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.
For a second day running Chinese fight fans had a world title fight on CCTV 5, with the channel hosting the second of their Lunar New Year Cup shows.
Today's bout saw Japan's Etsuko Tada (16-3-2, 4) [多田 悦子] travel to Macau take on Chinese fighter Cai Zong Ju (9-1, 1) [蔡宗菊] in front of a partisan crowd. The fight started with Tada looking to establish her busy jab though the only real punch that had the crowd making any noise was a shot from the local favourite. Again in second round it was the champion trying to press the action, and it seemed that the only shots getting a reaction from the crowd were those from Ju, who did try to make the most of her jab from range, and single shots when openings arose.
With Tada trying to bring the aggressive pressure, and Jun doing her best to keep the fight at range, it did start as a frustrating affair to watch, with clean shots being at a premium for both fighters. Despite the lack of solid punches in the opening stages the bout was compelling viewing, with questions being whether Tada would be able to force her fight on to Ju, or whether Ju's movement would be too quick for the Japanese veteran
In round 4 was saw Tada manage to have some notable success in the early stages, bu Ju avoided being overwhelmed and began firing in some really sharp counters, stiffling Tada's momentum, and clinching when she had to. It was a well crafted game plan and one Ju continued to use through the middle rounds, forcing Tada to continually up the ante.
At times Ju seemed to do more holding than hitting, with round 6 having some notably frustrating moments, but it effectively took the sting out of Tada's assaults and when Ju did let her shots go they were often eye catching blows. The holding did however seem to come with Ju showing some signs of slowling down and being tired, things that helped Tada making the fight her fight and in round 7 it seemed like Tada was beginning to land the telling blows. Despite landing those notable shots she was in a hole and chasing the bout and that was clear again in round 8, another good one for the visitor.
Going into the final 2 rounds it seemed like Tada was on the acendancy whilst Cai was struggling with the pressure and aggressiveness of Tada. That was clearly seen in round 9, with Ju doing very little offensively, and again in round 10 as Tada looked to make a big statement whilst Ju looked to do her best to avoid a fight. It was another easy round to score to the defending champion, but wasn't the big round she needed to turn the bout around.
At the final bell the scorecards really were a bit strange. Two of the cards favoured the challenger, with scores of 98-92, scores that seemed too wide even if they did have the rightful winner. The third judge, remarkably, had Tada winning 98-92, a score that we simply have to question. Tada was always in the bout, and always had her moments, but she constantly struggled with Ju's movement in the early stages and came on just a bit too late.
Some are going to question why a main event between female minimumweights was fought in such a huge ring, to the credit of the promoter however, they got their fighter a big advantage here, giving Ju a lot of room to play with, and play with it she did as she moved through out and frustrated Tada in the early rounds. Ju will also be thankful for the fact females fight over 10 rounds, as she looked very tired in the later rounds.
With the win Ju claims her first world title, whilst Tada loses her IBF crown in her first defense and aged 35 Tada's best days are behind her. She might have one more run left, and might be looking to get a rematch with Ju in Japan, but she's not the fighter she once was.
On Friday fans in Hyogo had reason to celebrate as local fighter, and former WBA female Minimumweight champion, Etsuko Tada (15-2-2, 4) became a 2-time world champion
The talented Tada was really in a must win bout as she took on Mexican fighter Kareli Lopez (8-6-3, 2). If Tada lost it would have been a third loss in 5 bouts, and her third successive at the top level. She knew what was riding on the bout and fought as if her career depended on it.
Early on Tada tried to use her feet and movement to neutralise the aggressive Lopez. It was a tactic that she though would successful but Lopez was simple too hungry to be thwarted by just movement and instead Tada had to mix things up, boxing more aggressively and using her experience and ring smarts to try and blunt the offensive of the visitor.
The Mexican, who certainly doesn't sport a flashy record, wasn't going to be easily beaten and refused to ever cave in to Tada, despite the fact the crowd were certainly behind the home time fighter. In the end however Tada did just have that little bit extra as she claimed the title, with a unanimous decision and returned to being at the top of the proverbial mountain.
The final decision saw all 3 judges scoring the bout to Tada, with scores of 97-93 and 96-94, twice. It was however a performance that didn't satisfy the champion, who seemed to confess that she hadn't been at her best.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
Some fighters are destined to never win a world title. Unfortunately for Japanese fighter Kayoko Ebata (7-5, 4) she seems likely to be one of those fighters having failed in her third world title challenge earlier today.
The 37 year old Japanese fighter, who had previously lost in world title fights to Samson Tor Buamas and Tenkai Tsunami came up against a very determined Nancy Franco (12-5-2, 4) and unfortunately was on the losing side as she attempted to claim the IBF Minimumweight title.
Franco fought like a woman possessed and refused to be intimidated by either Ebata or the Japanese crowd. Although Ebata had some success she couldn't slow down the challenger for long enough to establish herself in the contest and every time Franco took a shot she came raging back.
Unfortunately for Ebata she began to look her age in the later rounds as Franco really took over and made the decision clear-cut.
Although, as seen in the picture above, Franco was cut under the left eye and swollen herself she was certainly giving more than she was taking as she put on a performance to remember. By the time the final cards were read that was little real doubt over who had won, Franco, rightfully taking the decision with cards reading 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 all in her favour.
This bout, the chief support contest on the "47th Phoenix Battle" may well be the final time we see Ebata in a professional bout.