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
When we talk about the best pound for pound female fighter on the planet there are few that can challenger Irish boxing queen Katie Taylor (19-0, 6), the undisputed Lightweight champion, and of the greatest female amateurs of all time and a woman who has already scored a host of notable wins. Sadly the female Lightweight division has essentially cleaned out by Taylor, who has wins over Viviane Obenauf, Anahi Ester Sanchez, Jessica McCaskill, Victoria Noelia Bustos, Cindy Serrano, Eva Wahlstrom, Rose Volante, Delfine Persoon, Natasha Jonas and Jennifer Han. To get a good test she needs to either go over old ground, with bouts against Persoon and Jonas being interesting or move up in weight.
Sadly instead of chasing a legacy defining fight at a different weight Taylor is scraping the barrel and this weekend she will face Kazakh challenger Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8). On paper Sharipova looks like an okay challenger, but in reality she's a fighter with a horribly padded record, no wins of note, and a career that has been played out just as much in the Kazakh press as the boxing ring. In fact if anything anything she's been in the press more for stupid stories rather than her boxing career.
When we talk about Katie Taylor, we talk about a fantastic fighter who can box, brawl or fight. She's among the best pure boxers in female boxing, but when she needs to dig deep and fight she's proven she can do that too. The only thing missing from her arsenal is fight changing power. She has great stamina, fantastic work rate, a good boxing brain, solid technical skills, she's well polished and determined to prove she's the best. If she had power she would be a truly sensational fighter, instead of just an excellent one.
Sadly when it comes to Sharipova we talk about one who is poor, untested, limited and who's best wins come against fighters that wouldn't even be in the top 10 wins for Taylor. Fighters like Djemilla Gontaruk and Yuliya Kutsenko are the best she's faced, and neither of those are close to being world class fighters. Sadly it's the other opponents that sum up Sharipova's resume best, with fighters like Happy Daudi having shared the ring with her, and Daudi looked like she had stumbled into the ring whilst looking for a friend rather than looking for a fight. Sadly even against someone as limited and poor as Daudi, Sharipova didn't shine, instead she had a punch bag in front of her who essentially gave up being hit rather than gave up trying to win.
Sharipova's record might suggest she has some power, but that really says more about her competition. Only one of her stoppages has come against a fighter with a win, and that was the aforementioned Happy Daudi. Sadly for her she's not going to have the fire power to get Taylor's respect. She's not going to have the skills to test Taylor. She's not going to have anything to make Taylor think twice. Instead Taylor is going to beat Sharipova into submission in a bout that is not just a step up in class, but something more akin to getting an elevator from the basement to the pent house suite. She is going to get a beating here, and hopefully she doesn't have the heart and will to stay in there for too long. Fingers crossed she knows her limits and doesn't take a career changing beat down to Taylor.
Prediction - TKO 5 Taylor
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
On December 18th we see the international debut of WBA female Super Featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4), who has one of the greatest modern day stories in professional boxing.
The talented Korean, who signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom earlier this year, would have been hoping to make a big impact on her international debut. Sadly however she is taking on the limited Calista Silgado (19-11-3, 14), in a bout that takes place in Florida on the under-card of Gennady Golovkin's upcoming IBF Middleweight title defense. Not only is Silgado not a high profile opponent, but she's also someone who has taken the bout on extremely short notice as Eddie Hearn and his team have once again dropped the ball on their US shows.
What should have been a potential chance to stand out and make a name for herself has seen Choi put in a position where she really can't win. And with DAZN expected to cheerleader her before hand they are leaving a talented fighter in a position to have undue criticism due to the work of her esteemed promoter.
As for the fight, rather than extending the rant, it's really hard to see anything but a Choi win.
The 30 year old Korean fighter has been a world champion since 2008! She won the WBA female Featherweight title on her debut, beating Chunyan Xu, and made 7 defenses before moving up in weight and becoming a 2-weight champion. At Featherweight she notched a few wins over notable opponents, such as Tenku Tsubasa, Claudia Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris and Shannon O'Connell. At Super Featherweight Choi has continued to picking up notable wins, with victories over the likes of Fujin Raika, Kimika Miyoshi and Alejandra Gomez. Sadly however she has been horribly inactive, with only 6 fights since the start of 2016, despite being the face of Korean boxing.
In the ring Choi is very much a well school boxer. She lacks single punch power, but has good movement, good straight punching, and knows her way around the ring. She keeps a decent work rate, usually, but has slowed in later rounds in bouts. Although very talented she really doesn't like a fight up close and resorts to holding a lot when an opponent is too close for comfort. It can make her bouts frustrating and messy, but when she's in a groove she's fantastic to watch and looks like a stellar boxer. Not a fighter, but a boxer.
