Earlier today fight fans in Japan saw a new WBO female Super Flyweight champion being crowned as Tamao Ozawa (17-5, 6) [小澤瑶生] made the most of her third shot at a world title, and dethroned Miyo Yoshida (15-3) [吉田実代] at Korakuen Hall, ending Yoshida's second reign only a few months after it began.
From the off Ozawa tried to box behind a busy jab, letting her hands go and limiting the amount of success Yoshida could have, despite the fact Yoshida was typically the one coming forward. The higher work rate of the challenger saw her do enough to take not just the opening round, but many of the early rounds to establish an early lead.
Whilst Ozawa boxed well, there were moments where Yoshida managed to get close, and this resulted in something of a messy brawl, the type of fight Yoshida has typically had success in. Sadly for Yoshida however it seemed that Ozawa had more to her skillset that Yoshida, and even with Yoshida being more versed in the brawling style she couldn't take control of the action, and was often found being handcuffed by the work rate of Ozawa.
As the bout went on Yoshida managed to have her moments, especially in the second half of the bout, but by then she was well down on the scorecards and fighting more make the scores respectable than actually fighting in the hope of retaining her title.
After 10 rounds it seemed like a clear win for Ozawa, and on two of the scorecards that was the case with judges scoring it 97-93 to Ozawa, with those two judges scoring the bout exactly the same and giving Yoshida rounds 4,7 and 10. Somehow the third judge had Yoshida winning, 96-94, giving Yoshida rounds 3,4,5, 7, 9 and 10, in a score that really didn't reflect what was a clear win for Ozawa.
Just moments ago we saw a thrilling, hotly contest and all action female Flyweight bout as Japanese legend Naoko Fujioka (19-3-1, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] faced off with Marlen Esparza (12-1, 1), for the WBA and WBC titles. Sadly the talking point after the bout wasn't on the action in the ring, which was fantastic, but instead on the judges, who failed both of the fighters.
The fight started fast and the first round was a very hotly contested one, with both fighters landing some fantastic shots in a hectic 2 minutes that flew by. After the first round Esparza began to use her feet, more, getting behind her jab, and made the slower, older, Fujioka fall short and stay at a safe range. This allowed Esparza to get into an early lead, something everyone was expecting.
In the middle rounds Esparza began to slow down, her jab went missing, and Fujioka began to close the distance, making the fight her fight. Up close and personal it was very much a Fujioka fight, as she hammered away at Esparza, out working her, out landing her, and wobbling her several times with huge right hands. Esparza had moments, but they were few and far between from round 5 to round 8 as Fujioka's work rate, tenacity, and hunger shone through.
To her credit Esparza gritted out some horrible moments, and in rounds 9 and 10 held her own, as she spoiled up close, and took advantage of the breaks. It was what she needed to potentially nick the fight. A fight that was incredibly close. Incredibly hotly contest, and incredibly badly scored as two judges had the bout 100-90 to Esparza, whilst the third had it 97-93 to Esparza, which is within the realms of sanity.
Sadly it wasn't just the judges who had issues here, but to did the referee, who seemed to miss a knockdown, by Esparza, in round 4, and allowed a lot holding from Esparza up close. It was really a horror show from the officials, and not for the only time on the card, as James Green complete messed up the bout between Paul Valenzuela Cuesta and Patrick Teixeira, DQ'qing Teixeria for a what seemed like an incidental rabbit punch.
Not a good day for officials in Texas.
Last night Sana Hazuki (8-6-1, 2) got her second world title shot as she took on Yokasta Valle (24-2, 9), who had beaten her in early 2021, in a bout for Valle's IBF female Minimumweight title. Sadly much like their first bout the contest was a one sided one on the score-cards, though it was also a very entertaining one. Through the contest it was very clear that Valle was the more talented, the quicker and the sharper fighter, but Hazuki's grit, determination and will to win made things entertaining through out.
Valle jumped out quick to start the bout, but within a minute Hazuki was trying to put Valle on the back foot, which saw some really good back and forth exchanges. Sadly though exchanges, on the whole, all seemed to favour Valle who was quicker, more accurate and landed the better shots whilst Hazuki threw plenty that landed on the arms or missed completely.
As the rounds went on it was hard to give Hazuki anything, but she was determined to have her moments, and she did just that. Albeit moments that were quickly over-shadowed by the better quality work of Valle who picked apart a tiring, but aggressive, Hazuki in the later rounds using good foot work, accurate counters and some lovely counter shots.
After 10 rounds Valle had clearly won, and was awarded the win with scores of 100-90 across the board, with all 3 judges giving the local hero the bout without giving the challenger even a sympathy, which they could have done had they felt generous and not affected the result.
