This coming Saturday we get a lot of action to look forward to, with big names in action and some massive bouts. Given there are set to be so many big bouts this weekend it can be easy to over-look some bouts, including a potential female fight of the year between Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7) and Marlen Esparza (11-1, 1), who look to unify the WBA and WBC female Flyweight titles. The bout hasn't had the huge fanfare that several other bouts have had, but could end up delivering incredible action and continue the string of thrilling female title bouts we've been having in recent years.
The 46 year old Fujioka, the current WBA female Flyweight champion, is a female fighter who should be destined for a hall of fame induction when she retires. She has been the star of Japanese female boxing for much of her career and done things that really weren't being done, especially not by Japanese fighters. She turned professional in 2009, following a successful amateur career, and despite being 34 when he debuted she has gone on to win world title from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, becoming Japan's only ever 5 weight world champion. Along the way to collecting a trophy cabinet full of belts she has beaten the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go, Isabel Millan, Irma Sanchez and Sulem Urbina. She has also been able to travel for fights, with bouts in Germany, Mexico and the US.
In the ring Fujioka is a veteran, with bucket loads of experience, heavy hands, an aggressive style, a great chin and although she's not the tidiest fighter she is a rough, tough handful with decent boxing skills added to a fighters mentality. Even in her mid 40's she has proven to have impressive stamina, and actually gets better as fights go on, starting slowly before getting her engine going and simply out working, out battling and out fighting fighters. Despite a busy style, she's accurate, and lands shots that catch the eye, whilst also keeping opponents too busy to really fight back. Sadly in recent years she began slowing down, in part due to age and inactivity, but she's still one of the best female fighters on the planet, despite being the wrong side of 40.
Aged just 32 Marlen Esparza is something of a spring chicken compared to Fujioka and is part of the new wave of female fighters who turned professional after the 2012 Olympics, like so many of the other top current female fighters out there. As an amateur Esparza won bronze at the Olympics and a Gold at the 2014 World Amateur Championships, before finally turning her attention on the professional ranks in 2017. Sadly her career was somewhat slow to get going, though she did notable fighter in some of the few female bouts to have 3 minute rounds. After winning her first 7 bouts she then came up short against the sensational Seniesa Estrada ina bout for the WBA "interim" Female Flyweight title. In that bout she was out worked, out fought, out boxed and just out-everythinged by Estrada, before the bout was stopped due to a cut, leading to Estrada winning a technical decision. Since that bout Esparza has bounced back big time, and scored her 3 most notable wins, taking decisions over Sulem Urbina, Ibeth Zamora Silva and Anabel Ortiz.
In the ring Esparza is a well schooled boxer, and her amateur pedigree does show through. She's a clean, accurate boxer, who likes to have some space to work with, throws lovely straight shots, and has really good timing, especially on her left jab and short right hands. Sadly though she really struggles on the inside and lacks the power to maintain space, or get the respect of fighters, who will feel comfortable pressuring her and trying to out work her. She's quick and sharp, but is very much a fighter who needs to use her speed, and needs to avoid a tear up at all costs.
Given her youth, speed and style Esparza does have some advantages over Fujioka, and she will need to capitalise on them to beat the Japanese boxing Queen. Sadly though we feel the style of Esparza will be her own downfall. The pressure, tenacity, work rate, strength and stubbornness of Fujioka will almost certainly be too much for her. We expect Esparza to start well, taking the first few rounds with her movement and boxing. But as the rounds go on Fujioka will get closer and closer, before taking control of the bout in the middle rounds and dominating the final rounds.
There could be some suspect scoring to help save Esparza, but we don't see that being enough to deny Fujioka here. Instead we see the judges having it closer than they should, but being unable to deny the Japanese visitor.
Prediction - MD10 Fujioka
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
Recently we saw Japanese fighter Kazuto Ioka being wrongly proclaimed by many as the first Japanese 4-weight world champion. Whilst he was the first man to achieve that feat, he was the second fighter to achieve it, following in the foot steps of Japanese boxing queen Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7), who subsequently went on become Japan's first 5 weight world champion as well.
This coming Friday Fujioka returns to the ring to defend her WBA female Flyweight title, as she takes on 2-weight world champion Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15), in what is a really highly anticipated female show down between two of the best female fighters Japan has given us.
