Earlier today in Okinawa fight fans saw WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15) [天海 ツナミ] successfully defend her title for the first time.
The champion, who won the belt earlier this year when she stopped Chaoz Minowa, was going up against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (18-10, 6) and the size difference between the two was obvious at the weigh in.
The first round was a good one from Abanilel, who looked busy and fast whilst Tsunami walked forward looking to cut the disrance. Sadly though for the challenger her success was short lived and in round 2 Tsunami managed to cut the distance and land some damaging body shots which started to take their toll on the challenger, who slowed round by round.
After becoming less and less fluid in rounds 2 and 3 Abaniel was starting to hold her feet more and struggled to get away. In round 4 she ended up trapped against the ropes and Tsunami began to unload until the referee stepped in and saved the challenger.
Abaniel really lacked the size and strength to cope with Tsunami and it was clear that he claim of moving into a better division was wrong. For her the future must be at either 102lbs or 105lbs. For Tsunami however this was a great win and great showing for the local fans in Okinawa, where Tsunami hadn't fought in years.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past Saturday saw the boxing world focus on Wales, where Anthony Joshua faced off with Carlos Takam, that however wasn't the only show of note, with Macau hosting a female world title fight between IBF female Minimumweight champion Zong Ju Cai (10-1, 1) and Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (18-9, 6).
The bout started at an exciting pace with the challenger pressing the action and the champion being forced to fight off the back foot and counter the very aggressive Abaniel. It looked like it was going to be a very tough first defense for Cai but mid way through round 2 she began to grow in confidence and make the most of her southpaw stance with raidng attacks and lovely clean punches between the messy assaults of Abaniel.
As the fight went on Abaniel's assaults began to call shorter and shorter and her output dropped, allowing Cai to dictate the pac with more ease. There was still flurry's from Abaniel, but they were less and less effective, with Cai holding when she needed to bunt the Filipino's assaults. It always seemed that whilst Abaniel was having more attacks than the champion they were much less effective than the faster, more accurate punching of the Chinese fighter, who showed good movement through out.
In the final rounds Abaniel tried to up the ante and press with more intensity, really forcing Cai backwards through out round 9, as it seemed she needed to try and turn the fight around. It broiught her more success, though she did seem to be stung by a counter of Ca's at one point in round 9 and lacked the energy, and power, needed to hurt the local favourite. The same intensity from Abaniel was seen in round 10 and caused Cai to commit a number of fouls, which almost saw her being deducted a point.
At the final bell Abaniel celebrated loudly, but it did seem like she hadn't quite done enough to dethrone the champion, despite a lot of effort in the final rounds, whilst the champion looked calmly confident of having retained her title. The view of Cai's was confirmed by the judges who scored the bout in favour of Cai with two cards of 97-93 and one of 98-92 in favour of the champion.
Although it seemed clear that Abaniel felt she had done enough she lacked the effective work needed to win over the judges, who would have been impressed by Cai's accuracate and effective work.
Earlier this year we saw the fantastic Mako Yamada win the WBO female Minimumweight title with a sensational performance against Su Yun Hong. Sadly instead of defending that title and proving she was as good as she looked in that performance Yamada announced her retirement from boxing to focus on other things in life.
Yamada's retirement left the title vacant. Earlier today saw that vacancy filled as Japan's Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-1, 3) took a split decision over Gretchen Abaniel (15-6, 6).
The fight saw Abaniel intensely coming forward though Ikehara did well to unload her shots in a very active contest that saw both women unloading shots. The bout's all action back and forth saw both giving as good as they got in most rounds though in round 8 Ikehara made her size and power count.
The power and strength of Ikehara seemed to be enough to take the decision though unexpectedly the bout was ruled a split decision with scores of 98-92 and 97-93 both in favour of Ikehara whilst the third, the dissenting voice, gave the bout to Abaniel with a card of 96-94 for the Filipino. What made these cards a little bit strange is, from what we understand, the one judge who scored it to Abaniel was Japanese judge Katsuhiko Nakamura whilst Filipino judge Salven Lagumbay actually scored the bout for Ikehara. The one neutral judge came from Thailand.
For Ikehara this was a crowning glory of her career and saw her becoming a world champion at the first time of trying. She isn't the fighter Yamada was but still winning a world title is a great achievement. As for Abaniel this is her second world title defeat in Japan inside a year. She's not at the end of the line though she will perhaps realise that she needs to stay at Atomweight, where she has fought in the past, and needs to pick an easier mark for her next bout.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
The Atomweight division may be boxing's smallest professional division but what the fighters lack in stature they make up form in action. We saw that earlier today as WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (16-5-1, 1) successfully retained her title and made the third defense of her title.
Fighting against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (13-5, 4) the champion was given an incredibly tough nights work. The fight started in a very close manner with Abaniel counter punching well and more than holding her own as Miyao's reign was put under real threat by the Filipino.
Fortunately for Miyao her engine and work rate came to her savior in the second half of the fight as a tiring Abaniel was battled backwards and no longer able to time Miyao or fight back as she had done early on.
Although brave and refusing to be stopped Abaniel did look like the loser after the final bell. The judges had it close with scores of 97-93 (twice) and 96-94 which reflected the closeness of the contest though the judges did, thankfully, get it right.
We're now hoping the promoters get together and make the only Atomweight contest fans really want. Miyao against Momo Koseki in a WBA/WBC unification bout, it's a bout that makes too much sense to let it go by and it's a bout for supreme domination of the 102lb division. Come on folks, lets have this fight in 2014!
Note-This bout headlined the "47th Phoenix Battle".
On the same card as Takashi Miura's excellent WBC Super Featherweight title defence against Sergio Thompson there was also a bout for Filipino American fighter Ana Julaton (12-4-1, 2).
Julaton, a former WBO female Super Bantamweight champion was fighting for the first time in over a year as she took on Celina Salazar (5-1-2, 1). Unfortunately the ring rust and inactivity didn't help Julaton, who had promised "fireworks in Cancun", and she was out pointed by her less experienced American opponent.
It wasn't all bad for former world champions however and in Australia former WIBA Minimumweight champion Gretchen Abaniel (13-4, 4) swiftly dispatched Thai opponent Fahpratan Looksaikongdin (7-6) who was stopped inside a round by the talented Filipino. This was Abaniel's third successive victory after a trio of defeats at the world level in 2011-2012.