Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall fight fans got an absolute treat of a female bout, as former foes Yuko Kuroki (18-6-1, 8) [黒木優子] and Saemi Hanagata (15-7-4, 7) [田中冴美] clashed in their third meeting. Their first two bouts had both been action packed encounters but today's was a little bit extra special being fought for the IBF Atomweight title. For Kuroki the bout was a chance to become a 2-weight champion whilst Hanagata was looking claim a world title after coming up short in 4 previous world title bouts.
We were expecting a great fight, just given their history and styles, but we got something even better than expected as the two really looked to take this one out of the judges hands.
Hanagata immediate set the tempo and attitude of the bout, pressing the more technically capable Kuroki on to the back foot. Kuroki had no issue fighting off the back, when she could create space, using her better straight punches and foot movement, to land clean blows. Sadly for Kuroki however she was regularly dragged into Hanagata's fight, a brawl.
Whilst it was Hanagata's style of fight that seemed to dictate the action in the early going Kuroki had her moments, despite being rocked hard in round 2. The moments for Kuroki tended to come when the two women both threw, and Kuroki's shots just had that little bit more zip on them. Despite the zip on Kuroki's shots it was usually the work rate of Hanagata that left a lasing impression during the back and forth action.
Kuroki, to her credit, did find rounds where she established her style. Where she managed to use her legs and avoid a tear up with Hanagata. When that happened she looked like the fighter who had had an excellent reign at Minimumweight. Those rounds however never seemed to build on each other and seemed like one off rounds before she was dragged into a fight.
By the final rounds the pace had taken it's toll on both women, as had the accumulated damage of head shots and headclashes, several of which stopped the action in round 7. The slowing pace lead to a final round that was mostly wrestling, as the two try to grind out the result.
Going to the score-cards, and given how Kuroki had held her own for the most part in the short trading sequences the two had, it seemed like we had a close decision. That proved to be the case when the judges score cards were announced, with scores of 96-94, twice, in favour of Hanagata whilst the third judge favoured Kuroki 96-95.
We had the bput 96-94 to Hanagata who was very emotional after the win, having finally claimed a world title in her 5th attempt. We suspect Kuroki will bounce back, but today was about Hanagata who will be very hard to dethrone with her toughness, energy and work rate.
Earlier today fight fans in Fukuoka got the chance to see Atomweight great Momo Koseki (24-2-1, 9) [小関 桃] show how great she is as she claimed her third world title, and became the WBC female Minimumweight champion, out pointing the talented Yuko Kuroki (17-5-1, 8) [黒木 優子].
The bout looked a great one on paper, with Koseki moving up in weight to take on a fighter who had been regarded as one of the best female Minimumweights on the planet. The competitiveness that we expected was seen in the early stages, with Kuroki having some good moments early on. The ability of Kuroki saw her claiming the opening round on one card, claiming the second on another and the 4th on two cards. From then however it was almost all Koseki.
The challenger had set the early pace, pressing the action and forcing the pressure. This caused Kuorki some real issues, but the champion did manage to land a number of counters and did enough to keep Koseki honest. Despite the counters the scoring was heavily favouring the aggressive Koseki with scores of 39-37 on two cards, and 38-38 on the third.
Through the middle portion of the fight Koseki really poured it on and extended her lead, to the point where she was leading 69-64, 68-65 and 67-66 after 7 rounds. By then it really was all Koseki and Kuroki was struggling to really put up much of a fight back as she was simply out worked, out fought and struggled to ever get off through the shots of Koseki.
Round 8 was a rare good one for Kuroki, who took the round on all 3 cards, but the final 2 rounds were both Koseki rounds as she easily took the decision, with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and a bizarrely close 96-94.
After the bout Koseki revealed she would be taking a break before deciding her next move, whilst Kuroki accepted that she was a fighter who was going to have to rebuild, but still has dreams of becoming a unified champion.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today the WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-4-1, 8) [黒木 優子] scored her 5th defense of the title as she defeated former champion Mari Ando (13-10, 6) [安藤 麻里] with a unanimous decision, just as she did when she won the title back in May 2014.
