Over the years we have had some legendary Japanese female fighters but it's fair to say that none quite compare to current WBA female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7) who has become the bar by which all other Japanese female fighters are compared. The talented Fujioka is the only Japanese fighter, male of female, to have won world titles in 5 weight classes, she has chased her legacy around the globe and won world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. Not only has she done great things in terms of winning titles but she has also beaten a who's who along the way, with wins against Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go, Yokasta Valle and Irma Sanchez. In just 21 professional bouts she has done almost everything she could ever have dreamed of doing in the sport.
The one thing missing from Fujioka's resume is scoring a win in the US, something she gets the chance to do this weekend when she takes on the once beaten Sulem Urbina (12-1-0-1, 2) in Los Angeles. A win for Fujioka would add another cherry on to one of the best careers of a female fighter in the sport, whilst a loss would be a farewell to the 45 year old boxing legend, who must know retirement is looming around the corner.
For those who haven't followed Fujioka's career, and we genuinely can't blame you given how low profile female boxing was until very recently, she was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2009 aged 34. An ancient age for a fighter, especially a lower weight fighter. She quickly raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title just over a year after making her debut and stopping Anabel Ortiz for the WBA Minimumweight title within 2 years of her debut. She then pursued greatness, jumping from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight and dethroning Naoko Yamaguchi before bouncing up and down the weights picking up titles at Bantamweight, Flyweight and Light Flyweight whilst etching her name in the Japanese boxing history books.
In the ring a prime Fujioka could do it all. She could box, she could fight, she could brawl, she had a good work rate, solid engine, a real will to win, and a desire to be the best. She was technically not the most perfect. There was a clumsiness to her style, but one that she generally got away with due to her strength and physicality. At times it could look like she was being dirty, sneaky even, but on the whole it was aggressive clumsiness, something often seen in female boxing, especially when fights are close and hotly contested. She was a born fighter, who became a good boxer, but was still a fighter at heart. Sadly however at the age of 45 she's also now a true veteran and she's not been seen in the ring since a draw with Tenkai Tsunami back in July 2019, around 2 years ago! She has also only fought twice since the start of 2018, leaving us with questions as to what is really left in the tank.
The challenger on the other hand is a 30 year old Mexican born American based fighter who really hasn't done a great deal as a professional, since debuting in 2016. As an amateur Urbina competed at a high level, with some very mixed success, before beginning her professional career in Mexico in 2016. She began her professional career with a string of wins against some very low level competition, and was tested in some of those bouts, before making her US debut last year with a win over Noemi Bosques. To be honest her wins, so far, have come against very, very weak opposition, with her most notable victory coming against the limited Judith Rodriguez. Her competition isn't fitting of a world title challenger, despite her pretty looking record.
The only real stand out name on Urbina's record is Marlen Esparza, who beat Urbina in October 2020, with a very clear decision. Sadly that was her most recent bout.
Despite her competition being limited Urbina is genuine a very solid fighter. She gets in the ring and comes to fight, she lets good body shots go, she looks to set a high pace, puts forward a lot of pressure and comes to let shots go straight away. Her shots are thrown with bad intentions, she keeps pressing, and she has very, very busy hands. Although not the most polished, or smooth boxer, she makes for good TV friendly fights and at the end of the day the sport needs more fighters like that!
Give the styles of the two women we expect to see them both get close early on, and really unleashing shots in high volume at close range. Fujioka could make this easy by boxing and moving, but we're not sure the 45 year old legs of Fujioka would be able to stay on the move 10 rounds, like Esparza did against Urbina, and instead we expect to see her holding her ground and really beign happy to have a war with Urbina.
It's a real shame we're not seeing the prime version of Fujioka here. There's a chance that Urbina will be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a faced legend. But in reality that should be considered an upset. Even with this version of Fujioka. Instead we suspect the clean punching, and the heavier shots of Fujioka will be the difference maker and will be enough for her to take home the victory here.
Prediction - UD10 Fujioka
It's fair to say that July 9th is not one of the biggest boxing days of 2021 but it is a day that will allow female boxing to shine with two female title fights taking place on a Golden Boy promoted card in Los Angeles. Of the two bouts, the more interesting will see WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (28-12-1, 16) clash with WBA female Minimumweight champion Seneisa Estrada (20-0, 8), in what is a bout that promises to be something very special.