Silgado is a 32 year old Colombian who looks dangerous on paper, with 14 stoppages in her 19 wins including 4 in the opening round. Sadly however her wins have come over some truly terrible opposition and only 3 of her 19 wins have come against fighters with more wins than losses. Whilst that is a worrying stat in regards to her quality of wins, it should be noted she has lost to pretty much every opponent of any value she has ever faced. That includes Alejandra Marina Oliveras, Yazmin Rivas, Ogledis Suarez, Mayerlin Rivas, Amanda Serrano, Cindy Serrano, Shelly Vincent and Mikaela Mayer. On one hand she has faced good competition, but on the other hand she has lost repeatedly against good competition.
In the ring Silgado is very, very limited. She was absolutely dominated in 2018 by Mikaela Mayer who was too quick, too sharp, too long and too tall for Silgado, with Mayer winning every round. Even when Silgado landed her clean her shots bounced off Mayer and it was clear that Silgado didn't belong in there with a world class Super Featherweight. In fact if anything the one thing she impressed with there was her ability to survive the talented American.
Given her record, the level of wins she has, the level she loses at and the super short notice she's had for this bout it's hard to see anything but a loss for the Colombian here, who really shouldn't be getting a world title fight, or rather another world title fight. Silgado has come up short in numerous world title fights in the past and she'll come up short again here. She might survive the distance but will not be competitive, and will not act as the introduction to a US audience that Choi deserves.
Prediction - Choi UD10
The Atomweight division isn't the most notable in boxing, but given the 102lb limit the fights tend to be action packed, high tempo wars between women who set a hot pace and never slow down. On September 12th we get several notable Atomweight bouts, with one one of those being a WBA title unification bout between Mexican fighter Monserrat Alarcon (12-4-2), the regular champion, and Japan's Ayaka Miyao (23-7-1, 6), the "interim" champion.
These two were meant to fight last year, though Alarcon was injured in the build up, leading to Miyao battling Nao Ikeyama for the interim title. Now the two ladies will fight to unify the split WBA crown.
For fans who have seen these two in action we don't really need to explain just how quick and exciting these two are, but for those who haven't let us just say they are both incredibly quick with their hands and feet and both like to let their shots go.
The 25 year old Alarcon has been a professional for around 7 years, but hasn't had the most active of careers. She would fight once in 2012 before some real activity in 2013 and 104, as he record fell to 5-2-1. On paper that wasn't a good start, but losses to Alondra Garcia and Ana Victoria Polo are certainly nothing to be ashamed by. After having 8 fights in just 25 months Alarcon has gone 7-2-1 in the since the start of 2015, fighting around twice a year. During that 10 fight run she has lost twice, in razor thin decision to Garcia in a rematch and Arely Mucino. Despite those losses she also has a number of notable wins, including victories over Brenda Ramos, Nana Yoshikawa and Nora Cardoza.
Alarcon is a 2-weight world champion, having won her first title at Flyweight, beating Yoshikawa in Japan for the WBA female title, before beating Mayela Perez last year for the WBA Atomweight title. Her keys to victory have been her speed, her aggression and her ability to fight small, using her diminutive stature to avoid shots, come forward and counter. She lacks power, but is does find a way to land clean and is very under-rated, with a slippery side.
Miyao is a true veteran of the female scene having been a professional since 2004, pre-dating the JBC's recognition of female boxing. Her career began in less than stellar fashion, going 4-4-1, but since then she has gone 19-3 and become one of the most significant figures in the Atomweight division, and at 36 is still going strong. In fact not only is Miyao still going strong, but she's doing so following a gruesome leg injury that looked, at the time, to be potentially career ending.
After going 7-5-1 to begin her career Miyao would go unbeaten for over 5 years and score 13 straight wins. That run saw her really establish herself and win the WBA Atomweight title for the first time and scoring 5 defenses, before losing the belt in a unification bout to WBC champion Momo Koseki in 2015. Since then she has gone 3-1, with the loss being the bout where injured her leg, against Nao Ikeyama, which has since been avenged.
In the ring Miyao is a very quick boxer-mover. Despite her previous knee injury she's still very light on her feet, uses her jab well and fighters smartly on the move. Unlike many female fighters in the lower weights her focus isn't on having a war, but is instead on out boxing, out landing, out speeding and out moving her opponent. She's a smart fighter who knows her shots don't have much power on them so boxes to her strength, her speed and movement, rather than fighting her opponents fight.