Whilst their is certainly a new wave of Japanese female fighters, such as Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda, both Fujioka and Tsunami are part of the last generation and have lead the way for the younger fighters to make their mark on the sport. As a result this has the feeling of a real meeting of two significant fighters from the last generation, even if both are perhaps coming to the end of their great careers.
Fujioka really has been a legend of female boxing. Yes she lacks the high profile of Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor, but her career has seen her win world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, moving up and down the scales, and defeat the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Irma Sanchez. She has chased legacy fights, and both of her losses with were very competitive decisions on the road to local heroes, with a loss to Jessica Chavez being a rather dubious one to say the least.
In the ring Fujioka can box or brawl. She did hit quite hard early in her career, at Minimumweight, but at the higher weights her power has lost something. Saying that she's still a solid puncher, but no longer has real stopping power with just 2 stoppages in her last 9 wins. Instead relying on her skills, intensity and accuracy, rather than her power to pick up wins.
Whilst Fujioka is a real legend of female boxing, it's fair to say that Tsunami deserves a similar description, despite her less than stellar record. The 34 year old made her debut way back in 2005, before the Japanese Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She would become one of the real stars of the early days of female boxing in Japan, winning the JWBC Flyweight title and winning an IFBA title before winning the more significant WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. Since then she has fought a real who's who of female boxing, often travelling for some of her biggest bouts. Her competition has included, but isn't limited to, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janteh Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez, Carolina Rodriguez, Arely Mucino and Gretchen Abaniel.
The problem for Tsunami is she's often come up short on her travels, losing in South Korea, Mexico and Chile, with losses in her last 8 road bouts. Despite those losses she has proven, where ever she fights, that she is tough, is full of energy and always looks to have a fight. Sadly though she has shown a lack of speed, poor footwork and can be out boxed, out thought and out sped, which have all been issues through her career. She's aggressive but clumsy, exciting, but flawed.
Whilst we rate both fighters very highly we believe that Fujioka's more rounded skill-set, her ability to move and use her speed and feet is going to be the difference here. We're expecting an intelligent display from the champion, who will be forced to trade at times, but will control the distance and tempo en route to adding another notable win to her legendary career.
Prediction UD10 - Fujioka
This weekend is a huge one for boxing but it actually starts a little early, and there's a very notable female world title bout this coming Friday, as Japan's first ever 5 weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) defends the WBA female Flyweight title against interim champion Irma Sanchez (30-7-1, 8).
Aged 43 Fujioka is the queen of Asian boxing. She debuted in 2009 and despite only having 19 career bouts she has managed to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight, Super Flyweight and Bantamweight. Not only has she collected titles but also names, scoring notable victories over Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez and Shindo Go. Even her losses actually enhance reputation with one being a competitive decision loss in Germany to Susi Kentikian whilst the other was a controversial decision defeat to Jessica Chavez in Mexico.
At her best Fujioka is a bit of a brawler but is also a very capable boxer-puncher. She's a little slow on her feet at times, and defensively a little open at times, but takes a shot well, closes distance brilliantly and tends to simple grind opponents down with a high work rate. At 43 and having not fought since last December there are question marks about her age and ring rust, but she looked fantastic against Yokasta Valle last time out, and has had relatively long breaks in the past with no ill effects. In fact it could be argued that the breaks between fights actually helps her with longevity and could explain how, at the age of 43, she's in such good shape and able to move between weights with such ease.
Mexican challenger Sanchez is 30 years old, but is already a 12 year veteran having debuted in 2006. Her 38 fight career, twice as long as Fujioka's, has been spent entirely in Mexico though she has regularly mixed with world class fighters, including Mariana Juarez, Katia Guterrez, Jessica Chavez, Ibeth Zamora Silva, and Carina Moreno. Whilst she has lost most of her biggest bouts she did win the WBA “interim” female Flyweight title last time out, setting up this bout, and is certainly a very accomplished, experienced and talented fighter.
Watching Sanchez is looks a little wider, a little slower and clumsier than the Japanese fighter. She is younger, but looks more rough around the edges than Fujioka, who seems to have the edge in size, skills, power and speed. Despite the disadvantages that Sanchez has going against her she hasn't been stopped in almost 11 years and will feel that with her youth and hunger she will be able to walk through Fujioka's shots and win a war of attrition, as she's had to do in the past.
