Some fighters are destined to never win a world title. Unfortunately for Japanese fighter Kayoko Ebata (7-5, 4) she seems likely to be one of those fighters having failed in her third world title challenge earlier today.
The 37 year old Japanese fighter, who had previously lost in world title fights to Samson Tor Buamas and Tenkai Tsunami came up against a very determined Nancy Franco (12-5-2, 4) and unfortunately was on the losing side as she attempted to claim the IBF Minimumweight title.
Franco fought like a woman possessed and refused to be intimidated by either Ebata or the Japanese crowd. Although Ebata had some success she couldn't slow down the challenger for long enough to establish herself in the contest and every time Franco took a shot she came raging back.
Unfortunately for Ebata she began to look her age in the later rounds as Franco really took over and made the decision clear-cut.
Although, as seen in the picture above, Franco was cut under the left eye and swollen herself she was certainly giving more than she was taking as she put on a performance to remember. By the time the final cards were read that was little real doubt over who had won, Franco, rightfully taking the decision with cards reading 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 all in her favour.
This bout, the chief support contest on the "47th Phoenix Battle" may well be the final time we see Ebata in a professional bout.
The Atomweight division may be boxing's smallest professional division but what the fighters lack in stature they make up form in action. We saw that earlier today as WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (16-5-1, 1) successfully retained her title and made the third defense of her title.
Fighting against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (13-5, 4) the champion was given an incredibly tough nights work. The fight started in a very close manner with Abaniel counter punching well and more than holding her own as Miyao's reign was put under real threat by the Filipino.
Fortunately for Miyao her engine and work rate came to her savior in the second half of the fight as a tiring Abaniel was battled backwards and no longer able to time Miyao or fight back as she had done early on.
Although brave and refusing to be stopped Abaniel did look like the loser after the final bell. The judges had it close with scores of 97-93 (twice) and 96-94 which reflected the closeness of the contest though the judges did, thankfully, get it right.
We're now hoping the promoters get together and make the only Atomweight contest fans really want. Miyao against Momo Koseki in a WBA/WBC unification bout, it's a bout that makes too much sense to let it go by and it's a bout for supreme domination of the 102lb division. Come on folks, lets have this fight in 2014!
Note-This bout headlined the "47th Phoenix Battle".
Whilst the main action today was the two world title fights there was also two non-title fights. These contests saw former world champion Tenkai Tsunami (19-8, 8) quickly blowing aside the over-matched Filipino Leslie Domingo (4-2-1, 3).
The 19 year old Domingo was simply no match for Tsunami who was too strong, too skilled and too experienced. Saying that though there were doubts about Tsunami going in to this contest with the former WBA Super Flyweight champion having lost her last 5 bouts.
On the same show Emika Himuro (3-1-1, 1) fought to a 6 round draw with Kai Johnson (3-5-3). This was the first bout for either woman in over a year.
When Mexican fighter Anabel Ortiz (13-3, 2) defeated Etsuko Tada for the WBA Minimumweight title in July many expected to see her returning to Asia. She had, after all, been connected to the Kameda brother's promotional company which had possibly helped her to claim the title.
Ortiz's return to Asia didn't take long as the Mexican traveled to South Korea and took on Korea's very own Hye-Soo Park (3-7-1, 1).
Ortiz, a two-time world champion who had previously held the WBC title, was always the favourite here and within a round it was obvious why. Park, unfortunately, had no right to be a world title challenger.
Ortiz took the the lead in the opening round using her much more complete skill set and never looked back as she bagged up round after round. Although the Mexican failed to drop, or even really hurt Park, the fight was never in any doubt. In fact the biggest shocks seemed to be when Park managed to have some time amount of success in what was, for all intents and purposes seemed to be a public sparring session for Ortiz. The one sided nature of the contest was reflected in score cards that reflected the one sided nature of the contest, 100-90 across the board.
We're hoping that next time out Ortiz will be fighting someone with some sort of a pulse. A rematch with Tada would be the most obvious contest though Ortiz could of course face a genuine Korean threat in the form of either Su-Yun Hong or Ji-Hyun Park. Either of those bouts would be much, much more interesting than this total mismatch was.
