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)
Earlier today fight fans at the Korakuen Hall saw former Japanese amateur standout Chaoz Minowa (5-1, 4) [チャオズ箕輪] take a huge step up in class, as she took on former WBA female Super Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (25-12, 14) [天海 ツナミ], and found herself floundering in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title.
The novice was aggressive form the opening bell, something she has typically been since starting her professional career. The aggression was effective early on, and caught the judges' eyes in the first two rounds but as she began to slow the experience of Tsunami began to show, as she moved around the ring and picked Minowa off with good counters.
The shots of Tsunami megan to land with more damaging intentions and she would give Minowa a nasty cut over her right eye in the middle of the fight. It wasn't a fight ending cut, but it was one that Minowa never really recovered from. Instead Tsunami stepped up her work rate, landing jabs and straights at will and making Minowa look like a novice as she chased her foe around the ring, only to get tagged.
After a really 1-sided 8th round in favour of Tsunami the decision was made in Minowa's corner to pull their fighter from the contest. It was an admission of defeat, and humbling one for Minowa, who had promised much but really look out of her depth. For Tsunami the win see's her becoming a 2-weight world champion and she is now looking to further establish her career, which sh may well have saved with today's win,
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
In the last couple of years we've seen an increase in the profile of female boxing. The rise of fighters like Nicola Adams, Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor has helped set the tone for the next generation of female boxing. Despite their notable names, and the view that they maybe the stars of a new golden era in female boxing, it's hard to ignore some of the fighters who came before them, that includes Japan's Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子].
Today Fujioka cemeted her place as one of the top female fighters on the planet, as she claimed a world title in a 5th weight class, adding the WBO female Light Flyweight title to a collection that already included a WBC title at Minimumweight, a WBA title at Super Flyweight, a WBO title at Bantamweight and a WBA title at Flyweight.
The Japanese boxing queen was up against unbeaten Costa Rican Yokasta Valle (13-1, 6), who had previously won the IBF Atomweight title, and despite a slow start was in charge through out.
Valle won the first round, using her youth and size to keep Fujioka from forcing the fight. The visitor looked like she could pose problems but Fujioka managed to up the pressure in the following round, and from then on it was a struggle to find rounds to give Valle, who looked game but out of her depth.
At the end of 10 rounds there was little doubting the winner, with Fujioka taking the decision with scores of 99-91, 98-92 and a surprisingly close 96-94.
At the moment it's unclear what Fujioka's future holds but bouts in the US have been mentioned, along with contests against Tenkai Tsunami (24-12, 13) [天海 ツナミ] or Chaoz Minowa (4-0, 3) [チャオズ箕輪], showing that she has a lot of options, despite now being 42 years old.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today fight fans in Kyoto saw a female world title fight, sadly though for those fans they also saw local fighter Tamao Ozawa (14-4, 4) [小澤 瑶生] come up short, as she lost a split decision to Korean fighter Su Yun Hong (15-1-1, 7) [홍서연], with Hong becoming a 2-weight due to the win.
Hong took control early on, landing her sharp southpaw jab to control the distance and tempo of the early rounds. Ozawa had her moments but it seemed clear that Hong was using her more refined skills to come out on top of the exchanges. As the bout went on the rounds were frequently close, and there was very little to seperate the two women at times. In fact so competitive were the two fighters that both were left swollen, bloodied and clearly marked up around the face from the consistency of shots that landed clean.
In the later stages it seemed clear that Ozawa was coming on strong, winning the last 3 rounds on two of the cards, and winning 2 of the last 3 on the other card, but sadly for her time wasn't on her side and by then she was two far behind to claim the victory. Instead losing the split decision with socres of 96-94, 96-94 and 94-96.
For Hong the win sees her scoring her first win in Japan and opening doors to other potential fights in the Land of the Rising sun, whilst Ozawa fails in her first world title bout, but showed enough to suggest she can come again in the near future, and there is a good chance she will win a world title before her career is over.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
To end an action packed Saturday our attention turned to Mexico where the IBF female Light Flyweight title was on the line, as Japan's Naoko Shibata (16-4-1, 5) [柴田 直子] sought to continue her reign and do the double over Mexican foe Alondra Garcia (17-3-1, 1), the woman she originally beat for the title back in November 2013. Sadly for Shibata her 3 and a bit year reign came to end, after 5 successful defenses.
The bout didn't seem to start with round 1 of fight 2 but instead round 11 of the Shibata Vs Garcia rivalry, and was fought at a brilliantly high tempo pace which just got better and better as the rounds went on. The high octane nature of the fight wans't just exciting but also compelling with both fighters having their moments in a back and forth round.