Given the style that Sanchez uses we suspect she's going to have a war with Fujioka, but unfortunately for the Mexican we don't see that paying off well for her, and in fact we suspect that the power and accuracy of Fujioka will be too much for the challenger to survive with, with Sanchez being stopped late in to the contest. We know Sanchez can fight, be here she's up against someone who think is better in every way. There is a risk that Fujioka gets old, but we don't see that happening, and instead we see her simply grinding down Sanchez to either a very wide decision win or a late stoppage, in a fan friendly but one sided contest.
One of the top, if not the top, female fighter in Japan has long been the sensationally talented Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7), who became Japan's first ever 4 weight champion earlier this year. The 42 year old Japanese veteran has claimed titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight. To end 2017 Fujioka drops down to Light Flyweight, to face Yokasta Valle (13-0, 5) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. Interestingly Fujioka is dropping down from Flyweight for this bout, whilst Valle is a former IBF Atomweight champion, having claimed that title last year.
Fujioka has had a genuinely remarkable career and is regarded by some as one of the top 10 female fighters, pound-for-pound, in the sport. She debuted at the age of 34 and after just a year in the sport claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title. The following year she claimed the WBC title, stopping Anabel Ortiz. In 2013 Fujioka claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title, she added the WBO Bantamweight title in 2015 and then the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year. Whilst Fujioka has obviously been collecting titles she has also been facing stiff competition, with bouts against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi, Susi Kentikian, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Jessica Chavez.
In the ring Fujioka can fight, box or brawl. She's the type of fight who can adapt, and when she needs to make things rough she can, as she did in the final stages against Mariana Juarez. Although she has two defeats against her name both were close and controversial, and more importantly on the road with the loss against Chavez being one of the most questionable decisions of recent years. At 42 there is some question marks about how many more top performances she has in the tank, but she's not yet showing signs of slipping.
Aged 25 Valle is one of the stars of Costa Rican boxing, and has ben a professional since mid 2014. Much of her career has been spent at home, in Costa Rica, though she did venture to El Salvador for a bout last year. It was at home last year that she defeated Ana Victoria Polo to claim the IBF title at 102lbs, though since then she has moved up to 105lbs, where she beat journey woman Yadita Perez. Sadly the key thing to note about Valle is her level of competition, and it has been dire, with none of her opponents having any name value, and very few having any sort of a record.
Although Valle's best win has been down at 102lbs she is actually a big fighter for the lower weights and shouldn't have any issues making 108lbs and being a fully fledged fighter at the weight, in fact she may be stronger than she has been whilst draining herself down. The problem for her however is that she's not really shown herself to be world class. There is some ability there, and it's clear that a really top level trainer could take her quite far, but the fact she's so untested and stepping up in such a huge way that it's hard to see he she can win here.
We don't think Fujioka is a huge puncher,but she certainly holds solid power in both hands, and we suspect that power will have telling effects late on, with a stoppage for the Japanese in the later rounds.
Over the last few years we've seen a number of Japanese fights become 3-weight world champions, with Hozumi Hasegawa becoming the latest last year when he claimed the WBC Super Bantamweight title. This coming Monday we see one Japanese fighter attempt to become the first 4-weight champion from the country, and secure their legacy as one of the key female figures in Japanese boxing history. That is the brilliantly talented, exciting and aggressive Naoko Fujioka (15-2, 6), who will look to the add the WBA female Flyweight title to her collection, which includes world titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight and Bantamweight. In the opposite corner to the 41 year old Fujioka will be 32 year old Mexican fighter Isabel Millan (18-2-1, 8), with the two women fighting for the vacant title.
Fujioka has been one of the stars of female boxing, particularly in the East. She was a stand out amateur before turning professional in 2009 and quickly raced to a title, claiming the OPBF female Minimumweight title in just her 4th professional title. She would add the WBC female Minimumweight just 2 fights later, beating Anabel Ortiz for the belt. Having out grown the Minimumweight division Fujioka jumped up to Super Flyweight, battered Naoko Yamaguchi for the WBA female Super Flyweight title and then pursued more titles. Unfortunate she has, twice, lost in bouts for Flyweight gold but did claim the WBO female Bantamweight title in 2015 when she beat Hee Jung Yuh.
In the ring Fujioka is an aggressive fighter, who looks for the stoppage but can also box. A bit of a boxer-brawler if you will. She's tough, having take some serious bombs from Shindo Go last year, and determined. Unfortunately she hasn't shown her best outside of Japan, losing 2 of her 3 bouts outside of her homeland. Despite those losses, to Susi Kentikian and Jessica Chavez, Fujioka showed her ability and was competitive with both, and in reality the decision against Chavez was one of the worst in world class female boxing last year.
