Earlier this year we saw a rare WBA unification bout as WBA female Light Welterweight champion Ana Laura Esteche (now 10-3-2, 2) traveled to Russia and to defend her title against WBA female interim Light Welterweight champion Svetlana Kulakova (now 9-0-1, 1). The bout, which really was a case of little against large, was a fight of two very different halves, though it resulted in a highly controversial split decision draw leaving Esteche as the champion many fans were unhappy at the result.
For fans in attendance they were left annoyed that their fighter, Kulakova, had twice been deducted points that effectively cost her the unified title. As for fans around the world there was questions as to how Esteche didn't get the win, especially considering the point deductions.
The result saw the WBA order a rematch and that's where we are now with less than a week to the fight.
Early on in the first fight it was the Russian who was in charge. She used her longer reach to get her jabs and straights off and managed to establish a clear lead with her pure boxing from range. Unfortunately for Kulakova she was unable to keep that up for the whole of the fight and in the second half Estche came on strong winning the vast majority of the rounds from the second half of the 10 rounder. What made things contentious was that Kulakova was deducted points in rounds 5 and 8. For many those should have been enough for Esteche to secure a clear win with a score of 95-93 being the closest. The judges however returned cards of 95-94 Kulakova, 96-92 Estesche and 94-94 draw.
This time around Kulakova will have to employ the same tactics she did back then. Boxing from range, using her reach and movement and hoping to control the distance and pace of the fight. The one big change she'll need to make isn't her game plan but her preparation and she will need to be able to box and move for at least 8 rounds and rack up the points with out tiring in the way she did last time. She will know that Esteche is like a terrier and will be on her all fight so will need to have trained for that and need to have made sure that she can handle the pressure Esteche will bring.
For the Argentinian she also knows what she needs to do. Apply constant pressure form the opening bell, target the body and take the wind out of Kulakova early on. This time around Esteche is unlikely to see the referee deducted points from the Russian and will likely need to get 7 or 8 rounds to get the win, especially seeing as she's the away fighter. That's not easy against a significantly bigger fighter though Esteche will also know that Kulakova doesn't have the power to keep her honest and that if she can slip the jab, or walk through it, she can really get the chance to drown the Russian fighter in the middle and later rounds.
Aged 24 Esteche is coming into her prime and although Kulakova isn't an old 31 that is still a notable age difference that could help the visiting Argentinian fighter.
We know this won't be easy for either woman though we tend to feel that Esteche has to be given the slight edge. The Russian atmosphere won't be as terrifying this time and the Argentinian will feel she has matured over the last 3 months and that she deserved the win last time. She'll know that she needs to dominate every round to get the win and we suspect she'll attempt to score a whitewash over the tall Russian fighter.
When people think of this weekend's boxing a lot of the focus is, rightfully, on Macau and the UK. Both of those places have huge cards on Saturday, genuinely those two shows could very easily over-shadow almost any other she we're getting this year and will certainly over-shadow the action we're getting over the rest of the weekend.
Despite being over-shadowed however we do have some pretty decent action on Sunday in Russia with two world title fights, including a very, very interesting Female Light Welterweight title fight that will see Unbeaten Russian bombshell Svetlana Kulakova (9-0, 1) attempting to unify her WBA interim title with the WBA regular title held by Ana Laura Esteche (10-3-1, 2).
Although technically the "challenger" Kulakova will be strongly favoured for this fight considering she is fighting at home in Russia, is unbeaten and, from what we understand, the taller and rangier fighter as well as the more traditionally skilled fighter. Despite her advantages she is also the fighter stepping up, notably, in class and is fighting an opponent who is a nightmare for someone with her style.
At her best Kulakova is a technically strong boxer. It may sound over the top by stylistically she bears a resemblance to Wladimir Klitschko with her rangy attacks, good work at distance and frustrating ability to neutralise an opponent. It may not be exciting but it's a winning formula which has helped her claim and interim world title and a 9 fight winning run to begin her professional career.
The one big difference between the Russian and Klitschko is power. Whilst Wladimir Klitschko has thunder like power in his right hand Kulakova is a relatively light puncher. She doesn't put her weight, which admittedly is no more than 140lbs, behind a shot like Klitschko does with his 250lb frame though she does seem to be able to get respect of her opponents more often than not.
In Esteche we have a fighter who is like a terrier in the ring. Technically she's crude, she's basic and fundamentally flawed though she makes up for that in her refusal to back down attitude. It was this attitude that saw her defeating Argentinian compatriot Monica Silvina Acosta back in January, going into that bout Acosta was an unbeaten fighter who had been a long reigning champion prior to fighting Esteche.
Esteche's aggressiveness, toughness and determination makes her a genuinely tough opponent for anyone. She's always been happy to take a shot to get inside and inside she's a really tough foe who is going to unload shots in an attempt to break down an opponent. Her power, as with Kulakova, is lacking but her work rate is much higher than that of the Russian and it's that work rate, as well as her Latin spirit, that could swing the fight in her favour.
With Esteche's style we're expecting her to Kulakova her toughest test to date though we've got to favour the Russian's style, size and strength to help her take home a very well earned and hard fought decision in a bout that could well put Kulakova in the running for a fight with Norwegian boxing queen Cecilia Braekhus in a fight that could well be one of the biggest ever female fights out there right now.
(Image courtesy of VK.com)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.