On paper it's easy to over-look this bout, and generally it's easy to over-look female bouts in general, after all Tsunami has 12 losses and a draw to her name in just 41 contests. However she's a real veteran who has been consistently competing at the world level over the last decade, has shown no fear of opponents, and is going through one of the best runs in her time as a boxer.
Estrada may well be the best female fighter in the sport, and the potential face of female boxing, but this bout promises to be among her toughest, and she's in there with someone who embodies the samurai spirit of Japanese boxing. When you combine the explosive skills and power of Estrada, with the work rate and determination of a fighter like Tsunami you tend to get something incredibly fun to watch. The sort of bout female boxing needs more of.
For those who haven't followed female boxing until recently the exploits of Tsunami are really worth talking about. The 36 year old has been a professional since 2005, boxing before the Japan Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She quickly climbed through the ranks, despite some early setbacks, and won the WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. She managed to make 4 defenses of that title before losing to the huge punching Naoko Yamaguchi in 2012. That loss saw her fall to 18-4 (7) and began a downfall in her career that resulted in her losing 5 of her following 6 bouts, with the losses coming to a who's who of female boxing stars like Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Yessica Chavez and Arely Mucino. After that string of results it appeared she had become a journey woman with a 19-9 (8) record. Since then however she has rebuilt her career, and is 7-1-1 (6) since 2016, with a move down to Light Flyweight really helping her re-establish herself as a world class fighter. Not only has she captured the WBO female Light Flyweight title since moving down in weight, stopping former amateur standout Chaoz Minowa, but she has also defended the title 3 times.
In the ring Tsunami lives up to her name. She simply keeps coming. She's tough, she has a really good work rate, she comes forward and she likes a fight. For a 36 year old she has a great engine, and real toughness. The fact she was a world champion at 115lbs before re-emerging at 108lbs shows her physical toughness and strength. Sadly she isn't the most technical fighter out there. She can be out boxed, she is slow of foot, and she she's not great when chasing an opponent, as we saw in her 2015 loss to Carolina Rodriguez, but in a toe to toe war there are few better than Tsunami.
Whilst Tsunami is part of the old wave of female boxing Estrada is certainly part of the newer wave, despite making her debut all the way back in 2011. In fact her career really struggled to get going as she fought twice in 2011, fought her third bout in 2014 and then took over a year away before her 4th bout. Thankfully however since 2015 she has been in action regularly and has really built a reputation as one of the best female fighters in the sport. That has really been on show in recent years with wins over notable opponents like Anahi Torres, Debora Rengifo, Gretchen Abaniel, Marlen Esparza and most recently Anabel Ortiz. She hasn't just been beating fighters however, she has been dominating them and rarely losing a round. In fact not only has she been out boxing and out fighting decent opponents but she has also been scoring some really blistering stoppages as well, most notably her blow out over Miranda Adkins. She really does look like one of the few female boxers who can do it all, and given her in ring style, her personality and her looks she really does seem poised to become the star of female boxing, and at 29 "Super Bad" could very easily be exactly what female boxing needs to build on.
In the ring Estrada is aggressive, she sometimes takes a risk or two that she doesn't need to as a result, but she's quick, sharp, technically very solid, heavy handed, can box, move, fight, brawl and punch and she really does tick every box. Not only is she capable of doing everything in the ring, but she's doing it against some top opponents, making Anabel Ortiz, one of the longest reigning champions in boxing history, look like a second rate fighter. Estrada is special. She's the type of fighter than can change perceptions about female boxing, if she gets the right opponents, and genuinely we think she has the perfect opponent to show what she can do here.
As mentioned in a fire fight Tsunami is going to be very, very hard to beat. Estrada might well try to have a fire fight, but we don't think she'll try that, or at least not for long. Tsunami's slow feet will instead allow Estrada to bounce in and out, to unload shots, and to use Tsunami as target practice. Tsunami's toughness, will to win and aggression will mean she'll refuse to back down, and she'll keep coming and coming.
We suspect Estrada's skills will neutralise Tsunami for the most part, with the Japanese fighter having just enough moments to make the fight exciting, but nowhere near enough to make it competitive. After 10 rounds there won't be any confusion over who deserves the win, but Tsunami's heart will recieve a lot of praise, as will Estrada's boxing, aggression,and skills.
Prediction - UD10 Estrada
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.