Whilst Fujioka is a proven fighter, with wins against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez and Shindo Go the same cannot be said of Millan. In fact the Mexican has yet to score a major win at genuine world level, though has got some notable ones including a victory last year over Amira Hamzaoui. That win netted Millan the WBF female Flyweight title which she has defended once. When it comes to her most notable bout that was loss, with Millan being stopped by Esmeraldo Moreno in 2014.
Since her loss to Moreno fans have seen Millan go 8-0 (2), though mostly against very limited opposition. She did score a win in France, as mentioned against Hamzaoui, but fighting in Japan against a fighter like Fujioka is a massive step up.
From the footage of Millan she looks like a tall and rangy fighter but one who lacks in terms of skills and ring IQ, rarely setting up her punches and often looking more like a gangly fighter than a trained boxer, throwing looping open shots from outside of range. At the level she's been fighting at that's not been too much of a problem but against a fighter like Fujioka it will be a major issues.
Given what's available of both women it's hard to see anything but a win for Fujioka, in fact we'd be going with Fujioka to stop Millan in the middle rounds with the Japanese fighter simply breaking down Millan with her tenacity and power. If she does that, as we're predicting, then Fujioka will mark her name in the history books as the first Japanese fighter to become a 4-weight world chanmpion.
As boxing fans we want to see the best fighters facing off, we want to really know who the best is and we love seeing fights between well matched fighters. This coming Saturday we get such a bout as WBC female Flyweight champion Jessica Chavez (27-4-3, 4) defends her belt against 3-weight champion Naoko Fujioka (15-1, 6), who will be attempting to become a 4-weight champion. The two of them are both very highly regarded and are both among the top female boxers, pound-for-pound, on the planet. To fans like ourselves, this is a treat.
Of the two fighters the more famous is probably Chavez. The 28 year old “Kika” is a 2-weight world champion who has faced a real who's who of female boxing including Ana Arrazola, Ibeth Zamora Silva, Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Esmeralda Moreno, Irma Sanchez, Tenkai Tsunami, Melissa McMorrow, Arely Mucino and Simona Galassi. Although she has suffered some losses whilst going that that list of names she has secured her place as one of the very best female fighters on the planet and has held titles at both 108lbs and 112lbs.
In the ring Chavez is a busy, active fighter who is well schooled and knows how to use the ring. She's not a puncher, or the most physically imposing, but she is very talented and has a great engine, being able to let shots got at a solid pace through out a fight. Not only is she able to up the ante late in a fight but she has every shot in the book, and doesn't mind attacking the body, standing and trading or boxing on the foot.
For the champion this will be the 4th defense of the title that she won the title a little over a year ago. She will also be looking to extend a 7 fight winning run and score another major win, further defining her career as one of the truly elite female boxers.
Of course whilst Chavez is the champion she's certainly not up against a nobody with Fujioka being a 3-weight world champion who is dropping from Bantamweight to Flyweight in an attempt to become a 4-weight champion. Interestingly her only loss to date came in her only other Flyweight world title fight, a loss to Susi Kentikian back in November 2014 for the WBA title.
Aged 41 Fujioka is certainly at the back end of her career, however she is a very young 41 year old with a professional career of just 7 years of professional experience. She was however an excellent amateur before turning professional and has been fast tracked. She claimed her first title, the OPBF female Minimumweight title in her 4th bout and her first world title bout in her 6th bout. In 2013 she jumped from 105lbs to 115lbs and dominated Naoko Yamaguchi to become a 2-weight champion. Since then she tested the water at 112lbs before claiming a world title at 118lbs.
Whilst she may not have the depth in numbers of Chavez it's fair to say that Fujioka has a strong resume herself. She holds wins over the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi and Mariana Juarez and a win over Chavez would cement her standing at one of the best of her generation.
Fujioka, like the champion, is a multifacted fighter who has shown an ability to box of fight. At her best she combines both, and knows when to pick up the action, as she showed last year when she defeated Mariana Jaurez with a split decision in her only previous bout in Mexico.
What we're expecting here, when these two brilliant fighters get in the ring, is something special. Both should be very even, both are the same high and both are similar fighters in the ring. We suspect the fight will be a very well boxed bout early on though become a progressively rougher and tougher bout as the rounds pass by and the final rounds will be nothing but a high paced war. Sadly for Fujioka the bout being in Mexico will likely see the home fighter being favoured, however the fight should still be something thoroughly exciting and brilliant to watch.