With Alarcon being an aggressive pressure fighter who brings pressure and Miyao being a smart mover this bout has an interesting style clash. If Miyao is the fighter she used to be, and isn't showing signs of being 36, she'll be strongly favoured for this bout, especially given it's in Tokyo. If she's slowed down however, and has lost even 10% of her speed then this is going to be an incredibly tough fight and Alarcon may have the style and pressure to impress the judges, even away from home.
Prediction - UD10 Miyao
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
The month of June has been a relative quiet one for fights in Asia, especially when compared to the incredible action we had in May and the busy schedule set for July. It does however end with a really interesting bout in Korea, as unbeaten local star Hyun Mi Choi (15-0-1, 4) defends her WBA female Super Featherweight title against Japanese challenger Wakako Fujiwara (7-2-2, 2). For the unbeaten queen this will be her 7th defense and her 15th WBA "world title" bout, whilst the challenger will be fighting in her first world title bout, having previously held OPBF and Japanese female titles.
The champion is a really interesting fighter. She was born in North Korea but escaped the regime with her family and has spent her entire professional career in South Korea, where she has been a real success story as a refugee fighter. Her career began, amazingly, with a world title fight in 2008, when she beat Chunyan Xu for the WBA female Featherweight title, to create a notable footnote in boxing history. Since then all but two of her fights have been for some form of a WBA title. She made 7 defenses of the Featherweight title, won the Interim Super Featherweight title, got up graded and has defended the Super Featherweight regular title 6 times already.
Whilst Choi hasn't become a major name in female boxing world wide she has had a few really solid wins in her career. These have included wins over Claudia Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris, Shannon O'Connell, Fujin Raika, Diana Ayala and Mayra Alejandra Gome, all world class fighters in their own right.
Choi's success has come down to her pure boxing skills. She's a basic fighter, but one who follows the text book well. She's light on her feet, has good hand speed, and fights to her strengths, keeping the bout at range with her jab, footwork and straight. There is is more to her than he straight punching, but that is certainly her strength and the key to her success so far.
The 38 year old Fujiwara is 10 years older than the champion and notably didn't even debut until she was. Her career got off to a nightmare start, losing by KO in her debut, then fighting to a draw in her second bout. In fact Fujiwara was 1-2-1 after 4 contests and her career didn't seem like it was going anywhere. Amazingly however she has battled back and gone 7-0-1, winning the Japanese female Featherweight title in March 2018 then added the OPBF title less than 4 months later to unify the titles. Whilst her run has been good on paper it is worth noting her biggest wins have come against the likes of Asami Jinnari and Kimika Miyoshi.
Fujiwara isn't the most technically sound boxer, her shots wide to say the least, but she comes forward, fights bouts at her pace and believes in her chin enough to she can take one to land one. Given her age there is clearly a case of father time being on her back, though we do wonder how long she can have left, especially with a style that depends so much on volume and work rate.
Given the huge difference in technical ability, and world level experience, it's hard to see anything but a win for Choi. The bigger question is the method of victory, and we're going with Choi to actually stop Fujiwara late on to, through accumulation of clean shots.
Prediction - Choi TKO9
On November 20th fight fans in Tokyo get a very interesting female clash, as form world champions Ayaka Miyao (22-7-1, 6) and Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) battle for the WBA "Interim" Atomweight title. This will be the third bout between the two women, and one of the very few "interim" world title fights the JBC will actually allow to be held on their soil. In fact the bout was put together at late notice after Miyao's original opponent, Monseratt Alcarron (11-4-2) was injured in the build up. Whilst it's a shame Alcarron suffered an injury we have, in many ways, actually had an upgrade given the fact that Miyao and Ikeyama has some unfinished business.
These two fought first fought in 2006, with Ikeyama stopping a novice Miyao, and then fought in 2016, when Ikeyama was the WBO Atomweight champion and Miyao was challenging her. Sadly Miyao would suffer a genuinely gruesome knee injury, that she tried to fight on with before the bout was stopped and she was stretchered out of the ring in agony. For Miyao this bout gives her a chance to avenge that loss, show what she can do when she's not injured. For Ikeyama this is a chance to prove she's the better fighter, and become a 2-time world champion at the age of 49! Interestingly Ikeyama did suggest she would be retiring, though this bout has certainly dragged her back into action, and we can't blame her given the stakes and the back story.
