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.
Several fighters have had a year they would like to forget this year. One of those, we suspect, is Shindo Go (14-2, 9) who has had a year that hasn't been a terrible one in terms of results but has been a year over-shadowed by out of the ring issues. She'll be hoping to put all those issues behind this coming weekend when she seeks the 3rd defense of her WBC female Flyweight title and attempts to over-come Mexico's very talented Arely Mucino (20-2-2-1, 10).
If you've not followed Go's year then you've likely miss out on the drama that has followed her through much of the year and seen her announce that she would be vacating her title, falling out with her former gym and having a bout with Mucino re-arranged several times. Thankfully it does appear that since signing with Green Tsuda her boxing life has begun to get back on track though a loss to Mucino would derail her once again.
In the ring Go is a very under-rated fighter who hits hard than most female fighters, is tougher than most female fighters and can bang, brawl or box. We're not going to consider her unbeatable but she's not an easy fighter to beat. On her debut she came up narrowly short against Masae Akitaya, who would later go on to fight in a trio of world title bouts, whilst a little more than 2 years ago she was very unlucky to come up short against Mexican great Mariana Juarez.
One of the few flaws with Go is that she's not the most technical. She is skilled but there are technical holes in her game which she can often negate with her power and toughness.
Mexico's Mucino is a proven world class fighter who has shared the ring with a relative who's who of female boxing. This has seen her fight to a no contest with Susi Kentikian, score wins over Carolina Alvarez, Melissa McMorrow and Tenkai Tsunami whilst suffering defeats to Ava Knight and Mariana Juarez. Although he level of competition has been spectacular she hasn't looked good against the top foes and her wins over McMorrow and Tsunami have both been incredibly close.
Mucino's flaw has been toughness. She was stopped quickly by Knight who took her out in just 2 rounds whilst Juarez also dropped her. We suspect that Go has the power to do just that to Mucino who will almost certainly have to fight carefully, despite fighting at home.
We know that Mexico has been a notoriously hard country to win a bout in as a visitor but here we think we have to go with Go who we think has the power to stop Mucino, if she catches her clean. If Go can't hurt Mucino however then this bout promises to be a tough one for the champion.
When we talk about the best female boxers in Japan 2 or 3 fighters stand out. One of those is Naoka Fujioka, arguably the most complete female boxer on the planet and another is Momo Koseki the rough and tough WBC Atomweight champion.
Outside of the genuine elite we then get to very good but not elite fights, fighters like Tenkai Tsunami, a proven world class fighter, and Shindo Go (13-2 8) the current WBC female Flyweight champion.
Go will be hoping to make the second defence of her title this coming Sunday as she takes on Thailand's baby faced Kledpetch Lookmuangkan (6-2, 1), a fighter fighting in her first "real" world title fight.
It's the champion we'll start with and it's the champion who will be strongly favoured here. She is, after all, a proven world class fighter with victories over the likes of Kanittha Kokietgym, Jujeath Nagaowa and Renata Szebeledi as well as a razor thin and highly debateable loss to Mexican goldn girl Mariana Juarez.
Although not the most skilled, and certainly not the same level of technical ability as Fujioka, Go is tough, heavy handed, aggressive and a vicious fighter in the ring. She's the sort of fighter who hurts her opponents when she connects cleanly, as shown by her 8 stoppages from 13 wins, and although she's been taken the distance in her 4 most recent fights they were against fights with a combined 3 stoppage losses, at the time, from around 80 bouts!
In Kledpetch we have a much less well known fighter and with good reason, her competition hasn't been good enough to really make her famous.
From Kledpetch's 8 bouts her most notable opponents have been Hee-Jung Yuh, who stopped the Thai in 8 rounds, and Kanittha Kokietgym, who Kledpetch out pointed. Unfortunately for Kledpetch the win over Kanittha isn't really worth a lot considering Kanittha had lost to every notable name she had fought previously, such as Go, Fujioka, Irma Sanchez and Jessica Chavez.
From what we've read about Kledpetch she's a gutsy fighter with nice handspeed but her lack of power is a real issue and one that will be capitalised on by Go who we think will try and force the Thai youngster into a fight. Kledpetch does have skills to make life tough for Go for a round or two but we thing, after 3 or 4 rounds the Japanese fighter will have found her range and will start to gradually break down the Thai who will be lucky to see out the 10 round distance, something she has never accomplished before.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kuratokigym.jp/
When it comes to talking about under-rated female fighters it's fair to suggest that Shindo Go (12-2, 8) is one of the most under-rated female fighters on the planet. Although she's the WBC Flyweight champion few really know about Go or her talents.
Born in 1987 Go turned professional when she was just 20. Although she lost on debut, a very close decision to Masae Akitaya, her talent was clear and she'd follow up the debut loss with 10 successive victories 8 of which came by KO. Those victories not only saw her building up a reputation for herself in Japan but also claiming the much coveted OPBF Flyweight.
Go's winning run came to an end in 2012 when she lost a close and very hard fought decision to Mariana Juarez in California. Since then though she has scored 2 more victories including a decision over Renata Szebeledi, a decision that saw Go claiming the WBC Flyweight title.
Go will be defending that title for the first time when she takes on Mexican challenger Judith Rodriguez (6-5, 4). Although Rodriguez's record is less than stellar she has been one of those fighters who has faced stiff test after stiff test. These tests have seen Rodriguez losing to Zulina Munoz, Daniela Romina Bermudez and Naoko Yamaguchi 3 very highly regarded fighters.
Although Rodriguez has been losing to top fighters on a regular basis she has proven herself to be tough. She's never been stopped, she's fought well on foreign soil and is one of the few fighters to see out the 10 rounds with Naoko Yamaguchi. With this in mind it's hard to imagine Go stopping her, however with Go's skills, movement and speed it's easy to see a near shut out in favour of the talented Japanese fighter.
It may take a while before the world wakes up to the talent of Go but hopefully a good performance here will help speed that process up.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.