The bout started pretty well for the challenger who used her superior reach and height to great effect early on by letting loose with her jab and straight shots. Not only was Kawanishi using the right tactics but she was also looking very sharp, in fact some would suggest she had never looked so good in the ring.
Although Kawanishi had clearly stepped up her game it still wasn't enough to over-come Fujioka who managed to find her rhythm in round 2 and began to cut the distance a little bit. On the inside it was Fujioka landing the hooks and uppercuts and neutralising the difference in size. It was great back-and-forth between two fighters who were trying to prove their world class skills and for the first half of the fight it was brilliantly competitive 2-way action.
The proof of a fighters skill is their ability to adapt, to change their tactics and to take over a bout. In the second half of the contest it was Fujioka who managed to adapt whilst a tiring Kawanishi began to unravel and tire. The heart was still there from the challenger but by round 8 it was clear that Kawanishi was begin to show signs of fatigue and this seemed to spur on the champion who found the time and space to dominate the final few rounds and put the bout beyond any doubt.
Despite the competitive action early on the judges all agreed on the score of the bout awarding the decision to Fujioka with scores of 97-93 to allow her the first defence of her title.
Although Kawanishi came up short here she did show enough to suggest that she has the ability to win a world title somewhere down the line. As for Fujioka it still seems that she's effectively unbeatable at 115lb and hopefully a big name opponent will be her next challenge.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)