Flyweight Champions Fujioka and Esparza Collide, Mikaela in SoCal, Thorslund in Denmark and More News
By David A. Avila
Three up and three down.
A trio of world title fights led by big Savannah Marshall showcased the talent now wielded in women’s prizefighting last week and now three more title clashes take place this week.
The biggest of all the world title fights takes place in a place known as the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Five-division world titlist Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7 Kos) of Japan pits her WBA flyweight world title against Marlen Esparza (11-1) and her WBC flyweight title. The winner will also be deemed the Ring Magazine world champion in the flyweight division. DAZN will stream the Golden Boy Promotions fight on Saturday April 9.
It’s an historic occasion. No female flyweight has ever been anointed Ring champion before in the flyweight division.
Fujioka, 46, last fought in July when she defeated Sulem Urbina in Los Angeles, California. It was her first time fighting in America and had been her dream since boxing professionally. She has captured world titles in the minimumweight, light flyweight, flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight divisions.
“I’m pretty sure I would not be here if I had lost my belt in the last fight,” said Fujioka, who now seeks to add the WBC and Ring belts. “And now I’m sure that I can be a bigger name if I win this time. I’m greedy to go further.”
Esparza, 32, was last seen handily defeating former champion Anabel Ortiz of Mexico in her first defense of the WBC flyweight title this past December. She was hoping and expecting a chance to meet Fujioka in this unification fight. She was in attendance last July for the Japanese fighter’s clash with Urbina.
One thing common between Esparza and Fujioka, they don’t turn down fights regardless of the competition or location.
Last year Esparza filled in a vacancy on a fight card with less than two week’s notice and fought Shelly Barnett in Flint, Michigan. That’s old school stuff. She took the win and then three months later met Mexico’s Ibeth “La Roca” Zamora and took away the WBC flyweight world title. Very old school stuff.
Esparza has grown up watching boxing and has been putting on the gloves since she was a little girl. There’s no fear in her game. You need that kind of mentality to be a world champion.
Fujioka was a late bloomer who was always athletic. She played softball in Japan for ten years. But she saw that women were boxing professionally and took a stab at it at age 34. It turned out she was pretty good and last year was given the title Japan’s best female fighter again. It was the sixth time Fujioka was awarded that title by the Japanese Boxing Writers.
The plucky Japanese champion was a self-taught fighter who picked up strategies and skills along the way to collecting her first world title against Anabel Ortiz. She stopped her in the eighth round to win the WBC minimumweight world title in 2011. She jumped up to super flyweight and took the WBA title from Naoko Yamaguchi in 2013. Then she moved up again and defeated Hee Jung Yuh for the WBO bantamweight title in 2015 after beating Mexico’s Mariana “Barby” Juarez in Mexico City that same year. In 2017, she moved back down and beat Mexico’s Isabel Millan for the WBA flyweight title. In her very next fight, she handed Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle her first loss and took the WBO light flyweight title.
In the past three years she worked with American-based trainer Ben Lira who works with Jojo Diaz and formerly worked with Gennady “GGG” Golovkin during his reign of terror. Fujioka has added new techniques to her game that includes one of the best engines in sports.
“She doesn’t get tired,” said Yuriko Miyata, a well-known Japanese journalist. “That is Naoko’s strength.”
Esparza and Fujioka have been eyeing this unification fight since they first met face to face at the Banc of California Stadium last July. The 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist was doing the fight commentary and had a chance to speak with Fujioka after her win. They agreed to fight each other if given the opportunity.
That time is now.
Mikaela in OC
Unified super featherweight titlist Mikaela Mayer is set to face former featherweight world titlist Jennifer Han on Saturday April 9, at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, California. ESPN will televise the Top Rank Show.
What is intriguing about this match is that both fighters were reared in the USA Boxing program and now face each other as professionals.
Mayer was a 2016 Rio Olympic participant and might have been the victim of the Russian cheating scandal that took place during those Olympic Games. Undeterred, Mayer has blazed a trail of victims in her professional pursuit of becoming one of the best fighters in the world. Last November, she unified the super featherweight division in a blazing battle against France’s Maiva Hamadouche that was the 2021 Fight of the Year.
This is Mayer’s first return to her native Southern California roots since 2018 and she will be joined on the boxing card with her friend and fellow Olympian Ginny Fuchs who is making her professional debut.
Han, 38, was last seen trading blows with undisputed lightweight world champion Katie Taylor in a losing cause that took place in September. No shame in that. Now the fighter from El Paso, Texas has her sights set on Mayer and this could be her last chance to reclaim a world title. It’s going to be very tough. But she’s learned plenty during her lifelong involvement in boxing and though she lost every round in her fight against Taylor, every round was competitive.
