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)
Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall fight fans got an absolute treat of a female bout, as former foes Yuko Kuroki (18-6-1, 8) [黒木優子] and Saemi Hanagata (15-7-4, 7) [田中冴美] clashed in their third meeting. Their first two bouts had both been action packed encounters but today's was a little bit extra special being fought for the IBF Atomweight title. For Kuroki the bout was a chance to become a 2-weight champion whilst Hanagata was looking claim a world title after coming up short in 4 previous world title bouts.
We were expecting a great fight, just given their history and styles, but we got something even better than expected as the two really looked to take this one out of the judges hands.
Hanagata immediate set the tempo and attitude of the bout, pressing the more technically capable Kuroki on to the back foot. Kuroki had no issue fighting off the back, when she could create space, using her better straight punches and foot movement, to land clean blows. Sadly for Kuroki however she was regularly dragged into Hanagata's fight, a brawl.
Whilst it was Hanagata's style of fight that seemed to dictate the action in the early going Kuroki had her moments, despite being rocked hard in round 2. The moments for Kuroki tended to come when the two women both threw, and Kuroki's shots just had that little bit more zip on them. Despite the zip on Kuroki's shots it was usually the work rate of Hanagata that left a lasing impression during the back and forth action.
Kuroki, to her credit, did find rounds where she established her style. Where she managed to use her legs and avoid a tear up with Hanagata. When that happened she looked like the fighter who had had an excellent reign at Minimumweight. Those rounds however never seemed to build on each other and seemed like one off rounds before she was dragged into a fight.
By the final rounds the pace had taken it's toll on both women, as had the accumulated damage of head shots and headclashes, several of which stopped the action in round 7. The slowing pace lead to a final round that was mostly wrestling, as the two try to grind out the result.
Going to the score-cards, and given how Kuroki had held her own for the most part in the short trading sequences the two had, it seemed like we had a close decision. That proved to be the case when the judges score cards were announced, with scores of 96-94, twice, in favour of Hanagata whilst the third judge favoured Kuroki 96-95.
We had the bput 96-94 to Hanagata who was very emotional after the win, having finally claimed a world title in her 5th attempt. We suspect Kuroki will bounce back, but today was about Hanagata who will be very hard to dethrone with her toughness, energy and work rate.
Earlier today Japanese fight fans in Kyoto saw the WBO Atomweight title change hands, as veteran Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) [池山直] was dethroned by the unheralded Mika Iwakawa (8-5-1, 3) [岩川美花] in a thrilling 10 round war.
The 48 year old champion, who had held the title for more than 4 years, was expected to secure her 7th defense and score her second win over Iwakawa. Instead however Iwakawa came out on top of a pulsating back and forth battle that left fans knowing the two fighters had given their all.
Iwakawa got off to a good start, taking the opening round with her work rate, in the second Ikeyama came back managing to control the distance slightly better before the fight just became an all out, tit-for-tat battle of attrition.
The difference between the two seemed to be the variation of Iwakawa, who effectively switched her stances in round 4, and gave Ikeyama a lot to think about then showed her defense a few rounds later when Ikeyama tried to take control of the action, and she did rock Iwakawa who bounced back and recovered amazingly well
With neither giving an inch the crowd were on their feet in the final round as the two fighters delivered the grandstand finale. Sadly for Ikeyama however it wasn't to be enough, with Iwakawa taking a split decision, with two cards of 96-94 in her favour whilst the dissenting judge had it 96-94 in favour of Ikeyama.
After the bout Ikeyama made it clear she would be retiring, but wanted to stay involved in the sport making it sound like she would either work at, or set up, a gym. As for the new champion she spoke about wanting to unify titles and inherit the strength of Ikeyama, who's late career surge really was impressive.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall had the chance to see a thrilling WBO Atomweight world title fight, resulting in veteran Nao Ikeyama (18-3-2, 5) [池山直] narrowly hanging on to her title.
The 47 year old champion, was making her 6th defense of the title, and was facing former foe Saemi Hanagata (13-6-3, 7) [花形 冴美], following a draw last year. And once again the judges struggled to separate the two wonderfully matched fighters.