This past Saturday was a busy one in terms of female action in Asia with a trio of bouts spread through Russia and China.
The most notable of those three contests was in China where Luo Yu Jie (2-6) unexpectedly scored the biggest victory of here career. Fighting against former OPBF champion Noriko Tsunoda (6-4, 4), Jie managed to score a shut out over 6 rounds to record her highest profile victory.
Unfortunately whilst Jie's victory is a good one on paper it does need putting in to context. Tsunoda is 43 years old, she did lose her previous contest by stoppage and was winless in 24 months.
Over in Russia Yulia Berezikova (1-0, 1) took just 3 rounds to score her debut victory as she stopped Nadezhda Khaenok (1-1). This bout was on a card with a second female bout, one which saw a controversial decision as Ekaterina Izotova (2-0-1) overcame Anna Poskrebysheva (0-1) via a six round majority decision.
Russia's stunning Svetlana Kulakova (9-0, 1) proved she was more than just a pretty face and sexy legs as she successfully retained her WBA "interim" Light Welterweight title for the first time.
The leggy Russian who won her title just a few months ago with a decision victory over Kenyan Judy Waguthii faced her second successive Kenyan opponent as she battled Florence Muthoni (8-3-1, 3).
Unfortunately for those in attendance it's fair to admit that highlight of the contest was the model-like-looks of Kulakova as opposed to the fight it's self which lacked good action and real excitement.
Kulakova, which is genuinely a talented boxer, appeared to be fighting with the Wladimir Klitschko blue print. She was landing her jab and straights then neutralising the inside action with regular clinches forces the bout to feel disjointed. The lack of flow was great for Kulakova who was taking the rounds with the ugly action, though for fans this was unexciting to say the least.
The one time where we did get something to remember was late on as Muthoni had her first real success landing a notably eye catching hook, though it really wasn't enough to have anyone worried and was possibly the sole round that Muthoni won as she dropped a clear 99-91 decision.
Although Kulakova is the "interim" WBA champion we really can't see her fighting the "regular" champion, Argentina's excellent Monica Silvina Acosta. It's unfortunate that we won't get to see that, though if Kulakova can keep winning then it's fair to say that fans will want to see her and of course those striking looks of hers.
"If at first don't succeed try and try again". That old phase came in handy this past Thursday for Naoko Shibata (11-3, 3) who finally won the big one and for the first time in her career claimed a world title.
Shibata, who has been a professional for almost 5 years, had come up short every time she has fought a world level opponent. She had lost to Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. With the losses to Tada and Silva being very narrow losses in world title fights.
Today however it was third time lucky for Shibata who took on the previously unbeaten Mexican Alondra Garcia (8-1, 1) for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. A belt last held by Jessica Chavez, herself an excellent fighter.
The fight didn't start well for Shibata who suffered a nasty cut early on above the left eye (see picture above) and was tagged by the much younger Garcia, who was fighting in her first world title bout.
Things didn't really get better for Shibata who was forced into a tough, tough fight by the young Mexican who hadn't traveled the globe to give up her unbeaten record.
Although more experienced Shibata struggled to get the upper-hand and it seemed that every time she was getting a foot hold Garcia would fight back in a valiant effort to take the title back to Mexico. With out a doubt the fight was close and both women knew they needed to make an impression. Unfortunately for both they each cancelled the other out at times making rounds incredibly difficult to score.
Fortunately for Shibata, who was cheered on by the crowd, she managed to just do enough to impress the judges that little bit more than the away fighter to take a decision with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94. It wasn't a robbery by any means, but it's one where the decision went with the home fighter and a 96-94 scorecard either way would have been accurate. Unfortunately the 98-92 card was a bit too wide for our liking.
Note-This fight served as the chief support bout on "Earnest Efforts", a card headlined by Momo Koseki defending her WBC Atomweight title for the 12th time.
Just a day after Naoko Fujioka announced herself on the Super Flyweight division her compatriot Momo Koseki (17-2-1, 4) showed why she is regarded by many as the best Atomweight on the planet.