Miyao is a former WBA Atomweight champion, who had a notable reign from 2012, when she beat Mari Ando for the title, to 2015 when she lost in WBA/WBC unification bout with Momo Koseki. During that reign she would make 6 successful defenses and beat the likes of Masae Akitaya, Mari Ando, Gretchen Abaniel and Satomi Nishimura. Sadly the loss to Koseki seemed to slow her career before suffering the nasty injury against Ikeyama as she attempted to become a 2-weight champion.
At her best Miyao is a fleet footed swarmer. She's never really shown much in terms of power, but has worn opponents down through sheer determinedness and she does have under-rated skills with a fantastic work rate. It also needs noting that the stoppage loss to Ikeyama in 2016 is the only time Miyao has been stopped in the last 10 years, and is one of only 3 stoppage losses on her record.
Ikeyama made her debut in 2003, and came up short in the first world title bout of her career, fighting to a draw in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2015. She would come up short again in 2009 when she lost to Momo Koseki in a WBA Atomweight title fight. After a mixed 2010, in which she scored two domestic wins but lost on the road in Korea, she seemed to walk away from the sport. That was until returning 3 years later, at the age of 44. She then began the best run of her career, claiming the WBO Atomweight title in just the second bout of her comeback. Ikeyama would go on to record several defenses of the title, retaining the title against the likes of Masae Akitaya, Jujeath Nagaowa, Saemi Hanagata and Ayaka Miyao, before losing a split decision earlier this year to Mika Iwakawa. That was supposed to end her career, but she's seemingly back for one more fight here.
Despite her age Ikeyama is a hard working and quick fighter. She's got an amazing engine for someone in her 40's, but we do wonder what her body has left given how long and hard her career has been. She's kept herself in great shape, but there's only so long anyone can fight off father time.
We're expecting to see revenge here for Miyao, who we think will pull off the upset win and become a 2-time champion. This is likely to be an action packed and highly skilled brawl, but one where we have to favour the younger woman to just have too much in her, and too much drive to avenge her two losses to the older fighter.
When we think of Japanese boxing success stories in Europe we struggle to find any, in fact Toshiaki Nishioka's 2005 win over Mustapha Abahraouhi in France is one of the few that Spring to mind. There is however the curios case of Switzerland based Japanese fighter Aniya Seki (34-3-2, 5), who has spent her entire 39 fight career in Europe.
The Tokyo born fighter is one of the forgotten fighters from Japan but on October 27th she may end up doing something no Japanese man has ever done, winning a world title fight in Europe.
The 39 year old Seki will be challenging Mexican foe Maribel Ramirez (12-9-2, 3) in a bout for the WBA female Super Flyweight. It's the biggest fight of Seki's 10 year career whilst Ramirez will be making her first defense, following a surprise title win in Peru in May against Linda Laura Lecca.
At the age of 39 Seki is no spring chicken and although she's not slow as such she was never amazingly fast, sharp or powerful. She does have decent boxing skills, which she has shown in her homeland of Switzerland as well as Italy and Germany. Sadly though her record says more about her competition than her ability, and she has padded her record with bouts against the likes of Claudia Ferenczi, who she has beaten 3 times.
During her long career she has notched some notable wins, over the likes of Liliana Martinez, Alexandra Vlajk and Caroline Schroeder. Sadly however her record is mostly padded and she has fallen short in her biggest bouts, against the likes of Marilyn Hernandez and Judith Rodriguez. Those loses have shown her limitations and it's clear that a win here would be the best of her career, by far.
The 32 year old Ramirez made her debut in 2009 and really has had mixed success. She began her career promisingly, with a 7 fight unbeaten run. Unfortunately however she would go from 6-0-1 to 9-9-2 with notable losses against the likes of Mariana Juarez, Esmeralda Moreno, Zulina Munoz, Naoko Fujioka and Linda Laura Lecca. Recently however she has turned things around, with 3 straight wins including a victory in a rematch against Lecca for the WBA title.
In the ring Ramirez is a gritty fighter, coming to the ring to let her hands go and force a brawl. Technically she's flawed but with a good engine, a high work rate, and a serious determination she's a hard fighter to discourage. She can be stopped and she can be out boxed but if a fighter lacks big power or great boxing skills they will seriously struggle with Ramirez.
We're expecting to see Ramirez travel to Switzerland with a burning hunger, the same hunger that she had against Lecca, and simply out work the older Seki to retain the title and make her first defense. Sadly we suspect a loss here will end Seki's career, given she is 40 in May. It's a shame that one of the few Japanese boxers to base themselves in Europe will fail to reach the top, but it does show there is a route for them. Hopefully her career shows that there is a chance for Japanese fighters to make a mark on the European scene.
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.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.