In the early stages it seemed like the younger Hanagata was just doing enough to net the rounds, and was in the lead on all 3 cards after 4 rounds, with scores of 39-37 on all the cards. Although she was leading the judges were having problems deciding on which rounds to give the champion, with one judging giving her round 1, another giving her round 2 and the other giving her round 4.
In the middle rounds it was Ikeyama who came on strong, winning rounds 5 and 6 on all 3 cards to put her self level. From then on it really was anyones with Hanagata winning round 7 unanimously and Ikeyama taking round 10, but the judges being split on rounds 8 and 9. Thsi resulted in a split decision draw with scoresof 96-94, 95-95 and 94-94.
Whilst neither fighter will feel happy about the draw neither can really complain as they cancelled each other our brilliantly at times, with neither getting much of an upper hand for long. The bout was fought on margins and when all was set and done a draw was a fair result, in what was a real back and forth contest with both fighters landing solid shots on the other.
With this being a second draw between the two women in around 13 months the logical step would be a third clash, though we could understand both looking else where as these bouts were punishing, and with neither clearly being able to prove themselves the better fighter it could be worth leaving the serious tied at 0-0.
With her 48th birthday just around the corner Ikeyama really does continue to amaze, matching younger fighters as she did here, showing great stamina through out and battling herself out of an early hole. It is however worth wondering how long she can have these tough battles before her body ages over-night, and when that happens it could well be to a lesser fighter than Hanagata.
Sadly for Hanagata this was a 4th set back in a world title bout, where she is now 0-2-2. She has proven she really does belong at this level and will also take a lot from the fact it took her mentor Susumu Hanagata until his 5th world title fight before he finally won a title, claiming the WBA Flyweight title back in 1974 when he defeated Chartchai Chionoi in their second bout.
For those interested in this bout it will be on subscription service Boxingraise.com.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Today fight fans saw the heavy handed Yunoka Furukawa (9-1-2, 6) [古川 夢乃歌] record her first defense of the WBA Atomweight title as she out pointed OPBF female Light Flyweight champion Mika Iwakawa (6-5-1, 2) [岩川 美花] in a tremendous war of high octane action and heavy handed blows.
To begin the bout it was the challenger who started fast, taking an early lead as she used her superiour size and reach to keep the champion at range. In round two Furukawa tried to amp up the pressure but was met by Iwakawa fighting back and the champion struggled to impose her will on the bout.
Despite the good start from the challenger it was clear that she was going to struggle to keep the aggressive Furukawa at range and as the bout went on Furukawa's pressure began to take ahold of the bout, with Iwakawa having her size advantage negated by the relentless pressure of the champion.
Iwakawa continued to try and fight back but as we got into the later rounds the champion extra fitness, power and youthful aggressiveness showed with the champion sweeping many of the later rounds en route to a very hard fought first defense of the title, winning with scores of 97-93, 96-94 and 95-95.
With her first defense under her belt we're expecting to see huge things from Furukawa who looked like she improved during the fight, and looked more like a champion at the end of the bout than she did when she entered the contest. There are still flaws with the champion but she looks like someone who is going to be very tough to dethrone, and every bout is likely to see her improving, bit by bit.
As for Iwakawa the bout might be another loss but she proved that she can compete at this level and will likely bounce back better next time out. She did seem to tire, though a question is whether that was at least partly down to moving down in weight, just as much as the aggressive work of Furukawa.
For fight fans interested in watching this bout it will be on the boxingraise service during the next 24 hours and is well worth a watch for fight fans who enjoy high octane action, even if they don't typically enjoy female boxing.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Some wins are more fulfilling than others and it's fair to say that WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-3-2, 5) [池山 直] will have been unfulfilled by her most recent win, a win that saw her scoring a 5th round TKO victory over former WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (21-7-1, 5) [宮尾 綾香], and despite it being the best win of Ikeyama's career it will also be one that will leave her the most empty.
The bout, which promised so much given the action styles of both women, was seen as a real treat for both fans at the Korakuen Hall and fans who use subscription service Boxingraise. It was the chief-support bout for Dangan Ladies 3 and was one of two world title bouts that were set to help ignite the Atomweight division. Instead it left fans feeling under-whelmed, and despite getting 4 rounds of action it wans't the bout that many had hoped for.
