Naoko Fujioka Wins Fifth World Title, America In Her Sights
By Yuriko Miyata
Japanese fighting legend Naoko Fujioka finally captured her fifth world title belt and becomes the second female in the history to accomplish the feat on Friday.
Fujioka (17-2, 7 KOs) beat the Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle (13-1,6 Kos) by unanimous decision in front of more than 1,300 fans at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall to win the vacant WBO light flyweight world title. She now has world titles in five weight divisions.
It was a fierce fight exhibiting top quality from the beginning to the final bell that showed the ability and dignity of both champions.
“It is going to be a slugfest from the first gong,” that was what Fujioka thought when she saw Valle’s very fit physically at the weigh in a day before the fight. “Her body is great, and what’s more, her eyes tell me of her determination.”
Fujioka was right. It was Valle who made a great start in the fight. The Costa Rican took advantage of her long jabs and right cross to confuse Fujioka from getting inside. Valle kept the Japanese at a distance during the first round.
The four-time world champion knew she needed adjustments and that she needed to keep her mind content and sound to make it.
“ Yokasta was good at making her distance. But I knew I had to keep moving and watching her offense pattern. Then I learned the track of her right cross. I found the room to send my left to the body.”
That started working out clearly around the fifth round. Fujioka doubled her left hook to the body and head to chip out the opponent’s duration.
Valle kept engaging with constant blows then the steps outside, clinch technique inside to avoid Fujioka’s hard shots in the later rounds. Fujioka also never slowed down. Her work got even lighter as the time went by. The sharp, quick and powerful shots of Fujioka got the favor of the judges. While two Thai judges scored it 99-91 and 98-92, it was clear that it was not that easy a victory for Fujioka. The judge from Japan saw the fight much closer at 96-94, Yokasta also showed her capacity.
After getting medical treatment on the wound on the left eye lid from a head crash in the second round, Valle, who suffered her first loss as a professional, talked to the media with tears.
“Fujioka is a great fighter. She has much more experiences than me. Sometimes she was so tricky that it was not easy for me to catch her movement. That did not make me keep on my own style.”
When a Japanese reporter told her that he saw a great fight, the 25 years old beauty finally smiled and said, “Thank you! I will get along and I will become a world champion again.”
All triumph was for Fujioka, who becomes the first boxer, no mater of gender, to have five world titles in five weight divisions in Japan. When the final gong was given and she realized the battle was over, she sank down to the floor to find that the pressure on her mind was beyond her imagination.
“I am just happy. I am just happy to make my words true. I am relieved that my focus on the opponent never faded throughout the fight. It was not a super hard fight for me because I could learn some particular pattern on her movement that I could handle especially in later rounds. I wish I could knock her down but she was a really good fighter with the big motivation to get another world title. But I could not fail this time. I’ve never thought I could have another chance to be a five -time champion if I missed this. Every time I lost, I thought I should retire partly because of my age. I was always wondering what I am still fighting for. But all that experience has made up who I am now. ”
What amazed people today was that her speed, stamina and movement was obviously better than when she was fighting in a heavier weight class last year. She said it was not easy to make 108 pounds for the first time in five years, but the challenge brought her a better performance.
“Honestly I never felt any exhaustion this time. My breath was always easy through 10 rounds. I think I could save energy because I could go easy. When I fight at bantamweight, I always tried to hit the bigger opponents harder, block punches harder. Being extra tense on the muscles would waste energy. But this time I did not need to do that because the opponent was my size.”
That made her motion from defense to offense quick and smooth. The media highly appreciated her unbelievable talent and accomplishment at the age of 42 years and 4 months. And what’s the best is that she is still vigorous in this sport. A couple of applicants to challenge her are still there, but Fujioka does not really show her zest to any fellow fighters.
“Nothing is a sure thing but I want to fight in America. Just thinking of fighting there makes me very excited! ”
The greatest is still hungry for something that she has not seen yet.