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
The Japanese scene has been full of ambitious former amateur standouts, especially in recent years with the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Another ambitious fighter is former female amateur standout Chaoz Minowa (6-1, 5), who stated that she wanted to win world titles in a ridiculous 9 weight classes. That ambition was seen earlier this year when she faced Tenkai Tsunami for the WBO female Light Flyweight title, and despite coming up short few can doubt her desire to leave a mark on the sport.
We'll see Minowa get her second shot at a world title on November 17th when she challenges Mexican fighter Ibeth Zamora Silva (29-6, 12), the current WBC Female Flyweight champion. For Silva the bout will be her first defense of the title, that she won earlier this year, whilst Minowa will be getting he second shot to become a world champion.
The challenger was a top amateur, with notable international experience, who turned professional in 2016 with a fair bit of fanfare having inked a deal with Watanabe Gym. Her career started promisingly, and after just 3 fights she had claimed her first title, the OPBF female Flyweight title, and fought on foreign soil, stopping Chan Mi Lim in Korea. Sadly though there was flaws in what she was doing, and those flaws were exposed when she faced the tough and highly experienced Tsunami back in March. Tsunami basically let Minowa punch herself out, whilst tagging her with sharp, accurate shots and breaking her down.
In the ring Minowa is very much a fighter, not a boxer. She can box, and is well schooled due to her long amateur career, but is someone who seems to be taken over by emotion and looks to make every bout into a war. She sets off at a high tempo and looks to use her power, aggression and physicality to beat opponents down. Against lower level opponents that's fine, but against better fighters that's an issue for her, with those better fighters about to defend themselves better, counter better and pick holes in her leaky defense.
As mentioned earlier this will be Zamora's first defense, though she has long been a world class fighter. She really made a name for herself fighting at Light Flyweight, winning the WBC title in 2013 when she defeated Naoko Shibata in Tokyo. She would make 8 defenses of that title, beating the likes of Ava Knight, JEssica Chavez, Esmeralda Morema and Mari Ando before losing the title in early 2017, losing to the aforementioned Moreno. She then moved up in weight and beat Isabel Millan in a world title eliminator before beating Melissa McMorrow for the WBC female Flyweight title earlier this year.
Zamora, dubbed "Roca", is an aggressive and hard working fighter who comes forward, throws in combinations and backs up opponents. Despite being a busy fighter she is pretty solid, with a sharp jab and good, solid hooks, which she uses well on the inside. Notably she is a smaller fighter, but she has used her lack of stature well to get on the inside where she works best. She's not the crispest, but her work rate and intensity is great and her energy is fantastic.
Sadly Minowa's lack of proven world class stamina and energy, and the fact she's on the road for this bout, will not serve her well against Zamora, who is a really a little bundle of energy. Minowa will have moments but will come up short, likely making it over the finish line but looking exhausted and well beaten after 10 rounds. We would love to see Minowa fulfil her promise, but suspect she will come up short again here.
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.
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.