Sometime we just get fighters who are perfectly matched against each other. One such case is Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) [田中冴美] and Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) [森脇恵子], who met for the third time today, following two previous draws.
The first two bouts saw Ikeyama narrowly retain the WBO Atomweight title with the draws. She lost that title last year, and this time around it was Hanagata entering as a world champion, as she sought her first defense of the IBF Atomweight title that she won late last year.
Today's bout, as with their first two, saw little to separate the two fighters who once again put on a nail biting, all action nip and tuck 10 rounder.
Hanagata got off to a good start, taking the opening round as she showed fluid movement and landed good jabs at range. From then on however things got harder to call with Ikeyama stepping up her pressure and working up close. The pressure of Ikeyama saw Hanagata being dragged into a war up close and there was almost nothing at all two separate the two fighters through the first half of the bout.
In the second half the bout began to slow a little, due to Ikeyama's success with body shots, and Hanagata changed her gameplan slightly, rather than continued to brawl. It was then a case that Ikeyama's cleaner punching was catching the eye, just that little bit more than Ikeyama's work. Ikeyama seemed to realise that the bout was slipping away, and turned up the pressure again in round 10, as she did all she could to swing the bout back her way, but her effort wasn't quite enough.
After 10 rounds Hanagata got the win, via split decision, though again there was little to split the two fighters on the cards, with all 3 judges turning in scores of 96-94.
After 30 rounds we finally have a winner between Hanagata and Ikeyama, with Hanagata taking the series 1-0. It's worth noting however it took until Ikeyama was on the verge of her 50th birthday, for Hanagata to get a win over her.
With Ikeyama turning 50 next week it seems unlikely we'll see her in the ring again. Credit however needs to be given to her for the incredible performances she has been giving over the last few years. For Hanagata however the result will go down as one of her most significant.
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Earlier today Japanese fight fans in Tokyo had the chance to see the fifth show in the Victoriva series of shows. The card are all female shows, and today's co feature bout was a WBA Atomweight title unification contest between "interim" champion Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6) [宮尾 綾香] and the WBA regular champion Monseratt Alcaron (13-4-2).
Originally this bout was pencilled in to take place last November, but was cancelled when Alcaron was forced out with an injury. Today however we saw the two put on an ultra-competitive, but sadly for the local fans it wasn't to be for Miyao.
The opening round was a good one for Miyao, who's speed seemed to bother Alcaron. Sadly though it wasn't long until Alcaron found her footing in the bout and she swept rounds 2 to 4 on all 3 cards. The Mexican had taken the lead with her pressure, and although she seemed to struggle to land really hurtful blows her aggression was impressing the judges.
Strangely the judges really struggled to agree on things after round 4, with only 2 of the last 6 rounds have complete agreement from the judges. They were either caught up with the aggression and pressure of Alcaron or the speed and movement of Miyao. From the last 6 rounds one judge gave the Mexican rounds 5 through to 9, whilst another gave Miyao everything in the second half, other than round 6. It was the third scorecard that was the most interesting, giving Alcaron rounds 5,6 and 9 and Miyao rounds 7,8 and 10. The only rounds all 3 agreed with was rounds 6, to Alcaron, and 10, to Miyao.
Although the judges were obviously seeing different things to each other what they were all seeing was a high tempo fight between fighters with styles that just gelled really well and made for an action bout. Sadly for Miyao however the success of Alcaron in the first half was essentially the difference and after 10 rounds the Mexican was declared the winner of a split decision, with scores of 98-92 and 96-94 in her favour against a score of 96-94 for Miyao.
At the moment it's unclear what is next for the two. Miyao would likely be very interested in a rematch, and a chance to avenge this loss, though Eri Matsuda, who picked up a win on the under-card, may also be interested in favour Alcaron for the WBA title. Alcaron on the other hand might prefer to go back to Mexico and build at home from this win.
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Today there was two world title fights in Osaka, as the boxing world turned it's attention to Japan. What wasn't given much attention however was a Japanese card in Tokyo, headlined by a female world title bout between WBA female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] and Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) [天海 ツナミ].
This was a bout that seemed to be pitting two of the greats of Japanese female boxing against other, and delivered the hidden gem of the week with an incredibly hotly contest 10 round affair at Korakuen Hall.
The younger, though more experienced, Tsunami got off to a great start. She managed to dictate the pace, using a good sharp right hand to help her dictate the distance and tempo of the bout in the early going. It was this game plan that saw her race into the lead on all 3 cards, leading 40-37 and 40-36, twice, after 4 rounds. She was making Fujioka look old, slow and clumsy, and putting on the sort of performance that many knew she was capable of, but hadn't shown on a regular basis.
