Today there was two world title fights in Osaka, as the boxing world turned it's attention to Japan. What wasn't given much attention however was a Japanese card in Tokyo, headlined by a female world title bout between WBA female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] and Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) [天海 ツナミ].
This was a bout that seemed to be pitting two of the greats of Japanese female boxing against other, and delivered the hidden gem of the week with an incredibly hotly contest 10 round affair at Korakuen Hall.
The younger, though more experienced, Tsunami got off to a great start. She managed to dictate the pace, using a good sharp right hand to help her dictate the distance and tempo of the bout in the early going. It was this game plan that saw her race into the lead on all 3 cards, leading 40-37 and 40-36, twice, after 4 rounds. She was making Fujioka look old, slow and clumsy, and putting on the sort of performance that many knew she was capable of, but hadn't shown on a regular basis.
As we've seen so many times through her career however Fujioka wasn't going to just sit back, hand over her title and lose. Instead she bit down on her gum shield, refuse to accept defeat, and began to turn the fight around in round 5, then starting a serious fight back, clawing back round after round. She showedthe determined doggendess of a champion and forced the action on to Tsunami, upping her out put and grabbing the bout by the collar. The change in attitude from Fujioka was incredible, and saw her doing just enough to retain he title, with a split decision draw.
After 10 rounds the judges had the bout 96-95 Fujioka, 96-94 Tsunami and 95-95, with Fujioka holding on to her title by the skin of her teeth, in a fantastic 10 round female bout, that certainy deserved more attention than it got on a great day for Japanese fight fans.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The multiple WBA titles do frustrate everyone in the sport, especially when the interim title is held by someone not even close to the level of the regular champion. All too often we don't get to see "regular" and "interim" champions face off, and show the difference in class between the today.
Today however we had the chance to see WBA "regular" female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] dominate her "interim" counterpart Irma Sanchez (30-8-1, 8) in a 1-sided and uncompetitive contest.
After only a few rounds the real question was whether Sanchez would hear the final bell, and not whether she would spring a major upset.
Sanchez looked like she meant business to begin with, getting her jab pumping out. it wasn't long however until Fujioka found her with a counter right hand, the a left to the body. From then on Fujioka began to take control of the bout, and forced Sanchez to fight the wrong fight, trading blows in an exciting second round. As the bout went on Sanchez became less and less competitive, being hurt in round 3 and being tagged repeatedly in round 6.
Through the final round Fujioka actively chased the finish, but Sanchez gritted it out and survived the 10 rounds, though would go on to lose a unanimous decision, with scores of 100-90 on all 3 score cards.
Interestingly Sanchez fought in the controversial "No Boxing No Life" gloves, the same make that Saul Alvarez wasn't allowed to use against Gennady Golovkin. We believe this is the first time the gloves have been used in a world title fight.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In the last couple of years we've seen an increase in the profile of female boxing. The rise of fighters like Nicola Adams, Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor has helped set the tone for the next generation of female boxing. Despite their notable names, and the view that they maybe the stars of a new golden era in female boxing, it's hard to ignore some of the fighters who came before them, that includes Japan's Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子].
Today Fujioka cemeted her place as one of the top female fighters on the planet, as she claimed a world title in a 5th weight class, adding the WBO female Light Flyweight title to a collection that already included a WBC title at Minimumweight, a WBA title at Super Flyweight, a WBO title at Bantamweight and a WBA title at Flyweight.
The Japanese boxing queen was up against unbeaten Costa Rican Yokasta Valle (13-1, 6), who had previously won the IBF Atomweight title, and despite a slow start was in charge through out.
Valle won the first round, using her youth and size to keep Fujioka from forcing the fight. The visitor looked like she could pose problems but Fujioka managed to up the pressure in the following round, and from then on it was a struggle to find rounds to give Valle, who looked game but out of her depth.
At the end of 10 rounds there was little doubting the winner, with Fujioka taking the decision with scores of 99-91, 98-92 and a surprisingly close 96-94.
