and 8 before put under pressure again in round 9 with Shibata looking to keep the result out of the judges hands.
Salinas saw out the storm of round 9 and her toughness saw her see out the final round, though the judges viewed her as second best, losing the majority decision with scores of 96-94, to Shibata twice, and 95-95.
For Shibata the defence was her 5th but it's fair to say she won't be inviting Salinas over for a third bout given very little has split them over 20 rounds.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)