Fighting mandatory challenger Nora Cardoza (8-5-2, 4) of Mexico, Koseki recorded her 12th defense of the WBC Atomweight title, which we believe is actually a divisional record.
The 31 year old Koseki, who won the title way back in 2008 was in charge of the bout from the off and although she was cut she was never in danger of losing the bout which was fought at an excellent high pace.
The early part of the bout was impressive from both. Koseki, whilst in charge, was being forced to take some shots in return. Later on however the pace began to take it's toll on the challenger who was unable to keep up with the impressive champion.
By the time we got to the final bell there was only one winner and the clarity of the contest showed on the scorecards with Koseki taking the decision 97-91 (twice) and 96-92 showing the clear victory that Koseki had earned.
With Ayaka Miyao set to defend her WBA Atomweight title in the coming weeks there is a big Atomweight clash that everyone wants to see. Miyao/Koseki. It's a bout that we'll certainly have on our Christmas list and a bout that would deserve a TV slot due to the intrigue of having the #1 against the #2 in a unification bout. Hopefully we get that, if Miyao gets past Gretchen Abaniel in a couple of weeks time.
Note-This bout was the headline bout from "Earnest Efforts"
It's not often a female fight can genuinely get the attention of a filled venue but that's exactly what happened earlier today as Japanese boxing had one of the few major female fights of the year.
In one corner we had the destructive and big hitting Naoko Yamauchi (22-4-3, 18), the defending WBA Super Flyweight champion, in the other we had Naoko Fujioka (11-0, 6), a fighter who was jumping up from Minimumweight where she had previously held the WBC title.
The general view seemed to be that Yamaguchi went in to this bout as the power puncher whilst Fujioka would be the cautious fighter using her movement and speed to try and over-come Yamaguchi's natural strength and power. What we got however was a masterclass of boxing from Fujioka who showed all the skills of a genuine elite level fighter.
From the opening round it was obvious that these two were in totally different classes. Fujioka, boxing and moving, was landing her jab, her straight and her hook almost at will. It was obvious that she was wary of Yamaguchi's much vaunted power, especially in the defending champion's right hand, though she was avoiding it with ease before firing back her own shots.
As the rounds went on Fujioka became more and more confident. She continued to land her shots at will but became less and less worried about the power of Yamaguchi, in fact when they did trade it was Fuijioka's power that had the lasting effect and not Yamaguchi's with Fujioka scoring a knockdown in round 3 as she continued to dominate.
Whilst Yamaguchi was struggling to land her punches round 4 did see her hurting Fujioka, albeit from a headclash which was one of the few times we saw Fujioka in any sort of pain at all. Unfortunately for Yamaguchi she was punished by Fujioka for the clash of heads and staggered late in the round.
By round 7 it appeared that Fujioka was set on taking Yamaguchi out. The challenger had Yamaguchi staggering several times as she hunted a second knockdown though Yamaguchi showed great heart in seeing out the storm and hearing the bell. By then though the fight was a lost cause.
After a strong Fujioka round in the eighth it really was all over barring Yamaguchi scoring a knockout, something that had seemingly become impossible due to the fact Fujioka took her shots so well. Despite that Yamaguchi did manage to arguably claim the final two rounds which included a scrappy round 9 and a good back-and-forth round 10.
By the time we got to the final bell there was only ever one winner. With or with out the knockdown Fujioka had clearly taken the decision and the title as she scored arguably the most notable victory of her career and took home her shiny new title.
-The official scores were 98-91, 97-92, 97-92. We had it 98-91.
Thai teenager Tanyakorn Sor Thammajak (0-3) suffered her third straight loss on Thursday as she was out pointed by unbeaten Australian Sabrina Ostowari (7-0, 1).
Despite the loss Thammajak showed some traits that are very positive. Not only was she stepping up from Flyweight to Super Featherweight but she also saw out the 8 round distance and actually took a round on one of the cards in a loss that could well spur her on to develop her skills to become a better fight.