Reporting from Japan: Ready, Set, Go for Japanese female boxing
By Yuriko Miyata
The Annual Boxing Award ceremony 2017 was held at the Tokyo Dome Hotel on Feb 9th, and WBA middleweight champion Ryota Murata won the MVP of the year while WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue received the Technique prize. As for the women’s division, five-time world champion Naoko Fujioka was awarded as Female Fighter of the year and the Fight of the Year went undisputedly to the 10 round tremendous battle for the WBC minimumweight championship, where Momo Koseki showed her zeal for the new belt in adding to her WBC 102lbs title by defeating young star Yuko Kuroki on December 17.
It is obvious that Fujioka and Koseki have been the leading Japanese female fighters when looking into the history of annual awards which is filled with more than 90 percent by the two female fighters.
Fujioka won the MVP five times including recent three years in a row, what’s more, she had been double awarded in 2011, 2013 , and 2016. Koseki won the MVP of 2012 and 2014, also she was honored FOY in 2015 and this time.
But now both say the same thing; “I don’t have anything left to do in my current situation”. Then, Fujioka, the titlist of five different weight divisions is now looking for an opportunity to fight in America, and Koseki has decided to hang her gloves up.
Koseki stated that she had been thinking about her retirement no matter the result of her last fight. She just wanted to give it all she had and to leave the ring with no regret.
“I debuted in Thailand and my last fight was in Fukuoka. Both are in opponents’ hometowns. I like the fact. I wanted to fight anywhere any who. Of course the matchmaking is not in my hands. So my boxing life was not going the way I really dreamed of. But I must be grateful for the chances of 17 times defending my WBC atomweight title, the unification fight with Ayaka Miyao, and becoming a champion of two weight divisions. I was lucky to win those all fights that I wished to fight. Of course I could see further accomplishment but I cannot aspire too much. I’ve done everything I could do.”
Koseki started boxing when she was just a junior high school student, and fought for five years as an amateur, then 10 years as a prizefighter. WBC president Mr. Mauricio Sulaiman sent the warmest message at the retirement of the 9 years reigning champion.
“I am so proud and happy to see our great champion retire as all champions should do, at the top of the world. On the other side, I feel sad because this marks the end of an era.”
That is true. It’s the end of the first decade of Japanese female professional boxing which the JBC approved in Feb 2008, many top fighters have also announced retirement including former WBO minimumweight champion Kumiko Ikehara, former WBC flyweight champion Go Shindo, and former IBF light flyweight champion Naoko Shibata、and now Koseki. While some veteran athletes keep enthusiasm but it’s time for younger generations to start making their era. The boxing world is watching.
New boxing series
A new series of female boxing shows named “Victoriva” will start on March 8th at the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. It is the first big event for women this year. WBO minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata (11-7, 6KOs) is going to defend her belt against former IFBA 105lbs champion Park Ji Hyun (22-2, 6KOs ) of Korea as the main event of the card. It will be the first defense for Ebata since she won the vacant title by defeating Erica Hanawa last May as her sixth and the final attempt to the world championship.
And another matchup of great interest is the 10 rounds contest for the WBO light flyweight championship between former WBA super flyweight champion Tsunami Tenkai (24-12, 13 KOs) and OPBF flyweight champion Chaoz Minowa (5-0, 4 KOs). Tenkai is one of the most recognized female fighters with the magnificent experience of 12 years in the professional world including for title defense of the WBA super flyweight title. After she lost her world title to Naoko Yamaguchi with a narrow decision in 2012, she tried four times to return to the top of the world. When she won the WBO Asian title last November, she was supposed to get the right to challenge to Naoko Fujioka, who held the WBO world title at that time. But now she is going to fight for the title vacated by Fujioka against Minowa, who had a prominent amateur career with seven-time national title in Japan and best 8 in the world championship in 2008. Minowa has been building an impeccable record after turning professional in 2016 but most were easy opponents. So this time would be the chance for Minowa to show what she really has against experienced talent.
The card also includes the OPBF minimumweight championship, where champion Saemi Hanagata (13-7-4, 7 KOs) defends the crown against No.1 contender Erika Hanawa (8-1, 3 KOs). The fight will be the first defense for Hanagata who is seeking a 5th opportunity for the world title that she is missing since she challenged and lost to Koseki in 2012. Being defeated by Ebata for the vacant WBO title last year was not a setback but a great experience of ten rounds for the up and comer Hanawa.
Also three 6 round fights for the national title will be held.
Flyweight Yuki Koseki (5-4, 1 KO) vs Yumemi Ikemoto (4-1) and Atomweight Sana Hazuki (6-2-1, 2KOs) vs Nana Suzuki (5-2-1, 1 KO) are the final of the national championship tournament that JBC started last year. Japanese bantamweight champion Miyo Yoshida (8-1) will have the first defense fight against Kai Johnson (5-11-3, 2 KOs). The development of this national level of matchups is the key for the brilliant future of female boxing in Japan.