As we've seen so many times through her career however Fujioka wasn't going to just sit back, hand over her title and lose. Instead she bit down on her gum shield, refuse to accept defeat, and began to turn the fight around in round 5, then starting a serious fight back, clawing back round after round. She showedthe determined doggendess of a champion and forced the action on to Tsunami, upping her out put and grabbing the bout by the collar. The change in attitude from Fujioka was incredible, and saw her doing just enough to retain he title, with a split decision draw.
After 10 rounds the judges had the bout 96-95 Fujioka, 96-94 Tsunami and 95-95, with Fujioka holding on to her title by the skin of her teeth, in a fantastic 10 round female bout, that certainy deserved more attention than it got on a great day for Japanese fight fans.
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Earlier today in Korea fight fans saw Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4) [최현미] record her 7th defense of the WBA female Super Featherweight title, with a clear decision over Japanese challenger Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 2) [藤原芽子] in Incheon.
The talented Choi was under pressure early on as Fujiwara looked to make a fast start and seemed to surprise the champion in the first couple of rounds. Sadly though it didn't take long for Choi to find her timing and her rhythm and from there on it was rather easy for the Korean.
Choi would establish her her range and begin to use her youth, speed and technical ability in round 3, and would essentially control the bout from there on, making Fujiwara look like a game but out classed challenger for much of the bout. Fujiwara, to her credit, always looked to make a fight of it, but was simply second best following her sprightly start.
With Fujiwara looking to fight hard there was always the potential for head clashes, and in round 9 the Japanese challenger was deducted a point for a head clash. The deduction didn't really make much of a difference to the out-come, with the judges scoring the bout in Choi's favour 98-91, 97-92 and 96-93.
For Fujiwara this was a good effort, but not good enough to over-come the unbeaten 2-weight world champion. For Choi the bout continues her run at world level, and hopefully she will get stiffer tests in the near future.
Earlier today in Chiba Japanese female fighter Miyo Yoshida (13-1) [吉田 実代] claimed her third professional title, the WBO female Super Flyweight title, as she out pointed Casey Morton (8-2-3, 1) over 10-rounds, in what was a totally one-sided fight.
The naturally bigger Yoshida took control from the opening round using her speed and movement to neutralise Morton, who looked game but out of her depth. The jab of Morton was failing to land clean, and when it did it did little to slow the Japanese fighter who got inside as and when she wanted.
Morton was well behind as we entered the middle section of the fight, but she tried to turn things around in round 4. Sadly the Morton tried, and the more she upped her work rate the worse her defenses got and she was being tagged at regularly by the light but sharp punching Yoshida. Sadly Morton had no answer, she couldn't up the tempo without taking more shots, she couldn't win the bout defensively and she couldn't battle toe-to-toe with Yoshida, who was quicker, stronger and and more technically sharp.
Morton continued to try new things, but she was never really able to establish her fight, with one judge giving her the 9th round in what seemed a decision made from sympathy of her effort than much else.
After 10 rounds the judges had the bout scored 100-90, 100-90 and 99-91 to Yoshida, who has now added a world title to her collection that previously included a Japanese and OPBF title. For Morton this is a second loss at Super Flyweight and it feels really obvious that she should be competing at Flyweight, not Super Flyweight.
The rise in interest of female boxing has certainly been seen with the media interest in the West, where fighters like Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor have been put at the forefront of of rising scene.
It's not just the West that have seen talented new female fighters however and Asia also have some of their own, including youngster Kasumi Saeki (4-0, 3) [佐伯霞], who announced herself today as she took the WBO female Minmumweight title, in just her 4th professional bout.
The talented Japanese fighter was facing off with Mexican foe Elizabeth Lopez (6-2-4, 1) in a bout for a title that had been vacated earlier this year by Etsuko Tada. On paper this looked like a step up for Saeki, but in reality she made it look easy.
Saeki felt her way into the bout with her jab to begin with, then opened up more from round 2, landing hooks and straights as she started to test the resilience of Lopez. Lopez didn't offer much in terms of offensive work, and in round 3 Saeki really did begin to settle, using her speed and movement to prevent Lopez from doing much of note. The one thing Lopez did try was to rough up Saeki, but even that back fired as Saki's speed and timing neutralised Lopez's rough and crude attempts at attacking the Japanese fighter.
In round 5 Saeki would drop Lopez with a left hand, for the first time. Lopez's fighting spirit saw her get up, but a second knockdown the following round saw the referee wave off Lopez and give Saeki her biggest win to date.
At the time of the finish Saeki was leading 50-44, on all 3 cards, and there was no argument at all, about Lopez deserving a round.
