Fujioka On Esparza: “I Wanted To Fight The Strongest Opponent”

Naoko Fujioka and Marlen Esparza to Battle for Flyweight Unification

Naoko Fujioka stands ready for Marlen Esparza
Naoko Fujioka (left), Marlen Esparza

Naoko Fujioka To Face Marlen Esparza in a Flyweight Unification Fight on April 9

For years, the top ladies in the sport have shown the willingness to face each other. Female world champion boxers have not been hesitant to engage in unification matches. Another example of this will happen on April 9 as Female WBA flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7 KOs) faces WBC 112 pound champ Marlen Esparza (11-1, 1 KO) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The fight will happen on the undercard of Ryan Garcia’s comeback fight with Emmanuel Tagoe.


Fujioka v Esparza was announced via an online press conference in Fujioka’s home country of Japan. According to the Japanese source, Hochi News, the WBA champ was introspective. At age 46, the oldest world champion understands that time is ticking on the opportunity to become a unified champion.

(Translated from Japanese) “I have little time left for myself. I want to fight a strong match, one match at a time. I’m happy because I wanted to fight the strongest opponent.

Texas is the opponent’s hometown. I don’t think I can win without it. If I turn it over, it’s big. I want to fight a match the referee will stop.”


The warrior from Osaki, Miyagi, Japan is a modern-day marvel. She turned pro in 2009 at the late age of 34. Winning world titles 105, 108, 112, 115, and 118 pounds, her accomplishments rank up with anyone over the past decade. The upcoming fight with Esparza is her second fight in the United States. Her first bout in the States took place in her last outing as she rallied to defend the WBA belt over Sulem Urbina in July of 2021.

Fujioka now faces Esparza, who has been in the spotlight going back to her amateur days when she was a 2012 Olympian. Professionally, 2021 was a breakout year for the 32-year-old. In June of that year, the product of Houston, Texas defeated Ibeth Zamora Silva to win the WBC title. She defended the title for the first time by outclassing Anabel Ortiz in December 2021.


This upcoming unification match is a clash of styles. Fujioka is like an energizer bunny in the ring, throwing punches in bunches with a seemingly endless gas tank. Esparza has shown the capability of boxing on the outside or fighting on the front foot. Whoever can employ their style and neutralize the opponent could be the deciding factor. The ingredients are there for an exciting battle likely to go the distance.

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By: Michael Wilson Jr.

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About Mike W.1962 Articles
Mike is the host of boxing podcast "Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report" and is a Senior Writer for 3kingsboxing.com.