Every so often female boxing gives us a bout that looks like a genuine treat. One such bout is set to take place this coming week when WBO female Bantamweight champion Naoko Fujioka (14-1,6) battles against heavy handed compatriot Shindo Go (16-3, 11), in what could potentially be a female FOTY contender.
Aged 40 Fujioka is a true veteran but also a top pound-for-pound fighter who can box, brawl and simply have a fight. Her abilities have seen her claim world titles in 3 divisions, from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, and whilst she is small for a female fighter at 118lbs she is a dangerous and highly skilled fighter.
Whilst Fujioka has only fought 15 times as a professional she has been in an incredible 7 world title bouts and holds notable wins over the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi and Mariana Juarez, whilst her only loss has been in Germany to the great Susi Kentikian. That type of resume is outstanding to say the least and sees Fujioka holding one of the most impressive records of any active female fighter in the sport.
For the challenger the bout is an incredibly important and likely emotional one, with Go announcing that it would be her final bout before she under-goes sexual realignment surgery, and will become a man. Potentially the bout could see Go become a 2-time world champion, having previously been the WBC female Flyweight champion and end life as a woman as a world champion.
Like Fujioka Go is an incredible warrior. The fighter has had to battle sexual identification issues throughout life and is looking to make a major move in life after this bout. In the ring that battling spirit has often been a key with Go always battling back from setbacks, including a debut defeat to Masae Akitaya back in 2008. Those set back shave however made the hard hitting Go a better fighter, a very hungry fighter.
When the two fighters get in the ring next week both will be looking for a career defining victory. For Fujioka the win would cement her legacy, whilst for Go the bout could serve as the perfect ending to life as a woman.
Our prediction on the fight is that Fujioka comes out on top, as she is the more skilled fighter. However given that Go is significantly younger, and is incredibly hungry to prove a point, the bout will be a very gruelling one for both fighters, with Fujioka needing one of her best performances to retain her title.
Fujioka and Yuh meet for WBO gold!
Female boxing in Asia has been interesting over the past few years. In Korea it's been female boxing which has essentially kept the sport alive over the past few years, with the likes of Hyun Mi Choi and Su Yun Hong whilst in Japan the females have remained a constant an entertaining niche in the sport.
Arguably the best of those females is 40 year old star Naoko Fujuioka (13-1, 6) who has claimed titles at both 105lbs and 115lbs and now looks to become a 3-weight world world champion as she attempts to claim the WBO female Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to Fujioka will be Korean Hee Jung Yuh (15-2, 6), who is herself married to Young Kil Bae who fights for a world title himself later this year.
Fujioka really is one of the most talented fighters in the sport and in the course of her 6 year career she has proven she can do it all. She box, she can punch and she can fight. She has also proven she can do it on the roa, running Susi Kentikian close in Germany and defeating Mariana Juarez in Mexico. The one question she has left is just “how high can she go?” With this upcoming bout being her first as a Bantamweight.
At her best Fujioka is a boxer-fighter and her resume really does stack up well against her contemporaries. She may not have the longest of careers but she already holds wins over Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Kannitth Kokietgym, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi and of course Juarez Those wins have seen her go from the boxer, as she was against Yamaguchi, to a the fight, as she was in the final 5 rounds against Juarez.
Yuh on the other hand is a bit of an unknown on the world stage. Coming in to this bout she's on a 14 fight winning streak but it's hard to fight genuinely notable names on her record, in fact the most notable are Norj Guro and Kledpetch KKP, hardly top tier opposition.
Aged 35 the Korean does have some things going for her here. She's the younger fighter, by 5 years, she's also the naturally bigger fighters, having fought as a Bantamweight several times in the past. It's also worth noting that she is 3-0 on the road, though all those wins came in Thailand against very poor opposition.
Whilst we know that Fujioka can do it all less is known about Hee though the footage of her, including a fight against Keanpetch Superchamps, makes it seem that she is a fighter who feels she is defensively strong and can apply pressure. Her power seems lacking but she has a solid output though questions need to be asked about her accuracy, consistency and of course the level of the opponent, who genuinely looked terrible.