The back and forth action continued through a number of rounds, with only a number of clear cut rounds either way, such as round 2 and 9 for Garcia and rounds 5 and 8 for Shibata. Unfortunately though with 6 close rounds it was clear the score cards could have been all over the place, and unfortunately for Shibata they were all against here.
The close nature of the rounds, and the back and forth highlights that both ladies had, meant almost any score was allowed,though all 3 judges favoured Garcia with cards of 94-96, 92-98 and 93-97. It's fair to say the 94-96 card was the nearest to ours, and whilst we could see the the other two cards they did seem hard, especially the 98-92 card. Incidentally the cards were exactly reverals of their first bout, which Shibata won 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92.
A third bout would make sense going forward but we wouldn't be surprised by Shibata taking another option and Garcia looking for bigger paying opportunties instead.
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.
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)
Late last night Mexican fans so local starlet Ibeth Zamora Silva (25-5, 10) successfully defend her WBC Light Flyweight title, as she became the first fighter to stop Japan's Mari Ando (12-9, 5) [安藤 麻里], who had sought a title in a third division.
From the early moments it seemed clear that Ando was up against it with the crowd firmly behind the champion. Not only was the crowd against Ando, but so to was the Mexican who used he jab early to establish control of the bout. That control allowed Zamora to see what Ando had, before upping the tempo herself.
As Zamora upped the tempo it became clear Ando had no answer, and the more Zamora went through the gears the more Ando struggled.
Although Ando tried to answer back when the Mexican let her hands go she really began to take a bit of a hammering in round 3 as Zamora's accuracy and work rate began to be too much for Ando, who was backed on to the ropes several times.
By round 5 Ando was starting to look like a beaten woman and her team seemed to realise it, throwing in the towel in round 6 as Zamora continued to dominate the brave, but completely outmatched challenger, who was unable to match the skills, or work rate of the very talented Zamora
(Image courtesy of Pepe Rodriguez)
Whilst Momo Koseki's successful title defence against Denise Castle wasn't a shock at all we'll actually admit we were shocked by the other female world title bout in Japan as IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (13-3, 4) stopped Mexican veteran Ana Arrazola (20-10-2, 13) and made the second successful defence of her belt.
Arrazola had come in to the bout with the reputation of being a really tough fighter and had never been stopped despite having shared the ring with some genuinely top tied fighters, such as Yesica Yolando Bopp. When you add Arrazola's perceived toughness to the fact Shibata wasn't viewed as a puncher, afterall she hadn't scored a stoppage in 4 years, this one was expected to go the distance and be tough for the champion.
What we got instead was a dominant performance from Shibata who ended up showing off what she is really capable of as she beat down and stopped Arrazola in 9 rounds.
For Shibata this is the sort of win that really cements her standing in the Light Flyweight division. Some had felt she had been lucky in her previous 2 bouts but this time around she seemed more confident than ever and managed to really impress. It was as if holding the title has instilled a new found confidence in her and right now she has to be thinking about a rematch with Etsuko Tada, a bout that Tada herself seemed to hint at earlier this year.
For Arrazola the travel home will be a long one though we would assume she's not going to fade away despite this loss.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
"If at first don't succeed try and try again". That old phase came in handy this past Thursday for Naoko Shibata (11-3, 3) who finally won the big one and for the first time in her career claimed a world title.
Shibata, who has been a professional for almost 5 years, had come up short every time she has fought a world level opponent. She had lost to Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. With the losses to Tada and Silva being very narrow losses in world title fights.
Today however it was third time lucky for Shibata who took on the previously unbeaten Mexican Alondra Garcia (8-1, 1) for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. A belt last held by Jessica Chavez, herself an excellent fighter.
The fight didn't start well for Shibata who suffered a nasty cut early on above the left eye (see picture above) and was tagged by the much younger Garcia, who was fighting in her first world title bout.
Things didn't really get better for Shibata who was forced into a tough, tough fight by the young Mexican who hadn't traveled the globe to give up her unbeaten record.
Although more experienced Shibata struggled to get the upper-hand and it seemed that every time she was getting a foot hold Garcia would fight back in a valiant effort to take the title back to Mexico. With out a doubt the fight was close and both women knew they needed to make an impression. Unfortunately for both they each cancelled the other out at times making rounds incredibly difficult to score.
Fortunately for Shibata, who was cheered on by the crowd, she managed to just do enough to impress the judges that little bit more than the away fighter to take a decision with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94. It wasn't a robbery by any means, but it's one where the decision went with the home fighter and a 96-94 scorecard either way would have been accurate. Unfortunately the 98-92 card was a bit too wide for our liking.
Note-This fight served as the chief support bout on "Earnest Efforts", a card headlined by Momo Koseki defending her WBC Atomweight title for the 12th time.