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.
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.