For Hazuki this is likely to be her last world title bout, but she should still be a very serious fixture on the domestic and regional scene. Her style makes for fun fights and whilst she is limited she is fan friendly. Something that she has proven repeatedly over the years.
As for Valle, the future needs to be focused on unification bouts. Whilst the obvious call is a bout with WBA Seniesa Estrada, that seems like a really bad choice for for Valle. What seems more likely is a bout with WBC champion Christina Rupprecht, who holds a 2018 win over Valle, especially given this was planned as bout for early 2021 before mandatory obligations prevented the two from facing off in an anticipated rematch.
Earlier today fight fans at Korakuen Hall saw a new IBF Atomweight champion being crowned, as veteran Ayaka Miyao (25-9-2, 6) [宮尾綾香] showed her class, and experience in over-coming talented novice Eri Matsuda (4-1-1, 1) [松田恵里] in a very hotly contested bout for the previously vacant title.
The match up was a wonderful clash of styles, mentalities and experience. In one corner was an experienced veteran, who relied on work rate, speed, and guts. In the other corner was a polished, but inexperienced boxer, who had come through the amateur ranks and been moved very quickly as a professional. These really did set the stage for something very interesting to watch.
Early on Matsuda looked to keep things long, box behind her jab and footwork, and spoil when Miyao got close. For Miyao the game plan was based around using her feet, picking her moments, landing flurries and combinations and having raiding attacks on the more static Matsuda. Early on the styles war was won by Miyao, with the judges all having her up early on, in fact the judges had her up 39-37, across the board, after 4 rounds.
In the middle rounds Miyao began to slow down, her tempo dropping and her legs starting to look like those of a 38 year old fighter. With her movement slowing it allowed Matsuda a great chance to dictate things and control the action with her straight shots landing more regularly than they had earlier in the bout. From round 5 she really fought her way back into things and seemed to be taking advantage of being the younger, fresher fighter. Miyao however knew she had the experience of going long into bouts, and knew how to keep things in the tank., stealing the odd round or two from the middle of the bout, and stopping Matsuda from building to much momentum.
In the later stages Miyao was tiring, and had to hold and spoil more as her legs began to show their age. This resulted in Matsuda really having a good finish, particularly in round 10, and left the bout really close as we went to the judges.
The scorecards, sadly for Matsuda, didn't go her way, with one card of 95-95, being over-ruled by scores of 96-94, from both of the other judges, resulting in a majority decision win for Miyao, who adds the IBF title to her collection of career silverware, which also includes a WBA title from earlier in her career.
Earlier today at Korakuen Hall we saw a new WBO Atomweight world champion being crowned as Nanae Suzuki (11-4-1, 1) [鈴木菜々江] dethroned Mika Iwakawa (10-6-1, 3) [岩川 美花], in a rematch of a bout from 2020.
In their first bout Iwakawa showed her boxing skills early on, but Suzuki came on strong as the bout went on, and arguably did enough to claim the win back then. Notably neither fighter had fought since that bout, and at 38 it was assumed Iwakawa had potentially started to age coming into this bout. That was proven to be true pretty early on, as Iwakawa's movement and footwork from their first bout was absent here early on. Instead of Iwakawa boxing and moving, she was dragged into a was immediately, from a hungry and determined Suzuki.
The challenger didn't land much in terms of quality, but got off to the start she would have wanted, making Iwakawa fighter her fight. That continued through much of the bout, and although Iwakawa tried to spoil at times, and fought back hard, her well rounded boxing skills were pretty much absent. To her credit however Iwakawa bounced back from a tough opening round to have success in rounds 2, 3 and 4 thanks to her cleaner, more accurate work.
With the pace being as intense as it was, and it really was a high tempo start to the fight, the question was how long could Iwakawa's legs keep up the pace. In round 5 the tempo began to catch up with the defending champion, and Suzuki out worked her through much of the middle part of the fight, using volume to catch the eye and neutralise the quality of Iwakawa.
The strong middle rounds for Suzuki saw her take a lead, before she began to get sloppy, giving Iwakawa a chance to finish strong, and have the space she needed to show her boxing skills. By then however it was too little too late for the defending champion.
After 10 rounds the bout went to the judges. It was clear the fight was close, and had swung back and forth, but it seemed Suzuki had done enough, a view shared by two of the judges, who gave her the bout 96-94, with Iwakawa getting the same score from the dissenting judge.
Since turning professional Katie Taylor (20-0, 6) has been one of the faces of the new wave of female boxing, and certainly has helped women boxers get more attention and acknowledgement in the last few years. Sadly though her time at the top looks like it is number, despite the fact she retained her Undisputed Lightweight title earlier this evening, with a wide decision win over Kazakh challenger Firuza Sharipova (14-2, 8).
