Women’s Rankings Update: Mayer Moves to 4th at P4P, Esparza Champion at 112, More
Marlen Esparza has won the first-ever Ring flyweight belt after defeating Naoko Fujioka – Photo courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions
Another historic weekend in women’s boxing produced a series of changes in The Ring women’s rankings.
In the flyweight division, one of women’s boxing’s elite weight classes, a new Ring champion was crowned when Marlen Esparza defeated Naoko Fujioka in a bout between our #1 and #2 ranked fighters, respectively. The winner of the fight automatically received The Ring’s inaugural flyweight belt, a historic first.
Esparza, a Texas-born former Olympian, had to dig deep to outsmart the legendary Fujioka, one of Japan’s all-time greatest fighters who rolled back time to produce a great performance that the scorecards didn’t get right recognized. Fujioka’s performance was deemed good enough to keep her atop the division, now becoming the new No. 1 at 112 pounds.
“What a fight between Esparza and Fujioka,” said Beautiful Brawler’s Lupi Gutierrez-Beagle. “I thought Esparza and Fujioka were the same age. It was a battle, more so for Marlen.
Argentinian writer Yesica Palmetta took issue with the scorecards, which she (and most observers) said “were overdone. Marlen Esparza has done a great job, but Fujioka is admirable. Esparza won a close decision, but she still won.
Since everyone below Fujioka was also knocked down, Argentina’s longtime IBF title roster Leonela Yudica was chosen to take fifth place.
In the bantamweight division, a change made last week proved to be short-lived when Denmark’s Dina Thorslund defeated Niorkis Carreño to retain her WBO belt, once again proving herself worthy of the No. 1 spot. in his division. Thorslund gave up that spot last week to Mexico’s Yulihan Luna Avila, but is now back on top.
“Dina was aggressive and precise in the fight with Carreño,” Palmetta said. “Without a doubt, the level of his presentation and that of his opponent was superior to that of Yulihan (last week). It will only be a matter of time until the two face off in the ring,” said the writer, Rincon Rojo magazine’s editor-in-chief Irene Deserti, noting that “I also think Thorslund should go back to number one”.
Finally, Mikaela Mayer retained her Ring belt and two other trinkets in the junior lightweight division with a shutout of No. 5-ranked Jennifer Han. In another masterful performance, the California native returned to her home state to demolishing the former Texas-born Korean-American featherweight title roster. Han’s brave efforts were deemed strong enough by the panel to keep her at the very bottom of the top 5.
“Mikaela Mayer was masterful in the execution of her game,” said boxing historian Malissa Smith. “In Jennifer Han, she had a strong opponent with excellent skills, but was able to maintain her overall status thanks to her exceptional shot selection and footwork. Thanks to her years of hard work with coach Al Mitchell, she has become an elite boxer with few peers.I look forward to her next contests as she seeks to go unchallenged in the junior lightweight division.
Mayer’s pound-for-pound stock soars
After such a flawless performance from Mayer, the debate over whether she should be moved into the mythical pound-for-pound ratings began with some well-deserved glowing remarks.
“Mikaela Mayer should be high in the pound-for-pound rankings. I would put her at No. 4. Mayer beats everyone at 130 and 135, including Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano,” said Mark Jones, expressing a view that was later shared by many.
“Well done Marc. You said it all. And I agree,” Gutierrez-Beagle said. “I’m surprised she didn’t knock out Han, which shows how tough she is.”
Deserti agreed saying, “I like Mayer more and more and I feel like it won’t be long before she hits number one. I agree with the boys promoting her to number 4. I think she outclassed McCaskill, Cameron and Persoon in her last fights. She is becoming one of my favorites!”
A proposal was made to bring Esparza into the top 10 as a replacement for the virtually retired great Cecilia Braekhus, but the proposal was met with serious resistance and failed to gain enough traction.
“I just can’t rate Marlen Esparza pound for pound based on what I saw last Saturday,” said Michael Montero, host of Montero on Boxing. “All credit goes to Esparza, she’s the rightful flyweight champion, but not a P4P talent, in my opinion. The skill level just isn’t there. My suggestion would be to keep Braekhus at #10 for a little bit longer.
Others accepted, with different arguments.
“I don’t see Esparza as a pound-for-pound level fighter,” Jones said. “She defeated Fujioka, but it was a life-and-death struggle with a 46-year-old boxer who is well into the post-prime part of a fabulous career.”
On the other side of the debate, Smith praised Esparza’s performance saying that “Marlen Esparza has game, and even when she falters, her heart remains. I felt she won the fight through a mix of tenacity, good boxing and a strong desire to win. The scoreline, however, was very unfortunate, as the champion Fujioka deserved better.