Last night in Costa Rica fans had the chance to see the aggressive Sana Hazuki (8-5-1, 2) [葉月さな] get her first world title fight, as she challenged IBF Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (21-2, 9).
For Hazuki this was a career defining opportunity, though she was, obviously, the under-dog against an incredibly talented Valle, despite that she went over to Costa Rica with hunger and desire and that showed against a champion looking to record her second defense.
From the early going Hazuki was on the front foot, trying to attack Valle and pressing. Sadly however Valle's skills, counter punching, speed and timing were a massive difference and she neutralised Hazuki's pressure and made her pay for her ambition and aggression. Hazuki never stopped trying to bring the attack, but she lacked the nuance and skills to make her aggression pay, whilst Valle outboxed her, out skilled her and won round after round.
After 10 rounds there no faulting Hazuki's effort, but there was also no way to give her more than a round or two. That was shown on the scorecards, with two judges having it a 10 round shut out to the local star, and the third judge having it a little bit closer at 98-92.
After the bout Hazuki told the Japanese media "I didn't feel the power, but the height of the opponent was shorter than I expected and it was difficult to do. Even if I hit the punch, I felt the difference in career because of the quick judgment to turn to defense."
As for the future, Hazuki suggested that she was unsure if she would continue her career. It would be sad to see this be the end of her career, but at the age of 36 it's clear time is ticking on her career and if she bows out now, it's at least on the back of a world title fight.
On Saturday night in Costa Rica IBF Female Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) recorded her first defense, as she took a stoppage win over the over-matched Carleans Rivas (8-7-4), from the Philippines.
Rivas, fighting in her first world title bout, had struggled to make a mark against top regional talent and seemed to a hand selected first defense for Valle, who had won the title last year with an excellent win in Spain over Joana Pastrana.
Valle was too good from the off, and sadly Rivas, whilst game, was out of her depth.
In front of a rapturous home crowd Valle out worked, out fought and out battled Rivas through the first 5 rounds, sweeping them.
The one sided nature of the bout continued into round 6 with the referee calling a halt to the action just after the midway point of the round, giving Valle her first defense.
Sadly for Rivas, who didn't look like she belonged in the ring here, this is her third stoppage loss, and it's very, very clear, that her limitations are really Filipino scene.
Whilst we under-stand Valle wanting an easy home coming defense questions need to be asked of the IBF for allowing Rivas to fight for the title. Her last 3 wins, dating back almost 4 years, have all come against domestic foe Floryvic Montero, who accounts for 3 of Rivas's 8 wins. Really the IBF shouldn't have sanctioned this, and in the end it goes to devalue their title. Their champion is excellent, but with a challenger like this the champion and title look bad by association.
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)