Photos: Joe Koizumi
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Pretty little Japanese girl Tsunami Tenkai (14-3, 5 KOs), 114, captured the WBA female super-flyweight belt as she kept on stalking defending champ Zhang Xi Yan (7-2-1, 2 KOs), 113.75, a Chinese southpaw, and overcame her early deficit on points to earn a split decision over ten heats on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. It was such a hairline verdict as either could have been the winner, as scored: Namchul Park (Korea) 97-95, Wansoo Yuh (Korea) 98-92, both for the challenger, and Arkom Wannasit (Thailand) 96-95 for Zhang. The referee was Silvestre Abainza (Philippines). It was the very first WBA female world title bout ever held in Japan, a good market for smaller divisions.
Regardless of the debatable decision, it was a very good contest where the skillful footworker (Zhang) and the non-stop puncher (Tenkai) displayed all they had. It might become a beginning of solving our discrimination against the women’s boxing.
From the start Zhang made good use of her speed in punching and moving side-to-side, displaying sharp combinations to the cautious challenger. The braided-haired Chinese, 28, was in command in the first three rounds, as the short-haired Japanese, four years her junior, didn’t start her engine yet. The fourth saw Tenkai, ex-IFBA bantam ruler, recklessly began boring in and connected with solid left hooks to the lefty champ’s cheek.
Making full use of her feet, Zhang dominated the fifth with versatile combinations upstairs and downstairs, while Tenkai missed more powerful but less accurate combos.
The cute Japanese girl accelerated her attack from the sixth onward and kept stalking the elusive champ to occasionally score with her trademark left hooks. Zhang rode a bicycle to avert mixing up with the aggressive and pugnacious challenger, who attempted to work the body and stop the champ’s still shifty footwork.
Zhang kept retreating to keep her distance, but Tenkai continually went forward to throw solid combinations in round seven and eight. The champ, still more technically excellent, often threw her busy punches without hitting with her knuckle part, while the challenger showed her abundant stamina and kept throwing solid shots to the face and belly.
Aware of the contest being very close, Tenkai desperately tried to come close to the cagey champ who kept moving and attempted to counter the willing mixer. The Japanese seemed to dominate the last two sessions, which might or might not offset her early deficits on the scores.
The jubilant winner and the first WBA female champ Tenkai cried for joy, and said, “I’m very happy to show my power. I wish to express my whole-hearted thanks to my supporters.”
The crestfallen ex-champ Zhang and her manager Philippe Fondu strongly claimed her victory at the press conference. “We believe we won. We complain of the discrepancy of the scores between 97-95 for Zhang and 92-98 for Tenkai. We’ll immediately appeal to the WBA to demand a direct rematch.” The interview consisted of Fondu’s angry expression against the official verdict rather than Zhang’s post-fight comment.
Should their rematch be such an exciting and hard-fought confrontation, we love to see them fight again soon. Zhang was a good champ with speed and skills, and Tenkai, just as reported, was a game and gallant puncher. We enjoyed a good fight over Fondu’s disgustful claim.