Last night in Mexico fight fans were able to see WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (15-5-3-1, 6) narrowly retain her title, thwarting the challenge of Japanese fighter Erika Hanawa (10-4, 4) [塙英理加].
Hanawa, fighting in her second world title bout, brought the heat and applied pressure early on to Gomez, who relied on her movement to tray and get away and land jabs at range. Gomez managed to find her groove a bit more in round 2, though it was still Hanawa with the intensity and fire in her belly. The Japanese visitor seemed know this was a great opportunity and her training wasn't going to go to waste as she continually brought the fight to the champion.
Gomez managed to build her way into the fight, but was constantly under pressure until Hanawa began to tire. When that happened the superior boxing skills, and significant size advantage, of Gomez allowed her to do more than just neutralise the Japanese fighter's aggression, and she ended up returning fire with a lot more purchase than she had earlier in the bout. The later rounds seemed to suit her well, but the question had been whether she had started her charge early enough.
Sadly for Hanawa she was to come up short on the cards, with Gomez's fight back being enough to take her the win, with scores of 97-93, twice, and 95-95. Despite the loss the fight certainly showed that Hanawa could compete at world level.
The main event of Real Spirits Vol 60 saw Watanabe veteran Kayoko Ebata (12-8, 6) [江畑佳代子] attempt to record her second defense of the WBO female Minimumweight title, as she went up against former 2-time world champion Etsuko Tada (18-3-2, 5) [多田悦子].
The 37 year old Tada, who had had reigns as the WBA and IBF champion, was 5 years younger than Ebata, 42, and had home advantage with the bout being held in Osaka.
Those advantages for Tada proved to be useful early on, as she she was quicker and sharper than Ebata, who struggled to get off and close the distance. There were moments for Ebata, but they were fleeting moments, with Tada looking in control through much of the contest. It was Tada who dictated the overall tempo, it was Tada who decided the distance and how southpaw stance made life even more difficult for Ebata, who struggled to get around the lead hand of the challenger with any frequency.
As the two began to slow in the middle rounds both suffered cuts around their left eyes, with Tada being cut in round 6 and Ebata cut in round 7.
Going in to the final round it seemed clear that Tada was in a comfortable lead, and she stood and traded with Ebata in a thrilling final round, a round that Ebata took on two of the cards. By then however the result was in the bag for Tada, who took the decision with scores of 98-92, twice, and 97-93 .
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall fight fans saw Ayaka Miyao (23-7-1, 6) [宮尾 綾香] finally over-come Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) [森脇恵子], in what was their third meeting, to claim the WBA "interim" Atomweight title.
The bout, which came about when regular champion Monseratt Alcarron (11-4-2) was forced to pull out of a clash with Miyao, had a good sense of history behind it. In their first bout, years ago, Ikeyama had stopped a then fresh faced Miyao, whilst in 2016 Miyao was stopped again after suffering a freak leg injury. It was clear they had unfinished business from their 2016 clash, and both wanted to use this bout to put the final chapter in their rivalry.
The fight saw the 35 year old Miyao using her feet and boxing well on her toes, using her significant edge in speed to out box the much older Ikeyama, who at the age of 49 really has impressed in her longevity but has slowed significantly in recent bouts. The speed of Miyao and her energy and work rate, as ever, impressed as she made Ikeyama look slow and clumsy, dropping her in the first round, en route to a clear 10 round decision, with scores of 97-92, twice, and 96-93 in favour of Miyao.
We're expecting Miyao to now face Alcarron in 2019, whilst Ikeyama is almost certainly going to be retiring.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Last night in Mexico Japan's Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5) [チャオズ箕輪] challenged WBC female Flyweight champion Ibeth Zamora Silva (30-6, 12), in a bout that turned out a lot more competitive than the records of the fighters would have suggested.
Minowa, a former Japanese amateur standout who had fallen short in a previous world title shot, travelled to Mexico with real ambition and that showed from the opening moments. Minowa showed no fear of Zamora's reputation as one of the best female fighters in the sport. Instead she took the fight to the Mexican, landing her jabs and straight right hands in the early going.
Sadly for Minowa her good start couldn't be maintained and by the end of round 3 Zamora was finding her groove, and attacking the body, holding her own with the challenger. The challenger would begin to slow from round 5 and the Mexican would begin to take over the contest as the bout went on, running off the clear with her high tempo and aggression.
By the end of the 10th round it was easy to forget Minowa's good start. She had always been in the bout, but after the good start she could never quite turn the screw whilst Zamora's experience over the championship distance paid off, earning the champion the win with scores of 97-93, from all 3 judges.
For the Mexican this was her first successful defense of the title whilst Minowa is now 0-2 in world title fights. Despite the loss Minowa proved that she belong at this level and we expect to see her in another world title fight in 2019.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)