Whilst it can be hard predict fights between “known” and “unknown” quantities it's sometimes very hard to pick against a fighter as proven as Fujioka. With that said it'll come as no surprise that we're expecting a win for Fujioka who we suspect will become the third 3-weight world champion form Japan, following Koki Kameda and Kazuto Ioka. She will also become the first Japanese female to achieve the feat.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
We know that some fight fans really look down on female boxing though we'll admit that a bout between two highly skilled female fighters genuinely excites us. Sadly many female fights are mismatches with one fighter a clear favourite over the other and very few female world title fights can be described as a "super fight". This coming weekend however we get a sensational female bout which really does deserve the tag of being a "super fight".
The bout in question will see Japan's sensational Naoko Fujioka (12-0, 6), one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters on the planet and the current WBA Super Flyweight champion, travelling to Germany to take on the European queen of the lower weights Susi Kentikian (33-2-0-1, 17), the current WBA Flyweight champion. It's a clash of cultures, a clash of two elite fighters, a clash of champions and chance for both fighters to score a genuinely career defining victory. It's as close to to a perfect bout as can be made in female boxing.
Fujioka is, to us, the most naturally talented and technically proficient female boxer on the planet. If you're a boxing fan Fujioka is a joy to watch and despite being 39 years old she still appears to be fresh as a daisy. She's a sharp and accurate fighter who has all the tools to impress any fan watching.
It was in the amateur ranks that Fujioka first made her name though since turning professional in 2009 she has really been nigh on unbeatable, in fact nobody has even run her close in what has been a sensational career. She claimed her first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title, in just her 4th bout, her first world title, the WBC Minimumweight just 2 fights later and, last year, she jumped from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight to win a second divisional world title. The most impressive thing about Fujioka however isn't her title achievements but her opposition. In just 12 fights she has beaten several world class fighters such as Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta and Naoko Yamaguchi, a phenomenal foursome.
The big question for Fujioka isn't her talent, and in fact it's not even her age, it's how she will fight on the road. This will be her first fight outside of Japan and just her second bout outside of the Korakuen Hall. How she will fight in Germany is a really big issue given that German judging has been often been questioned over the years with many suggesting it's the worst in the world. Will Fujioka fight like she'll need a stoppage or will she fight like her usual and box intelligently? More importantly she'll know this is her chance to impress a whole new audience to become a 3-weight world champions, just the second in Japanese history, those may well drive her on and neutralise the crowd.
For those who haven't seen Fujioka we have managed to track down the footage of her sensational performance against Yamaguchi, a fight that shows just how talented the Japanese fighter is
Germany's popular Kentikian, popularly known as the "Killer Queen" has long been one of the figureheads of German female boxing and is one of the most popular female fighters in Europe. Not only is she popular but she's also talented, hard working and a fighter who often fights at a hectic and exciting pace. She lacks power but more than makes up for it in sheer determination and limitless energy.
Aged 27 it does seem like Kentikian has been around for years and in fact she has been. She won her first world title, the WBA female Flyweight title, way back in 2007 and would later unify it with WBO title as she racked up defense after defense after defense. Some of those defenses were genuinely class and came against the likes of Nadia Raoui whilst others were little more than stay busy fights, such as her defense against Nadia Hokmi. Sadly for Kentikian she came a cropper in 2012 losing back to back decisions to Melissa McMorro and Carina Moreno. Since 2013 however she has run 4 successive wins and reclaimed the WBA Flyweight title whilst scoring a revenge victory over Carima Moreno and notable victories over Simona Galassi and Dan Bi Kim. That performance against Kim can be seen in full here for those who haven't got around to see the German in action.
In the ring Kentikian is popular, fights like a whirlwind but is diminutive, light hitting and has a lot of miles on the tank for a 27 year old. She's also not the most technically skilled preferring work rate over accuracy and accumulation over sitting on her shots. It's worked for her on the whole but her two losses do stand out to suggest that she's not unbeatable and that she's not the untouchable fighter she once looked.
Going in we're viewing this as a boxer against a swarmer. Typically those stylistic matches favour the swarmer, but the boxer here is the bigger fighter, the naturally stronger fighter and the one with more to gain in terms of reputation. On the other hand the swarmer, Kentikian, will be the fan favourite, will have home comforts and will possibly even get the edge with the judges. With those things in mind we are expecting something a little bit special with both looking break down the other fighter in a potential female FOTY.
Usually we'd favour a German champion at home but we really think Fujioka is on a different level to Kentikian and we suspect she'll show that class late to wear down a tiring Kentikian in the later rounds of a genuine thriller. If you're a boxing fan we need to advise you not miss this one.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.