Battle of the Japanese Titans Naoko Fujioka vs Tsunami Tenkai on July 12
By Yuriko Miyata
One of the greatest national derby matches in the history of Japanese female boxing has been set for July 12th at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
Naoko Fujioka (18-2, with 7KOs) owner of five weight division world championship belts and Tsunami Tenkai (26-12, 15KOs) with two of her own will battle for the WBA flyweight crown which Fujioka holds currently.
It was a kind of surprising announcement.
Team Fujioka was planning a mandatory defense fight but no contender would take the shot. Then they offered Tenkai who was going to defend her WBO light flyweight title in Mexico at the end of June. Tenkai took the chance with all effort to cancel her tour to Mexicali. “I have been thinking I would fight Fujioka someday. Now I got it. I cannot wait for the day.” Tenkai said in the press conference two weeks ago.
In the history of Japanese female boxing since the Japan Boxing Commission started sanctioning in 2008, there have been a handful of compelling matchups between fellow rivals, such as Naomi Togashi vs Etsuko Tada for the WBC 108lbs & WBA105 in 2009, Tenkai vs Naoko Yamaguchi for the WBA 115lbs in 2012, Yamaguchi vs Fujioka for the WBA 105lbs in 2013, Momo Koseki vs Ayaka Miyao for the WBA & WBC 102 lbs. in 2015, Fujioka vs Go Shindo for the WBO 118lbs in 2016, Koseki vs Yuko Kuroki for the WBC 105lbs in 2017.
Fujioka vs Tenkai can be the best of them in terms of quality.
Forty-three year old Fujioka has 10 years of a professional career. And the nine years younger Tenkai has fought as a pro for 14 years. Both legends are still in their prime.
This pair could have had chances to fight each other before, but now it’s finally happening.
Tenkai is, in a sense, a true pioneer of female professional boxing in this country. She started fighting in 2005 when the JBC had not yet admitted female boxing. So, she was already experienced when she was licensed by JBC in 2008 and won the WBA super flyweight title by defeating Xiyan Zhang of China by unanimous decision in February 2009. Fujioka with an amateur pedigree turned professional seven months later.
Fujioka won the WBC minimumweight championship with a TKO victory over Anabel Ortiz of Mexico in her sixth professional fight in May 2011. Tenkai failed in her 5th title defense by controversial unanimous decision to Naoko Yamaguchi in 2012. Then, Fujioka took over the WBA 115 lbs. title from Yamaguchi in 2013.
In years after that, Fujioka was adding three more world championships to become the first Japanese fighter with world titles in five weight divisions. No Japanese fighter whether man or woman had accomplished the feat.
Tenkai was struggling on the road to obtain a world title again. While it took six years and many dark marks on her record to accomplish it, she proved that she was still in her heyday when she stopped prospect Chaoz Minowa in the eighth round for the vacant WBO light flyweight title. It could possibly be her best showing in her 13-year career as she used superb skill and speed to overwhelm Minowa who had obtained countless amateur national titles. It was a complete domination.
“I thank Tsunami for accepting our offer and saving the event as scheduled. She is not only simply strong, but she has great skill and strategy. I am looking forward to dealing with her tactics”, Fujioka said.
A lot pressure will be on Fujioka’s shoulder to take such a challenger. But such big pressure could pull out the best performance from the queen when looking back on her history. She is known as the biggest name of all time in Japanese female boxing not only because she has five world champion belts, it is because she impressed people with great performances especially against compatriot talents; Yamaguchi, Tomoko Kawanishi, and Shindo. So, she is willing to do it again and not leave any doubt of being the best in the country before heading to her final dream: fighting in America.
“We will make the fight great, more than people’s expectation. And I will win”, Fujioka puts it into words.
Tenkai was equally confident.
“I will win and become a three division champion…no, I don’t care about that. I am excited only to fight Fujioka in the ring,” Tenkai said.
The battle of female titans is set. It’s the power and boldness of Fujioka versus the speed and precision of Tenkai. This is a true 50-50- fight for dignity.
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