Two Women Two Fighters Same Dream: Tomomi Takano and Aida Satybaldinova
By David A. Avila
LOS ANGELES-They arrived from different parts of the world; one with a single bag of clothes and the other with a few dollars in her pockets saved over the span of a year to simply make the journey.
“I want to be a world champion,” said Aida Satybaldinova, an aspiring lightweight prizefighter from boxing hungry Kazakhstan. “That is my dream.”
Another who arrived recently in Los Angeles was Tomomi Takano, a tall bantamweight from the shores of Japan. One of her other jobs is a working fashion model but she prefers to be known as a fighter. Although a veteran of five years as a prizefighter, she realized she lacked an important asset.
“I was knocked out in my title fight. I learned that I don’t know how to work like a champion,” said Takano, 30, who fought for the bantamweight world title in November 2015. “It was my first time to know how a world champion fights.”
Both women have the same world championship dreams and on Friday, May 11, both will be entering the boxing ring on different bouts in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s the second time in a month they are engaging in prize fights across the border. Each won the last time but every fight is a gamble.
Female boxing has existed for decades. Although the U.S. has been a leader in the female prizefighting movement, it’s only recently that strides have been made in pushing it toward equality with the male fight game.
Other countries have surpassed the U.S. in terms of television coverage and importance, in countries like Germany, Argentina, and Mexico the female version of pro boxing equals the men in terms of interest and television coverage.
But even though a country like Japan displays interest in showing female boxing, they lag when it comes to preparing the women. That’s why Takano decided to make a move to Los Angeles.
“In Japan it’s very rare to find a trainer that will work with me all the time,” said Takano while at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. “I want to stay here to train because I finally found a real trainer, a real champion trainer that can work with me all the time.”
For Satybaldinova, it’s a different reason. Though boxing in her native country Kazakhstan is a sports staple, professional boxing is not.
“In my country we don’t have professional women’s boxing. But always I had a dream to be a world champion, a girl with a lot of belts,” said Satybaldinova, 30, who is originally from Astana, Kazakhstan. “So I came here on my own without a team to be a champion.”
Satybaldinova worked several jobs in her country saving up money to make the trip to America. It takes 327 tenge to equal one U.S. dollar.
“I worked for a car insurance company. I also have a master’s teachers card to teach weight lifting,” said Satybaldinova who was a weight-lifter before discovering boxing. “I come from a poor family. I don’t have money. I have three jobs working because I had plans to come here.”
She arrived in Los Angeles with enough money to stay a month while searching for someone that could make her dream of fighting professionally come true. That dream also includes winning a world championship.
One thing led to another. Luckily she met someone who knew someone that was involved in boxing. Los Angeles just happens to be the boxing capital of the world and has more than 100 gyms scattered throughout the Southern California landscape.
Enter Rodney Cruz Hunt a journalist by trade, and now head of GM 3 a marketing organization.
Cruz Hunt has worked with numerous boxing promoters and was heavily involved with Goossen-Tutor Promotions based in Sherman Oaks, California. The company guided the careers of numerous world champions including Andre Ward and John Molina. The famed head of the organization Dan Goossen passed away in 2014. It’s a sad loss that still resonates in the boxing world.
Though not as involved in the boxing world as before, Cruz Hunt found himself recommended to Satybaldinova as a person that could help her find her path to pro boxing. Even though boxing is big in Southern California, female boxing has always been a tough road to travel.
“I was never interested in female boxing to tell you the truth,” said Cruz Hunt, who began as a social media expert for the Goossen-Tutor organization. “But when I saw her work ethic and dedication I just had to help her find her way.”
The problem was Satybaldinova only has so much time in the U.S. to make her mark. Because she arrived on a tourist visa she can only stay until this month. Time is running out.
Cruz Hunt managed to navigate the Kazakhstani women to three professional fights since March 17. It’s rare for women to obtain three pro fights in a year, but she has fought three times in three months and will be fighting a fourth tomorrow; if her opponent doesn’t pull out in Mexico.
Last month, several Mexican opponents pulled out at the last moment.
It’s like playing Russian roulette.
Today a carload of fighters are headed to the Mexican border to hopefully participate in pro boxing matches in Tijuana. The large Mexican city is ripe with fighters both male and female in its population of 2 million inhabitants.
Both Takano and Satybaldinova are scheduled to engage in eight-round fights for the WBF International title in the bantamweight and lightweight divisions.
Takano (10-3, 7 KOs) will be facing Marisol Corona (9-3-2, 4 KOs) a tough veteran out of Nayarit, Mexico. Both women have knockout power and the bout is set for 118 pounds.
For the past several months Takano has worked out at the Wild Card Gym with trainer Rodel Mayol a former light flyweight world champion from the Philippines.
“I was on social media and somebody told me to go to the Wild Card,” said Takano about how she chose Mayol as a trainer. “So I came with one bag to Los Angeles and happened to know Mayol because he is Asian.”
Since arriving, Mayol has worked on her training regimen and boxing technique. Now Takano knows the difference and feels her dreams are within reach.
“My dream is to fight in the MGM (Grand) in Las Vegas in the future. After I lost the world title fight I had a broken nose,” said Takano, who lost to Argentina’s Daniela Bermudez in a world title fight for the bantamweight world title in 2015. “My friend took me to Las Vegas to see the brother of Manny Pacquiao. I was fascinated to see the fight at the MGM Grand. That became my dream to fight there.”
It’s also the dream for Satybaldinova, who along with Takano, now share Cruz Hunt as an advisor for their boxing dreams.
“Yes I want to fight in Las Vegas too,” said Satybaldinova who knows if she wins a title tomorrow that her ability to obtain a working visa will be a step closer.
Both Takano and Satybaldinova need to win prestigious boxing titles in Tijuana. A win by both can be their tickets to staying in the U.S.
As they drive toward the border each fighter first hopes they get the opportunity to fight. Next, they hope to emerge victorious.
One woman is from Japan and another woman is from Kazakhstan. Their dream is the same.