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)
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)
We often hear that to earn a draw in Germany you need to score a knockout and an example of that appeared to be seen again this past weekend when Japan's Naoko Fujioka (12-1, 6) suffered her first career defeat at the hands of Susi Kentikian (34-2-0-1, 17) in a bout for the WBA female Flyweight title. Fujioka, attempting to become the first Japanese female to win world titles in 3-divisions saw her German rival hold, spoil, run and show off various throws en route to taking a decision that should really did feel like a lucky escape for Kentikian.
The fight started well for the German champion who looked like the faster and busier fighter in the opening round. Despite the good start from the German things began getting closer in the next rounds and by round 3 it seemed that Fujioka was coming on strong whilst Kentikian was happy to hold and smother the Japanese fighter who seemed like she was imposing herself.
Through the middle rounds it again seemed that Fujioka was getting the better off it and certainly landing the harder shots as Kentikian put her head down and flailed fast but limp shots at the Japanese fighter who was looking like a much better technical boxer. It was in the middle of the fight that the two fighters seemed to go from trading to scrappy holding time and time again with both given multiple warnings for various fouls. It clear that the styles were going to lead to some messy action but the referee seemed unable to clear up the action which was broken time and time again as the contest began to show signs of becoming a maul.
The mauling was occasionally broken up with Kentikian bundling Fujioka to the canvas in what seemed to be an attempt to catch a breather and by the end of round 5 Kentikian was beginning to look tired and looked to be breathing heavily.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse for the German who was cut in round 7 above the right eye. From then on the German became even more negative and at times seem to run, especially early in round 8. It was as if Kentikian knew she was in trouble but also at home and that holding and running was going to help regain her composure despite the cut. The running however ended before the round was over and Fujioka began landing heavy shots on the German. The heavy shots from round 8 seemed to put the fear into Kentikian who held and ran and spoiled through round 9 as Fujioka again seemed to land the better shots before the two began unloading power shots on each other. At the time it looked like Kentikian was throwing shots out of desperation and was attempting to stem the Fujioka offensive with her own heavy shots.
Round 10 saw both fighters given warnings before swinging big at each other and trading in the later sections of the fight to end what had been an engaging yet frustrating contest that had seen some great highlights, particularly in round 7, but had also seen some really ugly moments as the two fell in to each others.
After congratulating each other on a great fight it seemed that Fujioka was the one to celebrate whilst Kentikian went to her corner and looked resigned. What both fighters seemed to forget was that the bout was in Germany and in Germany it really does take something rare to beat the German. this was shown in the scorecards that favoured Kentikian with scores of 97-93, 97-94 and 96-94. We suspect had the fight been in a neutral venue then the title would have changed hands.
A busy day of action in world boxing seemed like it would never come to an end and after the action in Macau, and the action in the UK we turned out attention to Germany as Korea's Dan Bi Kim (9-3-1, 2) challenged German boxing queen Susi Kentikian (33-2-0-1, 17) in a WBA female Flyweight title fight.
Sadly for Kim, a rough and tough street fighter from Anseong City, this was a mismatch and it showed early on as she charged at Kentikian, a very well schooled German, and was punished with combinations. It was true matador versus bull type of fight early on with the matador being faster and more intelligent than the Korean bull.
As we all being punched in the face slows a fighter down, and takes it's toll on someone. This effect started taking it's toll on Kim early on and although she was still game she was having to take a lot of bombs, including 3 absolute beauties at the end of the 3rd round that shook Kim's head in every which way. It was impressive Kim was taking them and firing back but the Korean was more swinging her arms wildly and hoping to land as opposed to punching with belief in her shots.
Kentikian's control of the bout grew round after round and she became less scared of what the Korean was throwing back at her. It appeared that the matador wasn't just in control but was starting to abuse the bull even standing toe-to-toe with Kim and landing wonderful flurries of shots that all seemed to hit the target with lightning speed and accuracy. The flurries of Kentikian were wonderful to watch and the sign of a very skilled and confident fighter.
After 8 rounds it appeared Kentikian's high out put was taking it's toll on on her and she began to look tired in the corner. If Kentikian was tired then Kim was spent and it showed in round 9 as Kentikian went for the kill and unloaded flurry after flurry after flurry on the Korean who was out on her feet and being force fed leather as if it was a dietary supplement. Thankfully for Kim her corner knew she was in trouble and threw in the towel with 24 seconds of the round left.
With Kim miles behind, looking out on her feet and taking a genuine pounding the decision was the right one by her corner who gave her every chance but correctly saved her from lasting punishment that could have affected her health. Kentikian, although not a big puncher, was landing clean and repeatedly and those shots do a lot of accumulative damage.
(Image, of Kim, courtesy of boxrec.com)