Early on Sharipova showed a lot of hunger as she looked to take the fight to Taylor in the opening round and let her shots. It was a nice start for the challenger, but as she looked like she was fighting with a lot of nervous energy. As that nervous energy dissipated she began to slow down, and by round 3 it seemed like Taylor was taking control of the bout at last. As the pace slowed Taylor managed to find the room for her straight shots, though she was neglecting her usually solid jab.
In round 5 the bout was becoming very scrappy, and messy with holding, head clashes and just general sloppiness. That resulted in Sharipova getting a cut from a clash of heads and being deducted a point in round 6 as the bout slipped away from the challenger. From there on Taylor seemed to do enough every round to take them, but she didn't look like the star we've become accustomed to seeing. In fact in round 8 she looked really tired, and she struggled to control the action at times, as both fighters showed their exhaustion.
In round we saw both women letting shots in what was the best round of the fight, with both landing clean, heavy shots late on. By then Taylor was in a comfortable lead, but she was willing to put on a show to finish the bout.
After 10 rounds Taylor took a clear decision, but it was, very much, a bout that seemed to show she wasn't the fighter she once was. She looked very much like a 35 year old, who is having her career, and her wars, catch up with her. We really do wonder if this win will be one of her last. After the win there was talk about a fight with Amanda Serrano in 2022, and whilst that is a great fight, it does feel like Taylor has perhaps aged to the point where she will actually be the under-dog.
As for Sharipova, we dare say she was flattered by Taylor not being the fighter she once was. And even then she was second best, by a long way.
Earlier today we saw the WBO female Minimumweight title change hands as Japanese veteran Etsuko Tada (20-4-3, 7) [多田悦子] was dethroned, in somewhat controversial fashion, by mandatory challenger Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (5-0, 1), from Vietnam.
In the opening round Tada was the one to establish herself in the middle of the ring whilst Nguyen got on the move, and used the ring more, getting a look at Tada, and using her speed and youth well.
From round 2 onwards Nguyen decided to hold her feet more, with the two fighters often exchanging shots in nice little moments of back and forth action. Those exchanges were really dominated by two things, Nguyen's left hand, which was landing in both jab and left hook forms, and Tada's straight left hand, which was less accurate but much more telling. Through much of the fight it was those two punches that really caught the eye and kept the action competitive looking.
Of course straight left hands, from a hard hitting southpaw, do mark than pitty patty jabs, and it seemed that whilst Nguyen was landing more shots, she wasn't doing much damage, or getting respect from Tada, who seemed to always have the bigger words in the exchanges. It was however not a clear and dominant start for Tada, given she was being out landed.
As the rounds went on the tempo slowly increased, with both women picking it up. The lead to Tada's heavy left hands hurting Nguyen several times in the final rounds of the bout, though Nguyen's toughness showed as she saw out the storm and fired back. She was clearly hurt in rounds 9 and 10, but gritted it out, and managed to see out the distance.
After the final bell all 3 judges all turned in identical scores of 96-94, in favour of Nguyen who got the decision.
It should be noted that the promoter of the event was Nguyen's promoter, and whilst she certainly had a strong start to the fight, from round 2 to 5, it did seem like she was very lucky to get the victory. Especially given how well Tada finished the bout.
Whilst it can be easy to feel sorry for Tada it should be noted that Nguyen actually created history, becoming the first Vietnamese world champion, male or female, in the sport. With that in mind we really hope she can help lay down the marker for the Vietnamese boxing scene, and help kick start a legitimate movement in the country.
Earlier today in South Korean fans had the chance to see long reigning WBA Super Featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi (19-0-1, 5) score her 9th defense of her title as she stopped Brazilian challenger Simone Aparecida da Silva (17-17, 6), in what was a bit of a pointless match up.
The talented Korean, who had been hoping to unify against Terri Harper this year, was levels above the challenger from the off. In fact they didn't look like they belonged in the ring together with Da Silva looking very much like a fighter who wasn't even close to world class. Whilst her record was a good sign of her limitations, it didn't tell the full story and she had lost her previous 3, with her last win came at Super Bantamweight almost 2 years ago.
Choi controlled behind her jab, controlling the range and tempo of the bout against a challenger was in trouble numerous times through the bout, and even seemed scared of Choi's power at times, a worry given Choi is a noted non-puncher.
In round 9 the challenger was down twice, with the second knockdown forcing the referee to wave off the contest, giving Choi her first stoppage since she beat Siriwan Thongmanit in 2015, a fighter she stopped in 3 rounds in a none title bout and had previously been stopped by Choi in 2014. For those curious da Silva becomes the first fighter, other than Siriwan, that Choi has stopped since she beat Kittika Sithan back in 2011!
