The first title fight of the weekend saw WBO Atomweight champion Mika Iwakawa (10-5-1, 3) [岩川 美花] make her first successful defense as she narrowly over-came the hard working and none stop pressure of Nanae Suzuki (10-4-1, 1) [鈴木菜々江], to claim a split decision.
The opening round saw Suzuki look the press the action, with relentless pressure. Although she was pressing and pushing forward, she was struggling to land anything of note, and when Iwakawa turned it on late in the round she showed the gulf in class between the two women.
Sadly that round was one of the highlights of the early parts of the fight with many of the other early rounds descending into a bit of a sloppy messy. For the most part Suzuki was pressing, Iwakawa was countering well and then holding. It was dire early on.
That was until round 5 when Iwakawa started to use her legs more, creating space and seemingly feeling the pressure get to her. From there the bout suddenly started to turn around, and in round 6 we saw action heating up, with both fighters letting their hands go more and giving us a thrilling exchange.
The action continued to get better in round 7 as Iwakawa realised she had to fight fire with fire. It made for a very entertaining round of back and forth action. It was certainly more entertaining than some of the earlier action but was also a sign that Suzuki was drawing Iwakawa into her fight.
Suzuki's pressure just didn't relent and she kept marching on and on. In round 8 that pressure made Ishikawa get back on her toes as she looked for space. Space wasn't going to be easy to come by thanks to Suzuki's incessant forward march.
By the start of round 10 it was clear that Suzuki's aggression, pressure and messy yet none stop forward march had made things incredibly close. She never looked close to being Iwakawa's equal in terms of skills, but her will to win, her stamina and her energy had made life incredibly hard for the champion. The champion seemed to land all the better shots, but she was taking huge breaks in rounds and only showing glimpses of what she could do.
After 10 rounds we were to the scorecards and there was a split decision. The scores read out were 97-93, 96-94 to Iwakawa and a dissent score of 97-93 to Suzuki.
Despite a solid start for Iwakawa the real story of the fight was the pressure of Suzuki, who was relentless and made things incredibly close. Sadly her lack of clean work did play against her. Despite the loss she will be back, and did seem to win over fans online, who likely hadn't seen her before but were impressed by her none stop effort.
Given Iwakawa is 37 this was probably a bit of regrettable match making from her point of view. She was in there with a bundle of energy and she could never really find her groove against the pressure and aggression of the challenger. The gulf in skills showed through out, and Iwakawa is on a different level in terms of skill, but Suzuki's will to win made things incredibly tough.
Earlier today Japanese fight fans in Kyoto saw the WBO Atomweight title change hands, as veteran Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) [池山直] was dethroned by the unheralded Mika Iwakawa (8-5-1, 3) [岩川美花] in a thrilling 10 round war.
The 48 year old champion, who had held the title for more than 4 years, was expected to secure her 7th defense and score her second win over Iwakawa. Instead however Iwakawa came out on top of a pulsating back and forth battle that left fans knowing the two fighters had given their all.
Iwakawa got off to a good start, taking the opening round with her work rate, in the second Ikeyama came back managing to control the distance slightly better before the fight just became an all out, tit-for-tat battle of attrition.
The difference between the two seemed to be the variation of Iwakawa, who effectively switched her stances in round 4, and gave Ikeyama a lot to think about then showed her defense a few rounds later when Ikeyama tried to take control of the action, and she did rock Iwakawa who bounced back and recovered amazingly well
With neither giving an inch the crowd were on their feet in the final round as the two fighters delivered the grandstand finale. Sadly for Ikeyama however it wasn't to be enough, with Iwakawa taking a split decision, with two cards of 96-94 in her favour whilst the dissenting judge had it 96-94 in favour of Ikeyama.
After the bout Ikeyama made it clear she would be retiring, but wanted to stay involved in the sport making it sound like she would either work at, or set up, a gym. As for the new champion she spoke about wanting to unify titles and inherit the strength of Ikeyama, who's late career surge really was impressive.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Today fight fans saw the heavy handed Yunoka Furukawa (9-1-2, 6) [古川 夢乃歌] record her first defense of the WBA Atomweight title as she out pointed OPBF female Light Flyweight champion Mika Iwakawa (6-5-1, 2) [岩川 美花] in a tremendous war of high octane action and heavy handed blows.
To begin the bout it was the challenger who started fast, taking an early lead as she used her superiour size and reach to keep the champion at range. In round two Furukawa tried to amp up the pressure but was met by Iwakawa fighting back and the champion struggled to impose her will on the bout.
Despite the good start from the challenger it was clear that she was going to struggle to keep the aggressive Furukawa at range and as the bout went on Furukawa's pressure began to take ahold of the bout, with Iwakawa having her size advantage negated by the relentless pressure of the champion.
Iwakawa continued to try and fight back but as we got into the later rounds the champion extra fitness, power and youthful aggressiveness showed with the champion sweeping many of the later rounds en route to a very hard fought first defense of the title, winning with scores of 97-93, 96-94 and 95-95.
With her first defense under her belt we're expecting to see huge things from Furukawa who looked like she improved during the fight, and looked more like a champion at the end of the bout than she did when she entered the contest. There are still flaws with the champion but she looks like someone who is going to be very tough to dethrone, and every bout is likely to see her improving, bit by bit.
As for Iwakawa the bout might be another loss but she proved that she can compete at this level and will likely bounce back better next time out. She did seem to tire, though a question is whether that was at least partly down to moving down in weight, just as much as the aggressive work of Furukawa.
For fight fans interested in watching this bout it will be on the boxingraise service during the next 24 hours and is well worth a watch for fight fans who enjoy high octane action, even if they don't typically enjoy female boxing.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
On a show headlined by a scrap for the WBC female Minimumweight title there were several female contests. Not only did fans get the chance to see Mari Ando (11-6, 5) claim the WBC Minimumweight title with a decision over Jasseth Noriega (16-3-1, 5) but they also got the chance to see 4 other female contests, which made the bulk of the 6 fight show.
The card opened with Emi Kitawaki (3-4-1, 1) taking a 4 round decision over Misaki Hirooka (2-3) in a very competitive and closely scored contest. This was later followed, after 2 male bouts, by the return to action of Nao Ikeyama (13-3-1, 4). The 44 year old Ikeyama, who had been inactive for more than 3 years, managed to take a 6 round majority decision over Mika Iwakawa (3-2-1, 1). Interestingly, given Ikeyama's break from action, this was Iwakawa's 3rd bout of the year.
The card also featured 2 bouts scheduled for 8 rounds. Of those one went the distance, as Tamao Ozawa (6-1, 2) defeated Thailand's win-less Tanyakorn Sor Thammajak (0-4) via a clear decision. The other 8 round bout lasted just 107 seconds as Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (4-1-1, 3) swiftly took out the debuting Supa Tor Narong (0-1).