The exciting champion made made a perfect start winning the first round and then dropping Ando in round 2 to establish a clear lead. Ando however showed her fighting spriting and fought back hard to win round 3 and get a small foot hold in the fight. Sadly for Ando that success was short lived and she would be down for a second time in round 5 as Kuroki took a huge lead on the cards and left Ando with a lot to do.
Knowing she was well behidn Anod could have just folded, she didn't ever seem to have the power, strength or speed to worry Kuroki, instead however she bit down on her gum shield and refused to just give in. Instead she earned round 6 on all 3 cards, bouncing back well from the knockdown and did enough to claim a share of the later rounds as she gritted out a gutsy performance.
Despite the gutsy effort Ando was a clear loser with all 3 of the score cards reading 96-92 in favour of Kuroki.
After the bout Ando announced that she was retiring, and that she had given the bout her all, something that was clear to fans in the arena. With this being Ando's 5th defense attention may turn to the Japanese fighter facing more notable international names in the future with some tipping her to be one of the "faces" of female boxing over the coming years.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
On Monday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall saw WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (16-4-1, 8) [黒木 優子] record the 4th defense of her world title as she stopped Filipino challenger Norj Guro (7-6-1, 4) in the 8th round.
The champion seemed to take the initative from the opening round and used her speed and skills from the early stages landing at will on Guro, who was dropped in round 3.
Aftwr 4 rounds two of the judges had Kuroki in a very comfortable 40-35 lead, whilst the dissenting judge gad Kuroki winning winning "only" 39-36.
In the mid rounds of the bout Kuroki upped the pace and looked, in round 7, as if she could smell a stoppage battering Gurok against the ropes. The challenger, by then, looked about all in and the following round saw Kuroki finally see off he over-matched challenger.
After the bout Kuroki hinted that she was wanting to fight in either a unification bout or a bout against former world champion Ayaka Miyao, in what would be a thrilling match up.
Sadly for Guro this is likely the end of her hopes to become a world champion.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Female boxing does get over-looked in some circles, however every so often a female bout comes around that really should be given some serious attention. One such bout occurred earlier today when WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (15-4-1, 7) took on former 2-time IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-7-2, 4).
The bout was a match up between two of the top fighters in the division and on paper was really matched. In the ring however there was only one winner with Kuroki really shining in a genuine coming of age performance.
The champion used her footwork from the off the neutralise the wilder, more aggressive work of Franco, who was left hitting air and being countered by the southpaw straight's of the champion. Round after round Franco tried to bull the home fighter and as a result she continued to eat straights, and be made to look more like an amateur than a former champion.
At the final bell their was no doubting the winner with Kuroki recording her 3rd defense of the title with scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93. Despite her dominance however the champion didn't sound satisfied and made it clear that she'd like to put in a better performance next time out.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (13-4-1, 6) successfully defended he title earlier today with a clear and decisive victory over veteran challenger Masae Akitaya (9-6-2, 3), who came up short in her 4th world title challenge.
From the off the young champion took control, fighting aggressively and with a high paced tempo behind her sharp south-paw left hand. Akitaya, a tough and brave fighter, tried fighting back but really seemed to have little response to the much younger champion who was too quick and too skilled from the opening bell to the final round.
Although Akitaya came in to the bout having had previous experience in world title bouts, with losses to the likes of Nao Ikeyama and Ayaka Miyao, she never really looked like she was close to world class here. She looked gutsy but that was about the best one could say of her. Unfortunately for her she knew it was a tough bout and her expression after the contest seemed to show just how frustrated she'd been in the fight.
Post fight the champion admitted she had been hoping to score a KO and seemed to acknowledge that she had focused on his left hand too much rather than using her jab and hook to really allow her to pick more holes in Akitaya's defense. It seems clear from those comments however that the champion will be going back to the gym and working on that for the future.