Whilst it was good to see Choi in action, real questions need to be asked of the WBA who have again allowed Choi to defend her title against a fighter totally unfit to face her. Her impressive record in world title fights, 18-0-1 (4) looks great but in recent years she lacks a win of note in a division that has got plenty of talented fighters in it. The WBA needs to sort out who they are green lighting for title shots as this is becoming a joke.
Just moments ago we saw Japanese veteran Tenkai Tsunami (28-13-1, 16) [有馬真波]lose the WBO female Light Flyweight title as she came up against the brilliant Seniesa Estrada (21-0, 8), in what was a brilliant bout that showcased how exciting, and action packed female bouts can be, when the best face the best.
From the off it was clear that Estrada was the quicker, sharper fighter, with the better footwork and the cleaner punches however whilst Tsunami was the bigger, stronger fighter, with a style based around bringing pressure and trying to wear Estrada. For the first half of the fight the styles gelled amazing well, with Tsunami coming forward, chasing Estrada, who landed some brilliant shots up top in flurries. The eye catching flurries were all from Estrada, but she was being caught with some solid single shots as Tsunami's pressure had moments of real success.
Sadly however after a relative competitive start to the fight, through the first 4 or 5 rounds, Estrada went through the gears and really showed her class, with huge shots in round 6 and a blistering body attack in round 7, that really took the wind out of Tsunami and limited her work rate as a result.
Following the brutal body assault in round 7 Tsunami never really looked the same. She pressed forward a lot, but really ended up just walking into fire, as Estrada landed combination after combination and clearly shook the Japanese warrior several times in the later rounds. Tsunami battled through, showing her incredible toughness, but it really was a painful final few rounds for Tsunami, who really looked tired and out of her depth as we went through the championship rounds.
After 10 rounds there really was no debating the outcome. At best you could have made a case for Tsunami to have won 3 rounds, at best. None of the judges however agreed with that, as they turned in scores of 99-91, and 98-92, twice, to give Estrada the clear, and well deserved, victory.
With this win Estrada becomes 2-weight champion, and continues her rise to becoming arguably the most valuable female fighter in the sport.
As for Tsunami it's hard to know where she goes from here, but there are still doors open if she wishes to continue in the sport, or alternatively she can retire, on the back of an excellent career which has seen her win world titles at 115lbs and 108lbs and be one of the stars of the previous generation of female boxing.
In the first of two female fights involving Japanese world champions we saw the legendary Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7) [藤岡 奈穂子] retain her WBA Flyweight title with a brilliant performance against the teak tough and determined Sulem Urbina (12-2-0-1, 2).
Early on Urbina looked good, she looked younger, fresher and faster than Fujioka, who struggled to pin foe down at times. It was a really good start for Urbina, whilst making for a great action start, with both fighters forced to take some big shots. From round 3 however Fujioka began to get inside, and really began to work the body of Urbina, with combinations of hard body shots.
The body shots from Fujioka continued through the middle rounds of the fight as she began to break down Urbina, who's work rate began to drop off, massively. Urbina, who is well known for her toughness and work rate, was really taking a pounding through the middle rounds relying more on her toughness than anything else. There were moments where Urbina would land a good counter, but it did little more than slow Fujioka, who quickly resumed control.
The one brief break for Urbina was round 8, where she managed to land a handful of solid counter shots, but they weren't enough to get Fujioka's respect, with the Japanese warrior continuing to shake them off and come forward with a real warrior mentality. That mentality, and incredible work rate, saw her drown out Urbina in the final two rounds, as she put any doubt about the result to bed. Urbina always attempted to fight back, but simply couldn't cope with the volume, and the body shots from early in the bout played a major role through the final 60& of the bout.
After 10 rounds it seemed Urbina had been out worked, out fought, and despite her bravery and toughness she had been beaten. She had been game, and banked herself some early rounds, but had been clearly beaten through the middle and late rounds. We then went to the scorecards.
The first card was 95-95, about as generous to Urbina as you could possible get, then the second was 99-91 to Fujioka, about as generous to her as you could get, with the third being 96-94, a touch closer than we had it but the most accurate of the three cards, giving Fujioka the majority decision win on her US debut. This was a clear win for Fujioka, yet it was also a competitive bout with some great moments by both.
After the bout Fujioka and fellow Flyweight champion Marlen Esparza had a brief back and forth at ringside, complimenting each other and talking about a potential bout, something we may well see in the relatively near future.
For those missed this one, they missed out on a great performance by a legendary fighter, and an incredibly brave showing by a tough, TV friendly fighter. Together they gave us a very, very good fight, and the type of fight that female boxing needs more of. Exciting, two way action