Naoko Fujioka’s second half adjustment won the fight in successful American debut
Japanese WBA flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7ko) is putting the title on the line against tough Mexican fighter Sulem Urbina (12-1, 2ko). This fight will be a fan-friendly fight given the aggressive style of the champion and the never-say-die attitude of the challenger.
Urbina will be coming into this fight with a chip on her shoulder. Her only defeat came at the hands of current WBC champion Marlen Esparza, and she has been hungry to avenge that defeat. However, she knows the focus has to be on the WBA champion. During an interview with 3kingsboxing, Urbina made it clear that fans will see a more ferocious fighter, and that if team Fujioka thinks she is easy work, they are in for a surprise.
The ageless, 45-year-old Fujioka comes into this fight with a lot of experience, being a five-divisional champion, competing since 2009. She is viewed as the favorite in this bout and is making her first appearance in the United States. The WBA champion has not lost a fight since challenging then-WBC flyweight champion Yessica Chavez in October 2016. Furthermore, she bounced back immediately by winning the vacant WBA title by knocking out Isabel Millan in March 2017.
THE CHALLENGER COUNTERPUNCHING WAS A PROBLEM
Sulem Urbina kept her word, coming out looking ferocious with hard left and right hook-counters. She was fighting in close and going to the body while landing good overhand rights. She was actively taking advantage of the champion coming forward and keeping her head on the centerline. Fujioka would charge back by landing hard uppercuts to the body and was beginning to land the jab while maintaining a sturdy body attack.
THE CHAMPION MADE THE ADJUSTMENT
As the fight would continue, the champion used her superior footwork to confuse the challenger. She slid side to side, landing the jab and straight hand. Fujioka applied effective aggression with a continued body assault, landing left and right hooks. Urbina was beginning to slow down. However, she still connected with hard right and left hook-counter punches that would halt the champion’s momentum.
Fujioka’s experience came into play going into the championship rounds. She was landing the jab and hard right hook-counters. Her body attack was on full display and paying dividends, slowing down her opponent. However, Urbina would not give up. She started moving side to side, landing the harder counter-punches that pushed the champion back at times.
Next, both women decided to fight in a phonebooth. The busier champion was landing good combinations and the challenger was landing those counter hooks. When the final bell sounded, it was going to be interesting to see which style the judges would favor.
One judge scored it a draw (95-95). However, the other two judges saw it 99-91 and 96-94 in favor of Naoko Fujioka. This author has no idea what fight the judge was watching that dropped a disrespectful scorecard of 99-91. 3kingboxing scored it 96-94 for Fujioka. Despite the right fighter winning, it is a shame these types of scorecards continue to plague the sport.
By: Garrisson Bland