Fujioka Outlasts Juarez In Fight of the Year Candidate

By Jake Donovan

Naoka Fujioka spent every minute of every round of her bout with Mariana 'La Barby' Juarez as if her career depended on a win. The strategy paid off in spades for the 39-year old, who scored a split decision in a 10-round war in  Saturday evening at Auditorio Municipal in Naucalpan, Mexico.

Scores were 98-93 and 97-93 in favor of Fujioka, and 96-94 for Juarez on the lone dissenting card. 

The action never let up at any point, the beauty of women's boxing being fought at two-minute rounds. Juarez boasts stamina for days and has no problem throwing punches every second of the fight.

Where the willing brawler ran into problems was with Fujioka showing no fear in fighting outside of her native Japan for just the second time in her career. Her lone other road trip came in her last fight, a close decision loss to Susi Kentikian last November in Germany. 

There would be no leaving anything to chance on this occasion, although Fujioka received the wake-up call she needed in order to prevail. 

Whereas many in the industry are sour on the World Boxing Council (WBC) insisting on open scoring for its sanctioned bouts around the world (except for the United States, where the practice is banned), it worked to the visiting contender's advantage. Open scoring through four rounds revealed that Juarez was ahead 39-37 on two cards, while Fujioka was up by the same score in the eyes of the third judge. 

With those scores in mind, it was agreed upon that Fujioka dominated the final six rounds. From a scoreboard perspective that might be the case, but Juarez had her say on nearly every exchange, never shy about digging in and getting her hands dirty no matter how much pressure was applied by Fujioka. 

In the end, the judges clearly favored the aggressor, Fujioka who moves to 13-1 (6KOs). The 35-year old Juarez - a mother whose camera-friendly looks can lead to a lucrative modeling career anytime she'd opt to go that route full-time - sees a four-fight win streak come to an end as she falls to 40-8-3 (17KOs). 

The fact that the decision went against the house fighter didn't deter the crowd's vibe one bit. Whether or not the scores were fair in their eyes, the paying patrons were treated to what is easily one of the best fights of 2015. 

That's often good enough, regardless of who prevails in the end. 

In the chief support, Julio Ceja retained his place among the top bantamweights in the world, though forced to go to the scorecards for just the fourth time in his career. The free-swinging contender was extended the 10 round distance by Oscar Blanquet, though prevailing by unanimous decision.

No scores were announced in the end, but Blanquet (32-10-1, 23KOs) gains a moral victory and bravery points merely for the amount of punishment he absorbed over the course of the evening. Ceja had him out on several occasions, but the 22-year old knockout artist was unable to land that final blow to end matters.

Instead, he settles for his fifth straight win in advancing to 29-1 (26KOs). The lone loss of his career came in his May '13 bantamweight title bid, dropping a competitive decision to Jamie McDonnell on the road in England. 

It's very possible that Ceja finds himself back on the road for a second crack at alphabet glory. Plans call for a run at unbeaten bantamweight titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka. Such a fight likely to take place in Japan unless Ceja's promoters, Promociones del Pueblo can put up the type of money to get Yamanaka to travel to Mexico. 

Both bouts on Saturday's show aired live on Televisa. 

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by nycsmooth on 03-15-2015

This wad eadily a UD...Judge Lfonso Zamora took 2 many shot 40 years ago...he needs 2b evaluated...Juare thought dhe wad taking the ezy bout vs 40+ Fujioka...aplarent now whe she turned down Zulina Munoz...she's finished a a draw...age, 2 many…

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