In May 2014 Japanese youngster Yuko Kuroki (16-4-1, 8) made good on her early career promise by defeating Mari Ando (13-9, 6) to claim the WBC female Minimumweight title. That win put Kuroki on the proverbial map an opened doors for her to grow into a genuinely notable fighter. Since that title win she has made the most of her opportunity and scored notable wins over Katia Gutierrez, Masae Akitaya and Nancy Franco, whilst recording 4 defenses of the title whilst Ando has struggled.
This coming Sunday the two women will face off again with Kuroki looking to record her 5th defense of the title and Ando looking to revive a career that is now struggling, in fact Ando has gone 2-2 since the first bout and is now very much in last chance saloon.
Kuroki really has gone from strength to strength since winning the title. She was always a fighter with a lot of potential, as early career performances against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Mika Oda and Etsuko Tada showed, but it wasn't until she became the champion that we really got the chance to see how good she was. Since becoming the champion she really has looked like a truly brilliant fighter with under-rated skills, great work rate, hurtful power and the sort of building confidence that could make her a real nightmare against other world class fighters in the years to come.
Whilst Kuroki isn't one of the stars of female boxing, and she's not one of the truly elite among the Japanese female fighters, like Momo Koseki or Naoko Fujioka, she is a top class fighter who is showing all the signs of becoming a top fighter for the years to come.
With Ando the best looks to be behind her. The 29 year old struggled to get going, losing her first 2 bouts, before defeating Amara Kokietgym in September 2011 to claim the WBA Atomweight title and became a world champion. Her reign however was a short one, losing the belt in her second defense to Ayaka Miyao. Despite losing the WBA title to Miyao we did see Ando continue to compete at the world level, losing in title challengers against both Miyao and Su Yun Hong, before claiming the WBC female Minimumweight title with a win against Jasseth Noriega in 2013, lsoing that title in her first defense to Kuroki.
Since losing the title to Kuroki we've seen Ando come up short against Zai ong Ju and Ibeth Zamora Silva, with Silva stopping Ando in the 6th round of a horribly one-sided contest. That loss to Silva seemed to suggest that the hard career of Ando was taking it's toll, though may well have said more about how good Silva is, with many regarding her as one of the truly elite female fighters.
With Kuroki claiming a win in the first fight, and improving whilst Ando has seemingly regressed, the winner her will almost certainly be Kuroki again. The question however will be whether the champion scores a stoppage or another decision. We think Kuroki will go on to stop Ando here, with Ando likely to retire afterwards.
On paper Japan's Mari Ando (12-8, 5) has the record of a journey woman but the reality is that she's a bona-fide world level contender who has a “win some-lose some” record at the top level. In fact coming into this weekend she is 3-4 in world title bouts, a 2-weight world champion and a fighter who has been really unlucky to actually have a 12-8 record.
This weekend Ando attempts to become a 3-weight champion as she travels to Mexico to battle Ibeth Zamora Silva (24-5, 9), the current WBC female Light Flyweight champion and one of the best female fighters on the planet.
Ando is a true warrior. She has limitations but the 28 year old is a real battler who has regularly made up for her limitations with a high work rate, insane toughness and incredible will to win. That will to win has her over-come the likes of Amara Kokietgym, Maria del Refugio Jimenez Cruz and Jasseth Noriega whilst managing push fighters like Ayaka Miyao, Yuko Kuroki, Su Yun Hong and Cai Zong Ju all the way.
A big question when it comes to Ando is how she will cope at Light Flyweight. Interestingly she is 2-0 (1) above 105lbs, though this match up is a huge step up in class from her other two at the weight.
When it comes to Zamora the 27 year old really is one of the sports best female fighters. Her record is incredible, not just the numbers but also the quality of her wins which have come against the likes of Esmeralda Moreno, twice, Jessica Chavez, twice, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Shibata and Ava Knight. Not only has she been beating top names but she's also been a 3 year reign as a world champion and has already recorded 7 defenses of her title.
In the ring Zamora can almost everything, in fact the one thing she's missing is “power” though she more than makes up for that with her ability to box, or brawl. When it comes to being adaptable she certainly has plan A, B, C and D in her locker and with a large crowd behind her and her confidence sky high it's going to take a very special fighter to beat her.
Whilst we rate Ando as being much better than her record, we can't see over-coming Zamora, especially not in Mexico
Numerous fighters have misleading records. We often see it with Filipino men, like Rey Loreto and Rey Megrino, though we also see it with some Japanese women, such as Tenkai Tsunami (20-10, 9). This misleading records can arise for various reasons, for example a fighter being matched incredibly hard at some point in their career or having a few controversial decisions go against them.
This coming Saturday we see two fighters with misleading records facing off in a WBC female Minimumweight title fight that really could end up being an absolute barn burner.
On of those women is the defending champion Mari Ando (11-6, 5), a tough as nails fighter who has been fighting at the world level for almost 3 years. She is a former WBA Atomweight champion and has fought the likes Ayaka Miyao and Su Yun Hong, both world of whom are world class fighters
The other woman is the under-rated Yuko Kuroki (10-4-1, 6) who has shared a ring with the excellent Etsuko Tada and the talented Saemi Hanagata. She may never have won a world title but she is a talented and accomplished fighter who, at just 23, is improving drastically between fights.
