Naoko Fujioka Can’t Afford to Lose to Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle
By Yuriko Miyata
A magnificent fight is approaching.
The four weight division conqueror Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7 KOs) is going to face Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle (13-0, 6 Kos), the former IBF 102 pound class champion, for the vacant WBO light flyweight title on Friday in Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.
What is at stake is not only the world title, but a fifth world crown in five divisions that only Amanda Serrano of Puerto Rico has accomplished in female boxing history.
A fifth belt in five divisions is not Fujioka’s final goal any more. She is now looking to fight in America with those titles behind her. But she knows that the dream won’t come true without defeating the opponent who is in front of her now.
“I have to win by all means this time. I am always thinking, if I lose again I hang up gloves. But this time, especially, if I lose here, there is no further future. I won’t be able to say that I still want to fight in America. That is why I cannot be defeated this time.”
Fujioka, 42, started collecting belts of four major world title sanctioning bodies beginning with the WBC minimumweight title she won by TKO against one of Mexico’s big names Anabel Ortiz in May 2011. Two years later she jumped up three weight divisions to super flyweight to win the WBA title from tremendous puncher Naoko Yamaguchi. Two more years later she added the WBO bantamweight championship in 2015, then Fujioka moved down to the flyweight division which she had skipped before to capture the WBA belt in March this year.
Though it looks easy Fujioka says that changing weight divisions is not easy work at all.
“Speed, power, movement, I feel very different when I fight around in different weight classes. This time, making weight itself is not easy. I’m breaking 50 kg (110.3lbs) for the first time in five years. Making flyweight and light flyweight are totally different.”
Now she is training at almost 108lbs and does not feel like herself at 118lbs where she has spent the last two years.
“When I spar in the ring, I feel less impact in hitting with my fists. I really find my body is light now. But if the punching power is not as much as I had at bantamweight, but the solidness of fists cannot be changed. Also I can feel my movements are sharp and quick, much more than just sharpness and quickness of the movement. Speed has always my merit but in lighter weights, I can focus more on my speed than power because my opponent is not a bantamweight this time.”
To prepare for the taller 5’4 Yokasta Valle, 5’2 Fujioka has sparred with taller partners. Basically the height does not matter for her as she has faced taller opponents before in the heavier weight classes. In the super flyweight division Fujioka overcame the long one-two combinations of 5’7 1/2 Tomoko Kawanishi. In bantamweights she knocked down former world champion Go Shindo of 5’6.
What does concern her is not height but the tactics of experienced boxers that trouble Fujioka in losses to Susi Kentikian of Germany in 2014 and Jessica Chavez in Mexico last year. It seems that most Japanese fighters are very straight forward with no tricks. Fujioka learned that great boxers know how to make their opponents unable to do what they want to do. Kentikian kept Fujioka away with countless jabs and Chavez used clinch work whenever the Japanese fighter tried to get inside. Both the German and Mexican champions knew that their opponent loved slugfests.
“I learned from Susi, Chavez and other foreign fighters that I have to be very smart in the ring. My style is already studied through Youtube.com or some other sites. So my opponents know what I want to do, then they do what I don’t want them to do. But they are right to win. The strategies are there only to win. I have to do whatever I need to do to win too. How persistent I am to win matters here.”
Fujioka understands how lucky she is to get this opportunity to challenge for her fifth world title, so she is determined to win this chance to move on to a further future.
“I know how my team worked hard to get this match. I know I won’t have another chance if I lose this. Also, this could be the last fight in my home ring so I want to show my people my best performance ever, an unforgettable one. I want people to remember my fighting style which shows who I am. I know Yokasta is also very enthusiastic to obtain another world title of course, but I am not going to give her any moment to go easy in the ring. I am going to fight for a complete victory so that Yokasta will never think of fighting against Fujioka again”
The four-division world champion promises fans will see the most zealous and determined Fujioka ever on December 1st.