At the moment it's unclear what Fujioka's future holds but bouts in the US have been mentioned, along with contests against Tenkai Tsunami (24-12, 13) [天海 ツナミ] or Chaoz Minowa (4-0, 3) [チャオズ箕輪], showing that she has a lot of options, despite now being 42 years old.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past Monday Japanese fight fans saw a small slice of history being created as female boxing icon Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] defeated Mexico's Isabel Millan (18-3-1, 8) to claim the the WBA female Flyweight title and become the first 4 weight world champion from Japan.
From the early stages it was clear that Millan was out of her depth with Fujioka applying pressure and making the Mexican pay for her less than snappy shots. Although one judge managed to find a way to score the opening round to Millan there was no case for the Mexican to take round 2, with Fujioka unloading the heavy artillery and dropping Millan.
To Millan's credit she came back well in round 3, the only round the judges scored in her favour, but from then on it was a slow and gradual beating for the visitor who took heavy shots in rounds 4 and 5 as Fujioka looked to make a statement.
Although Millan did well to see out the final rounds she was falling further and further behind, and starting to look not only like a beaten fighter but also like a tired one as we entered the latter stages. Although Fujioka was slowing she was still looking for a stoppage and made it clear that just winning wouldn't be enough to please her.
Fujioka's pursuit for a stoppage finally payed off in round 10 as she started quick, cornered Millan and started to unload until the referee saved the visitor.
At the time of the stoppage the judges had Fujioka up 89-81, twice, and 88-82 and there was no doubting that she could have cruised to the decision had she wanted to, but instead she wanted to score the stoppage and that's what she did, whilst continuing to prove that she is still one of the best female fighters on the planet, despite a recent controversial loss in Mexico to Jessica Chavez.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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.
Every so often we get a bout that we just know will be good, today we had one such bout as WBO female Bantamweight champion Naoko Fujioka (15-1, 6) [藤岡 奈穂子] took on former WBC female Flyweight champion Shindo Go (16-4, 11) [真道ゴー], and the two fighters gave us possibly the female fight of the year.
The bout started with Go on the offensive and in both of the opening two rounds it seemed the challenger hurt the champion. Fujioka was forced to hold and ride out the early storm whilst looking like an ageing fighter. From round 3 however the champion began to figure out the challenger, time her assaults more carefully begin to take over the bout, whilst Go had to fight with a badly damaged born around the eye.
Whilst Fujioka was racking up the rounds through the middle of the fight Go always looked dangerous, until the end of the 8th round when Fujioka finally scored a knockdown, and almost a knockout with the bell essentially saving Go.
Coming out for the final two rounds the challenger gave everything but couldn't deter the wonderful champion who recorded her first defense of the title with scores of 97-92 and 98-91, twice
Following the win Fujioka noted that her new target in the sport was to become a 5-weight champion before retiring. Sadly for Go this could potentially be a career ending bout, with the fighter set to under-go sexual realignment surgery later in the year.
Notably Go was taken straight to hospital after the bout due to the eye injury.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today in Japan fans had the chance to see the popular Naoko Fujioka (14-1, 6) strengthen her claim as one of the best female fighters on the planet as she became Japan's first female 3-weight world champion, and just the third Japanese fighter to ever achieve the feat.
The talented Japanese fighter, who claimed her first world title down at 105lb, stepped up to the Bantamweight division today and easily over-came the game but out matched Korean fighter Hee Jung Yuh (15-3, 6), the wife of future world title challenger Young Kil Bae, the laim the WBO title.
From the first round it was clear the women were in different levels. Fujioka immediately found the range and timing for her jab, her movement, accuracy and speed were too good and as the rounds progressed she showed off more and more from her arsenal, with left hooks to the body being particularly noticeable.
Given the dominance by Fujioka the crowd seemed to turn from wanting to see their fighter win to seeing her score a KO, and she really went for it. Unfortunately Yuh was to show her toughness and see out the schedule, though did by scores of 100-90, twice, and 99-91.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
We often hear that to earn a draw in Germany you need to score a knockout and an example of that appeared to be seen again this past weekend when Japan's Naoko Fujioka (12-1, 6) suffered her first career defeat at the hands of Susi Kentikian (34-2-0-1, 17) in a bout for the WBA female Flyweight title. Fujioka, attempting to become the first Japanese female to win world titles in 3-divisions saw her German rival hold, spoil, run and show off various throws en route to taking a decision that should really did feel like a lucky escape for Kentikian.