One thing is certain, fans and friends of Mayer can finally see her in person perform. She’s greatly improved and has become an even better prizefighter.
Another world title fight showcases WBO bantamweight world titlist Dina Thorslund (17-0, 7 Kos) defending against Niorkis Carreno (22-2, 17 Kos) of Venezuela on Saturday April 9, at Holstebro, Denmark. Probellum.com will be showing the fight.
Thorslund dropped down a weight division when she saw the bulk of attention being heaped on the 118-pounders in the United Kingdom. She didn’t skip a beat in defeating two tough Mexican fighters back-to-back to win an defend the WBO title against Jasseth Noriega and Zulina Munoz.
Now the Danish fighter faces Venezuela’s hard-hitting Carreno who hasn’t had much luck fighting outside of her native country. But when you have a 90 percent knockout rate that means you always have a puncher’s chance to win.
Thorslund recently signed with Probellum and that should open doors to fights in the USA or Mexico.
Last week two Mexican fighters defended their respective world titles as Yamileth Mercado returned to defend the WBC super bantamweight world title and Yulihan Luna defended the WBC bantamweight world title. Both were victorious.
Mercado was last seen absorbing brutal punches from the powerful fists of Amanda Serrano in August 2021. For 10 rounds she was rocked and socked by the seven-division world champion, but she survived.
The super bantamweight champion had an easier time against Isis Vargas and walked away with a unanimous decision victory after 10 rounds in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Meanwhile, in Puebla, Mexico, WBC bantamweight titlist Luna was in a firefight with Mayeli Flores that saw the champion emerge with the victory. It wasn’t easy but Luna could find herself in a unification match with the other bantamweight world titlists such as WBO’s Thorslund, IBF’s Ebanie Bridges or WBC titlist Jamie Mitchell. Any of those would be a major clash.
Last week Savannah Marshall completed her part of the mission and knocked out Femke Hermans to retain the WBO middleweight title and now is free to meet Claressa Shields in a battle for undisputed middleweight status. It’s a normal thing for Shields who has accomplished the feat twice already at middleweight and super welterweight. But it’s Marshall’s first time entering undisputed domain.
Will it be too much pressure for the tall bomber?
Fighting immobile contenders is one thing, fighting an agile speedy technician like Shields will pose far different problems. But, as they say in the boxing game, it only takes one punch.
More Female Fight News
Aixa Adema (4-8-5) won by decision after six rounds versus Daniela Molina (2-8-3) on Saturday April 2. The flyweight fight took place at La Pampa.
On Wednesday April 6, welterweights Kate McLaren (0-0-1) and Pam McClelland (1-1) meet four rounds at Sydney. Also, featherweights Shanell Dargan (0-0) and Ashleigh Sims (0-0) meet four rounds.
Michaela Kotaskova (1-0) beat Katarina Vistica (1-20) by decision after four rounds on Saturday April 2. The welterweight bout was held in Vienna.
On Saturday April 9, super flyweights Daniela Asenjo (11-3-2) and Maribel Ramirez (13-9-2) meet 10 rounds for the WBA super flyweight world title at San Francisco.
Yohana Sarabia (8-0) beat Keren Batiz (7-4-1) by unanimous decision after six rounds on Saturday April 2. The featherweight contest was held in Barranquilla. Also, Maria Jose Ramos (2-0) knocked out Lira Huyke (3-3-1) in the third round of a featherweight match.
On Saturday April 9, bantamweights Dina Thorslund (17-0) and Niorkis Carreno (22-2) meet 10 rounds for the WBO world title at Holstebro.
Ivanka Ivanova (4-18-3) defeated Lotta Loikkanen (6-3) by decision after six rounds on Saturday April 2. The bantamweight contest took place at Juuka.
On Wednesday April 6, lightweights Emma Gongora (2-2) and Elsa Hemat (4-5-2) meet 10 rounds for a French vacant title at Marseille.
On Friday April 8, super welterweights Priscilla Peterle (4-0) and Marianne Ahlbourg (5-0) meet 10 rounds for the EBU title at Nord.
On Saturday April 9, lightweights Eve Debacker (2-1) and Fanny Gruzelle (0-2-1) meet six rounds at Calais.
Sarah Liegmann (3-0) knocked out Ladislava Holubova (0-6) in the first round on Saturday April 2. The super bantamweight bout was held at Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Lara Ochmann (7-1) defeated Anna Ganova (0-2) by decision after six rounds on Saturday April 2. The super bantamweight match was held at Sachsen-Anhalt.
On Saturday April 9, super lightweights Dilar Kisikyol (5-0) and Anna Lena (0-0) meet four rounds at Brandenburg.
On Saturday April 9, super featherweights Eva Hubmayer (3-1) and Nana Dokadze (2-12) meet six rounds at Nordrhein-Westfalen.