The bout started well with both fighters showing their skills and aggression early on, Miyao tried to her jab whilst the 47 year old Ikeyama managed to work her way in and out. In the second round Miyao seemed to begin taking over, getting her engine going and giving the champion some real worries. It was clear that Miyao had the ability to really let loose with her high work rate and could give Ikeyama, a more aggressive fighter, some real problems.
Rounds 3 and 4 were nip and took affairs with neither fighter really getting the best of it, though Miyao did seem to land a really notable shot towards the end of round 4 which looked like it could have sewed the seeds for a future break through. Sadly for Miyao the break through never came and instead it seemed that Ikeyama was fired up, taking the fight to Miyao hard in round 5.
In round 6 Miyao hit the canvas, with her right knee looking like it was the cause of her falling. The brave challenger recovered to her fight but was in incredible pain and a follow up by Ikeyama sent the challenger down to the canvas again, this time forcing the end.
Some have suggested that Miyao's injury could be a very serious ligament issue, and could potentially threaten her career, with the fighter being stretchered out of the ring and looking in pure agony.
For Ikeyama the win was a huge one on paper though one that she won't have felt too pleased by, and her face as her arm was raised seemed to be one of discontent rather than jubilation, showing the concern to her fighting sister.
(Image courtesy of boxnob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese fight fans saw WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki's (23-2-1, 9) [小関 桃] continue her lengthy and record the 17th defense of the title, as she stopped the horribly over-matched Chie Higano (6-5 2) [日向野 知恵] in 4 rounds. And by 4 rounds we mean 4 one-sided rounds.
Higano looked like one of the biggest under-dogs of the year on paper and unfortunately the limited challenger was up against the longest reigning active world champion in the sport today.
From the opening round Koseki took charge and quickly began to beat up Higano who suffered a damaged nose early in the bout and continued to get beaten up until the refeee made a mercy stoppage.
The stoppage didn't appear to be at the best time, and Higano had been in more problems at times, but it was clear that she had no chance and was didn't seem that unhappy to be saved from more punishment by a fighter several leagues above her.
With 17 defense under her belt the question now seems to be whether or not Koseki is targeting a 2-weight reign or the record for most defense of a world title, and she is quickly approaching that record.
For Higano the bout was a moment in the spot light, but did end in a bit of a beating that showed the difference between herself and world class.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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)
Fans at he Korakuen Hall today were treat to several treats, including two female world title bouts. Whilst the WBO female Bantamweight title fight between Naoko Fujioka and Shindo Go may go down as the female fight of the year, the co-feature, a bout between WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (17-3-2, 4) [池山直] and exciting challenger Saemi Hanagata (12-6-3, 6) [花形 冴美], was also thrilling.
The bout saw Ikeyama, the oldest world champion in Japanese boxing history, narrowly retain her title with a split decision draw whilst Hanagata suffered her third setback in a world title bout.
From the off the bout was a real fight with both letting their hands go. It wasn't classically pleasing but it was engrossing, action packed and enthralling with neither knowing when to back down, or when to back off.
With the style of the bout, and the all action mentality of both it was clear that the bout was going to be a hard one to score and that was seen in the cards which read 96-94, 95-95 and 94-96 to give a fair, but frustrating, split decision draw.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
This past Saturday in Sri Lanka fight fans saw history being created as the 46 year old Nao Ikeyama (17-3-1, 4) became the first world champion to successfully defend a world title in the country. The Japanese veteran claimed her place in history by taking a clear unanimous decision over experienced Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-16-1, 8).
The bout, which took place in a stunning venue, was a competitive bout with Nagaowa not allowing Ikeyama to control the pace and instead the two were forced to trade shots. Although it wasn't Ikeyama's "style" the champion was able to out land and out work the cruder Filipino, who again showed why she keeps getting notable fights.
Whilst the bout did create history by becoming the first world itle fight in Sri Lanka, it does seem like that's not the only piece of history Ikeyama wan't to record and a rumour now is that she may be set to become the first world champion to defend her title in Myanmar, another country that has yet to really see professional boxing.
With the win Ikeyama keeps her WBO Atomweight reign alive whilst Nagaowa has once again proven that she will always force a fight and will almost certainly get another big one in the near future.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)