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.
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
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)
Last night in Mexico Japan's Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5) [チャオズ箕輪] challenged WBC female Flyweight champion Ibeth Zamora Silva (30-6, 12), in a bout that turned out a lot more competitive than the records of the fighters would have suggested.
Minowa, a former Japanese amateur standout who had fallen short in a previous world title shot, travelled to Mexico with real ambition and that showed from the opening moments. Minowa showed no fear of Zamora's reputation as one of the best female fighters in the sport. Instead she took the fight to the Mexican, landing her jabs and straight right hands in the early going.
Sadly for Minowa her good start couldn't be maintained and by the end of round 3 Zamora was finding her groove, and attacking the body, holding her own with the challenger. The challenger would begin to slow from round 5 and the Mexican would begin to take over the contest as the bout went on, running off the clear with her high tempo and aggression.
By the end of the 10th round it was easy to forget Minowa's good start. She had always been in the bout, but after the good start she could never quite turn the screw whilst Zamora's experience over the championship distance paid off, earning the champion the win with scores of 97-93, from all 3 judges.
For the Mexican this was her first successful defense of the title whilst Minowa is now 0-2 in world title fights. Despite the loss Minowa proved that she belong at this level and we expect to see her in another world title fight in 2019.
(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)
Yesterday in Argentina fight fans saw Japan's Yunoka Furukawa (9-2-2, 6) [古川 夢乃歌] on local star Leonela Paola Yudica (13-0-3) in a bout for the IBF Flyweight title, which Yudica was defending.
Sadly for Furukawa, the WBA Atomweight champion, the bout didn't see manage to become a 2-weight champion. Instead she came up on the losing side of pretty clear decision, despite giving the bout her all.
The challenger pressed the action from the off, always coming forward and applying pressure. Unfortunately however the speed and accuracy wasn't there from the travelling fighter, and instead of being worn down Yudica used Furukawa's aggression against her. As a result Yudica was landing her jab, and straight and rolling off to the side before Furukawa could land her bigger shots. It was a determined effort from the Japanese warrior, but one that lacked the bite needed to really trouble the Argentinian skillster.
Although Furukawa came up short here, she does remain the WBA Atomweight champion and is likely to head back down in weight going forward, where she can make the most of her marauding style and aggression.
As for Yudica the future does look promising, but we suspect she will have much tougher bouts than this. It's not that Furukawa's a bad fighter, but she was stylistically just a bit too slow and a bit too light for the champion, who is very smart and very accurate.
Earlier today fight fans in Sakai City saw a WBO Female Flyweight title bout. Sadly though for those fans they saw local fighter Nana Yoshikawa (7-2, 4) [好川 菜々] losing the title to Mexican challenger Monserrat Alarcon (9-3-2), in what was a decidely one sided fighter.
Alarcon, also known as "Raya", began the fight hot and quickly dropped Yoshikawa inside the opening round. Despite being the shorter and less proven fighter Alarcon managed to dictate the tempo and distance of the fight, getting inside easily and landing her power shots.
Yoshikawa managed to find her footing slowly but never looked comfortable and was dropped again in round 4 as Alarcon's supposed lack of power was too much. Again Yoshikawa found her to her feet but was unable to ever use her height or reach advantages to keep the distance she needed to get her work off.
In round 6 the up close work of Alarcon resulted in a headclash that left the Mexican with a cut over her left eye. The cut seemed to kick start Yoshikawa's fight back, but sadly caused the fight to be stopped after just seconds of round 7, with the doctor ruling the cut as a fight ender.
With the cut coming from a headclash we went to the scorecards, which wre unsurprisingly in favour of "Raya" with scoes of 70-62, 69-63 and 68-64.
Sadly for the once touted Yoshikawa this could be the end. She was dropped twice by a non puncher, out worked and really beaten up before the headclash and in her late 30's she may well just walk away from active competition. As for Alarcon it was a great way to announce herself on the world stage, doing so on foreign soil against a former amateur star.
(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)
Over the weekend Japanese fans had the chance to see Nana Yoshikawa (7-1, 4) claim the WBO female Flyweight title, with a close and controversial victory over Korean Eun Hye Lee (8-1, 3), a former WBO female Light Flyweight champion.
The fight started well for the Korean who seemed to find a home for her left hook and had a solid start to the bout with neither woman really managing to take advantage of the other. After 4 rounds the judges was all over the place with the scores, with one having it 39-36 to Lee, one having the same score to Yoshikawa whilst the remaining judge had the bout even at 38-38.
In the middle rounds Yoshikawa became more aggressive and swept rounds 6 and 7, after losing the 5th. This left us going into the final 3 rounds nothing much separating the two fighters and it seemed that both knew it, as they both went all out for the win.
Thankfully for the local fans in Osaka they got the result they wanted with Yoshikawa doing just enough to claim the win, winning what turned out to be the all important final round.
With the win Yoshikawa becomes a world champion at the second time of trying, though it wouldn't be a shock to see her reign being a short one, with Lee likely to chase a rematch and Naoko Fujioka also thought to be continuing her chase for a Flyweight title.
(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.