The fight started well for the German champion who looked like the faster and busier fighter in the opening round. Despite the good start from the German things began getting closer in the next rounds and by round 3 it seemed that Fujioka was coming on strong whilst Kentikian was happy to hold and smother the Japanese fighter who seemed like she was imposing herself.
Through the middle rounds it again seemed that Fujioka was getting the better off it and certainly landing the harder shots as Kentikian put her head down and flailed fast but limp shots at the Japanese fighter who was looking like a much better technical boxer. It was in the middle of the fight that the two fighters seemed to go from trading to scrappy holding time and time again with both given multiple warnings for various fouls. It clear that the styles were going to lead to some messy action but the referee seemed unable to clear up the action which was broken time and time again as the contest began to show signs of becoming a maul.
The mauling was occasionally broken up with Kentikian bundling Fujioka to the canvas in what seemed to be an attempt to catch a breather and by the end of round 5 Kentikian was beginning to look tired and looked to be breathing heavily.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse for the German who was cut in round 7 above the right eye. From then on the German became even more negative and at times seem to run, especially early in round 8. It was as if Kentikian knew she was in trouble but also at home and that holding and running was going to help regain her composure despite the cut. The running however ended before the round was over and Fujioka began landing heavy shots on the German. The heavy shots from round 8 seemed to put the fear into Kentikian who held and ran and spoiled through round 9 as Fujioka again seemed to land the better shots before the two began unloading power shots on each other. At the time it looked like Kentikian was throwing shots out of desperation and was attempting to stem the Fujioka offensive with her own heavy shots.
Round 10 saw both fighters given warnings before swinging big at each other and trading in the later sections of the fight to end what had been an engaging yet frustrating contest that had seen some great highlights, particularly in round 7, but had also seen some really ugly moments as the two fell in to each others.
After congratulating each other on a great fight it seemed that Fujioka was the one to celebrate whilst Kentikian went to her corner and looked resigned. What both fighters seemed to forget was that the bout was in Germany and in Germany it really does take something rare to beat the German. this was shown in the scorecards that favoured Kentikian with scores of 97-93, 97-94 and 96-94. We suspect had the fight been in a neutral venue then the title would have changed hands.
Earlier today fans at the Korakuen Hall got the chance to see the highly skilled Naoko Fujioka (12-0, 6) successfully retain her WBA female Super Flyweight title as she repelled the challenge of the talented Tomoko Kawanishi (9-2, 4).
The bout started pretty well for the challenger who used her superior reach and height to great effect early on by letting loose with her jab and straight shots. Not only was Kawanishi using the right tactics but she was also looking very sharp, in fact some would suggest she had never looked so good in the ring.
Although Kawanishi had clearly stepped up her game it still wasn't enough to over-come Fujioka who managed to find her rhythm in round 2 and began to cut the distance a little bit. On the inside it was Fujioka landing the hooks and uppercuts and neutralising the difference in size. It was great back-and-forth between two fighters who were trying to prove their world class skills and for the first half of the fight it was brilliantly competitive 2-way action.
The proof of a fighters skill is their ability to adapt, to change their tactics and to take over a bout. In the second half of the contest it was Fujioka who managed to adapt whilst a tiring Kawanishi began to unravel and tire. The heart was still there from the challenger but by round 8 it was clear that Kawanishi was begin to show signs of fatigue and this seemed to spur on the champion who found the time and space to dominate the final few rounds and put the bout beyond any doubt.
Despite the competitive action early on the judges all agreed on the score of the bout awarding the decision to Fujioka with scores of 97-93 to allow her the first defence of her title.
Although Kawanishi came up short here she did show enough to suggest that she has the ability to win a world title somewhere down the line. As for Fujioka it still seems that she's effectively unbeatable at 115lb and hopefully a big name opponent will be her next challenge.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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.