Earlier today Japanese fans saw the first defense of the WBC female Minimumweight title by the popular and surprisingly attractive Yuko Kuroki (12-4-1, 6) who narrowly over-came battled hardened Mexican Katia Gutierrez (19-4, 4), herself a former IBF world champion.
The first started fast with Gutierrez attempting to cut the distance from the opening seconds. Kuroki tried to counter the pressure of the challenger using her movement and whilst the movement did help her find some breathing space it didn't prevent her from suffering notable damage as early as the second round.
What the movement began to do as the bout progressed was make life difficult for Gutierrez to have any sustained success, despite landing the much heavy looking blows, with Kuroki managing to use her reach advantage to fight from a distance. It was fighting from a distance for the most part that allowed Kuroki to rack up the rounds she needed on two of the scorecards to take home the win via a split decision.
The scores rendered by the judges were 96-94 to Kuroki twice and 97-93 to Gutierrez. For what it's worth only neutral judge, a Swiss official, had Kuroki winning in what was effectively the deciding card.
For Kuroki this was a very tough first defense though post fight comments from both seemed to suggest a real mutual respect. Gutierrez thought she had just done enough to win against the fast champion and called for a rematch whilst Kuroki suggest she would like a rematch with the talented and heavy handed Gutierrez or unification bouts if they were possible.
The crowd really got a treat here and hopefully Kuroki's next defense will be just as competitive though we would understand if she took an easy defense following tough bouts with Gutierrez and Mari Ando in her last 2 bouts.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier today Japanese fans got the chance to see two female world title fights. The more anticipated of those was a WBC female Minimumweight title fight between the defending champion Mari Ando (11-7, 5) and first time world title challenger Yuko Kuroki (11-5-1, 6). Surprisingly it was the first time challenger who came out on top taking a very well fought decision over the hard nosed Ando.
Ando, as she always does, was coming forward through out the bout but it turned out that the talented Kuroki managed to neutralise the aggression of the champion and find the distance to unleash her brilliant southpaw straight left.
The bout, which was competitive through out, saw a few momentum shifts but in the end it was Kuroki's accuracy and more refined shot selection that helped her over-come the determined and aggressive Ando who again lost a close one.
Sadly this is another set back for Ando against a world class opponent. For many her record now looks like that of a journey woman but the former WBC Minimumweight and WBA Atomweight is a 2-weight world champion and a very high-risk low reward fighter who may now struggle to get opponents. It's a shame as she has the style, which she showed again here, that is fun to watch even if it is some what crude and cave-woman-like. At 26 years old however there is a chance Ando will be able to get another chance and she will be able to smooth off the rough edges in her style that do let her down, as we saw again here.
The win for Kuroki puts her in to the frame for a big unification bout with teenage sensation Mako Yamada, the current WBO champion. Though we actually think she'll be more likely to face Saemi Hanagata or Etsuko Tada who both currently hold wins over the newly crowned world champion.
As for the WBC Minimumweight title it's unfortunately becoming a case of a hot potato with it's third champion in just 19 months. Hopefully Kuroki will manage to keep it around her waist for a while, as Naoko Fujioka did from 2011 to when she vacated the belt in 2013.
(Image courtesy of Joe Koizumi and features Kuroki on the left and Ando on the right)
As well as the trio of world in Osaka on Tuesday there was also title action in Tokyo, albeit it a female title fight.
The bout, which saw Saemi Hanagata (8-4-2, 3) fighting Yuko Kuroki (9-4-1, 5) for the OPBF female Minimumweight title, unfortunately ended in a draw which saw the title remaining vacant.
The fight was close through out and there was little shock that the scores were all close with both fighters taking a 77-76 card in their favour, though the draw was ruled by the third card which scored the bout 77-77.
Interestingly this was a rematch between two fighters who fought back in June. On that occasion Hanagata came out on top taking a decision over Kuroki, this will feel somewhat like revenge for Kuroki, despite not claiming the win.