The two women have a lot in common. Both lost some early, and close, fights which marked up their records in bouts some people felt they deserved to win. Both scored notable wins over Thailand's Amara Kokietgym and both are young fighters who have a lot more to give the sport. It's fair to say neither is close to their prime and neither is likely to be close to their prime for another few years. And, finally, both fighters have a similar amount of fights, wins and losses.
An initial look at the two fighters would see many favouring Ando. She has been in with Miyao twice, giving her hell in both bouts, and has been in Hong, again giving the world class fighter a tough time. Kuroki may have been in the ring with Tada but wasn't competitive. That however doesn't tell us how far along Kuroki has come in recent bouts as she's gone from a young lady to a now mature fighter. Kuroki is still young but a drastically different fighter to the one who fought Tada.
Ando is an aggressive, mentally tough fighter who comes for a fight. She applies pressure, she tries to turn fights into a tear up and makes them action packed. She may not be the most technically skilled but she's always exciting and she's always looking for a fight in the ring. Less of a boxer and more of a born fighter.
Whilst Ando is a pure fighter Kuroki is more of a boxer-puncher who uses intelligent footwork to line up he straight land hands. She may not be the most technically correct fighter but she is more of a boxer than Ando. She's good speed, like Ando she's proven to be tough and, as with most southpaws, she looks like tricky fighter to beat.
Going in to this fight we really view it as a 50-50 type of fight, though lean, ever so slightly, towards Ando who is the more experienced fighter, especially over 10 rounds, and is the home town fighter, though we wouldn't even dream of betting on this contest which is really, really hard to call.
(Picture, of Mari Ando, courtesy of http://www.zukunft.co.jp)
Just a few weeks back Naoko Fujioka vacated the WBC Minimumweight to challenge for, and win, the WBC Super Flyweight title. The title that Fujioka vacated is now back up for grabs as Japan's Mari Ando (10-6, 5) fights Mexico's Jasseth Noriega (16-2-1, 5).
On paper this is a bout that you'd automatically favour Noriega from looking at the fighters records. Records however don't decide fights, the fighters behind those records do and that's why this bout is intriguing.
Aged 26 Ando is a fighter who has been in and around world class for over 2 years. She successfully claimed the WBA Atomweight title back in September 2011 with a victory over Amara Kokietgym and defended it once before being neaten by Ayaka Miyao.
Since losing her world title Ando has been hovering in and around world title fights. Unfortunately however she has gone 0-2 in subsequent title fights losing a rematch to Miyao and being out pointed by WBO Minimumweight champion Su-Yun Hong. Despite those two losses she has shown her toughness and desire to win refusing to give in.
Whilst Ando has lost 3 of her last 4 they have come, as mentioned, against world class fighters in Hong and Miyao. On the flipside of that it's worth noting that Noriega has also lost her last 2 bouts.
The Mexican, 23, started her career with 13 straight wins and went 17 fights unbeaten before suffering back to back upsets this year to Anahi Torres and Jessica Nery Plata. Whilst there there is no shame in losing to Plata, who is a very talented fighter, there are doubts over just how good Noriega actually is having beaten no one of note.
Not only has Noriega beaten no one of note but she has also never fought outside of Mexico. We're expecting the crowd in Japan to get to Noriega and Ando's pressure, power and work rate to slowly beaten down Noriega who we imagine will be stopped in the second half of the fight.
Courtesy of http://www.koreaboxing.co.kr
It's rare in the west for a female world title to get an equal billing on a major televised card but that's exactly what's happening on August 18th as Su-Yun Hong (8-0, 5) defends her WBO Minimumweight title on KBS Sports.
Hong, sharing the televised broadcast with OPBF Light Welterweight champion Min-Wook Kim, will be facing Mari Ando (10-5, 5) of Japan, a former WBA Atomweight champion. in a bout that we've got to admit we're pretty excited about.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Although footage of Hong is hard to come by we know that she's an incredibly classy southpaw who throws delightful straight punches with real snap on them. She's a proven would level fighter who holds one or two notable victories and is widely regarded as one of the top 5 fighters in the 105lb division.
The Korean's victory over Thailand's Teeraporn Pannimit is by far the best on her record and it was a commanding victory scoring a very dominant decision.
On Ando's record there are of course 5 losses, including 2 recent ones to Akaya Miyao. She has, as mentioned above, been the WBA Atomweight, 102lb, champion though there is a pretty solid step up from the rather thin Atomweight division to the tougher Minimumweight division where most smaller women do fight.
Although Ando herself appears to be hard hitter though it's fair to say to say her power hasn't really carried up to the world level. Her 5 stoppages have all come against complete novices and with that in mind we're struggling to see her really having an effect on Hong who appears to be a very special fighter.
We're going to say that we expect to see Hong retaining her title via a decision, though wouldn't be shocked to see Ando really struggle down the stretch as the classy work of Hong begins to pay dividends.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.