Battle of Champions Kuroki and Koseki Set for December 17
By Yuriko Miyata
A week before Christmas, one of the biggest cards in the history of Japanese female boxing will take place. It’s a great gift for fans.
WBC strawweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-4-1, 8KOs) faces WBC atomweight champion Momo Koseki (23-2-1, 9KOs) on December 17th in Fukuoka, Kyusyu, the southwestern island of Japan.
It will be the sixth defense for Kuroki since she took the title from two-time champion Mari Ando in her second attempt three years ago. Momo Koseki is going into the ring as a “challenger” for the first time in nine years. She had previously defended her own green belt from 17 opponents since August 2008.
It is a magnificent matchup of two talented champions, both left-handed but with very different styles.
Yuko Kuroki, 26, has garnered big popularity not only for her charming looks, but also her power, aggressiveness and quick step work.
Momo Koseki, 35, is well known for her bottomless stamina and her tornado-like combinations that always seem to devastate challengers.
It all began years earlier when there was a rumor that Yuko Kuroki would challenge Momo Koseki but the match did not transpire. Momo Koseki’s manager had not even considered Kuroki as a future opponent so they had sparred on two different occasions when Kuroki was preparing for other southpaws.
But this time, Momo Koseki had exhausted the list of opponents in the 102lbs division and notified the WBC of her determination to move up to 105 lbs. The organization then authorized her as the mandatory challenger for Yuko Kuroki, the champion of that class.
From skier to fighter
Though Yuko Kuroki’s camp will host the fight in their hometown, the champion is not optimistic at all.
“I don’t think I can win if the fight goes 10 full rounds. Momo knows how to appeal to judges better than me. I have to knock her out or otherwise lose”, Yuko Kuroki said.
She remembers she felt uneasy with Momo Koseki’s long arms and the number of punches incoming when working with her in the gym.
“Momo does not care how other fighters come. I know she has an iron will to carry out her own style, anyway. I have to overcome it to hit her clearly. It’s going to be very hard.”
Yuko Kuroki turned to professional boxer after being a top national skier when she was a high school student. The very athletic girl started her career suffering two losses as a four rounder to eventually becoming a WBC youth 102 lbs class champion at the age of 20 in 2011. She failed to be a world champion in her first attempt against WBA 105lbs titlist Etsuko Tada, and lost to a slugger Saemi Hanagata in 2013. But those struggles developed and ripened her as a tough fighter. Currently she has eight consecutive victories including the WBC 105lbs belt and has defended it five times to prove her talent.
She does fan pleasing fights with her competitive nature and obviously has developed a physique compared to when she was fighting in 102 lbs. It’s fun to see her powerful offense.
“Yes. But aggressiveness is my merit and drawback at the same time. I am always looking for a chance to knock my opponent out. But if I focus on offense too much, there must be the risk of taking a hit. I know I have to be very careful when I throw punches.”
“I feel like I have a new weapon”
Momo Koseki is aware of her rival’s obvious strength.
“I must avoid her left hands with all my might. Her left has power to knock others down. I am sure that she is not the same person that I sparred with a long time ago.”
Basically Momo Koseki sees herself not good at dealing with southpaws, nor does Yuko Kuroki. So, it was when it came upon her mind last summer to fight Yuko Kuroki she started sparring any lefties no matter If they were amateur or professional to get used to facing southpaws.
“Working with a lot of southpaws I realized many things. First of all, I’ve found how to make my right hand useful. For more than fifteen years I’ve used it only for making rhythm on my combinations. But now I feel like I have a new weapon”, the 35year old skinny champion said while smiling like a teenager. “The chances are higher now to how much I can do in the fight with what I could do in sparring Of course I know a real fight is totally different from sparring, but I want to do in the fight what I could do in sparring.”
There is no doubt the battle of these two lefty queens will give out sparks.
“I am proud of myself to have been entertaining people here as a champion. This is a fight for dignity. The belt is mine. I am going to present a big KO victory to my hometown supporters”, Yuko Kuroki says.
Momo Koseki reveals that in her mind this could be her final fight. So she will give it all she has.
“This evenly matched fight motivates me best and lets my best come out. I am thrilled to fight with Yuko. If I win over her, I might say I have nothing left to do in boxing. I want to see myself satisfied.”
It is a must-see-fight.
Other historic female clashes
As there already were many world class fighters in this country when the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) approved female professional boxing in 2008, numbers of tremendous matchups between fellow rivals have attracted historic public attention to the sport in this decade.
The first one was in December that year. Naomi Togashi defended her WBC light flyweight title against Nanako Kikuchi, who became the first WBC strawweight titlist in 2005 outside the jurisdiction of JBC.
Then, Togashi took a chance to fight with WBA strawweight champion Etsuko Tada in December 2009. Those two were big rivals from amateurs, and the match became topical as a special case that the different weight division titles were at stake. The intense 10 rounds ended up to a draw.
In 2012, ex-soccer player Tsunami Tenkai gave up her WBA super flyweight title to a hard hitter Naoko Yamaguchi, who used to be a national high school champion of the javelin, by a narrow decision.
Then Naoko Fujioka, who was already WBC strawweight champion, jumped up to 115 lbs division to challenge Yamaguchi in 2013. It was the best of the best, and the beginning of Fujioka’s legend. The smaller Fujioka knocked Yamaguchi down in third round but Yamaguchi never gave up until the final round ended. Yamaguchi decided to retire after the fight. Not only her, Fujioka drove the very competitive Tomoko Kawanishi and Go Shindo to despair too.
And the longest reigning WBC atomweight champion Momo Koseki versus WBA titlist Ayaka Miyao in 2015 was noteworthy just like the male version WBA&WBC flyweight unification bout between Kazuto Ioka and Akira Yegashi. Koseki was knocked down in the first round but reversed the situation with a barrage of punches to win by unanimous decision. It was a brilliant fight. Koseki has proven to everybody that her whole career is genuine.