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.