Late on Saturday night in Mexican fight fans had the chance to see two of the top female fighters face off in a bout that promised a lot, but really failed to deliver.
The bout in question saw 3-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (15-2, 6) [藤岡 奈穂子] battle against WBC female Flyweight champion Jessica "Kika" Chavez (28-4-3, 4) in a bout that was plagued by negative tactics, poor officiating and a frustrating amount of holding from a champion who often looked afraid to fight and preferred to spoil than actually box, fight or punch. That was despite the fact Chavez is an extremely talented boxer who was much quicker than Fujioka.
Before the fight it seemed like Fujioka knew the score and stating, clearly, that she was hunting a stoppage. She seemed to be aware that if the bout went the distance she would struggle to get the rub of the green, what she may not have anticipated was how difficult it would be to have luck inside the actual ring.
The opening round was a good one for the challenger, who found her range and had the champion on the back foot from the early going. It seemed clear by the end of the round that Chavez wasn't wanting to fight with the visitor and was relatively worried by the physical aspect of Fujioka's game. That worry was more evident through round 2 when Chavez made the action frustratingly stop-start with a lot of spoiling, holding and general negative tactics. It was a way to neutralise the power of Fujioka but she failed to really ever attack her self with only a single flurry in the second round.
The holding continued through much of the rest of the fight and by the end of round 4 it was clear that the tactic had frustrated and unsettled the challenger, with the referee basically allowing the champion to hold every time the two were close. Not only was Chavez able to get away with the holding but she was also able to get a way with a shot on the break in round 4 and seemed happy to use frequent headlocks through the fight. Chavez, when she let her hands go, had success but the reality was that she seemed happier to hold than to actually fight which made a sloppy fight sloppier whilst Fujioka looked for a KO shot with everything she threw, landing some and missing others.
It wasn't until round 6 that Chavez seemed happy to actually have an exchange, in fact there was several through the round. One of which saw the fighters heads collide with Fujioka going down following the head clash. Despite the referee having a great view of the action he called it a legitimate knockdown, securing a 10-8 round for the home fighter who had been leading on 2 of the cards when the open scoring kicked in at the end of round 4, opening up a wider lead with the knockdown call.
The headlocks returned in round 7 ad the bout broke down into a real mess of a contest with more holding and clinching than punching. It was ridiculous that the referee seemed to do nothing about the action, or lack of, an gave neither fighter any warning about the holding which had destroyed a bout that promised a lot. Despite destroying the "fight" it was a tactic that had impressed the judges who all had Chavez leading after 8 rounds, with cards of 78-73, twice, and 77-74. It was clear that Fujioka would need a KO in the final 2 rounds.
Fujioka had some great success in round 9, a round in which she managed to shake up Chavez on two occasions, but follow up attacks were thwarted by the spoiling of the champion who saw out the round, and was inexplicably given the round by at least one of the judges. Fujioka's hunt for the KO continued into the final round, but it was clear she wasn't going to get it, the best she got was the referee finally deducting a point for holding from Chavez, to give the challenger a 10-8 round. By then however it was too little too late.
At the final bell Fujioka's frustrations were clear, as was the result, with Chavez taking the unanimous decision with cards of 95-93, 94-93 and 96-92. Cards that ended up looking close, due to the eventual point deduction. Were it not for the awful refereeing of the contest however we could have had a very, very, different outcome.
For Chavez the victory further enhances her great legacy. The performance may have been an embarrassing one for such an amazing boxer, but that doesn't change the result and it adds Fujioka's name to the other great names that litter her record, and it also sees her making the 4th defense of her title. When she let her hands go she looked the world class fighter that we all know she is, unfortunately those moments were few and far between with more spoiling than fighting from the Mexican star.
For Fujioka it's a second failed attempt at a Flyweight title title, and the second loss in a close bout on the road at the weight. It's fair to say that she may not decide to take the next offer to face a champion on the road after this bout, and although she failed to become Japan's first 4-weight world champion we suspect she'll continue to hunt a Flyweight title before hanging up her gloves.