On Saturday April 9, super featherweights Sangeeta Birdi (1-3) and Neeta Pun (0-1) meet four rounds at Mangalore.
On Sunday April 10, super welterweights Tannu Dalal (0-0) and Anjali (1-1) meet four rounds at Gurgaon. Also, middleweights Neha Chahar (1-1) and Sandhya Kumar (0-0) meet four rounds.
Makoto Kikuchi (1-1) knocked out Ai Sugimoto (3-3) in the fifth round on Monday March 28. The super bantamweight fight was held at Tokyo.
Yamileth Mercado (19-3) won by unanimous decision after 10 rounds versus Isis Vargas (9-4) on Saturday April 2. The WBC super bantamweight world title fight was held at Chihuahua.
Yulihan Luna (23-3-1) defeated Mayeli Flores (8-1-1) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds on Saturday April 2. The WBC bantamweight world title match took place at Puebla.
On Friday April 8, flyweights Asley Gonzalez (13-2) and Jessica Rangel (4-14-1) meet eight rounds at Xalisco, Nayarit.
Joanna Mazurkiewicz (1-0) beat Panagiota Zervoydaki (0-1) by decision after four rounds on Saturday April 2. The featherweight bout took place at Ruda Slaska.
On Friday April 8, bantamweights Noxolo Makhanavu (7-2) and Melissa Miller (5-12-3) meet eight rounds at Mpumalanga.
On Saturday April 9, super featherweights Bukiwe Nonina (17-4-1) and Fatuma Yazidu (19-6-1) meet 10 rounds for the Africa title at Sun City.
On Sunday April 10, flyweights Thapelo Bokwe (0-0) and Emihle Ntunja (1-2) meet six rounds at Peddle.
Tania Alvarez (4-0) won by majority decision over Eva Cantos (3-4-1) after six rounds on Saturday April 2. The featherweight fight took place at Castellbisbal.
Ioana Fecioru (1-0) beat Kalina Nikolova (0-4) by knockout in the first round on Saturday April 2. The lightweight bout was held at Valencia.
Jorgelina Guanini (10-4-2) won by unanimous decision after eight rounds against Stevi Levy (5-1) on Friday April 1. The super bantamweight fight took place at Barcelona.
Mahjouba Oubtil (3-0) beat Anais Kisler (1-1) by decision after six rounds on Saturday April 2. The super lightweight bout was held at Windisch.
Thanchanok Phanan (11-2) beat Supansa Aimdee (2-9) by decision after six rounds on Sunday April 3. The featherweight fight was held at Pathum Thani. Also, minimumweight Sothita Sitthichai (3-0) beat Panumars Bupamalo (0-2) by decision after six rounds. Plus, minimumweight Irada Suparsakon (1-0) beat Tassana Paladsrichuay (4-7).
Katie Healy (4-0) defeated Gabrielle Mezei (11-28-5) by decision after six rounds on Sunday April 3. The featherweight fight took place at Yorkshire.
Savannah Marshall (12-0) knocked out Femke Hermans (12-4) in the third round on Saturday April 2. The WBO middleweight world title fight took place at Newcastle. Also, April Hunter (5-1) beat Ester Konecna (1-15-1) by decision after six rounds in a super welterweight bout; plus super welter Georgia O’Connor (2-0) beat Erica Alvarez (2-6); and super flyweight Chloe Watson (2-0) beat Gemma Ruegg (1-3).
Cheyenne O’Neill (0-0-1) and Vaida Masiokaite (2-16-5) fought to a draw after six rounds on Friday April 1. The super lightweight bout took place in Glasgow, Scotland.
On Saturday April 9, super featherweights Linzi Buczynskyj (2-0) and Jade Taylor (4-0) meet 10 rounds at Lancashire.
Summer Lynn (7-0) won by unanimous decision after six rounds versus Jaica Pavilus (2-5-1) on Saturday April 2. The welterweight fight was held in Pomona, California.
Danielle Bennett (4-1) knocked out Brittany Dukes (0-1) in the first round on Saturday April 2. The featherweight bout took place at Topeka, Kansas.
Haily Paison (2-2) defeated Julia Perez (0-1) by decision after four rounds on Friday April 1. The featherweight bout was held in Santa Ynez, California.
On Saturday April 9, flyweights Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1) and Marlen Esparza (11-1) meet 10 rounds for the WBA, WBC and Ring titles at San Antonio, Texas. DAZN will show live.
On Saturday April 9, super featherweights Mikaela Mayer (16-0) and Jennifer Han (18-4-1) meet 10 rounds for the WBO world title at Costa Mesa, California. ESPN will televise.
(Photo by Al Applerose)