Golden Boy Promotions fighter Marlen Esparza became the unified WBC, WBC and Ring Magazine flyweight champion in a thrilling ten round bout against Naoko Fujioka on April 9, 2022 in her home state of Texas in a special attraction women’s championship fight.
Esparza, (12-1, 1KO) was interviewed prior to her win, (https://www.uppercutmagazine.com/marlen-esparza-vs-naoko-fujioka) and was generous enough to provide a follow-up interview.
Ever the champion and ever the competitor, even with the win,Esparza saw some things during the fight that she would still like to work on.
The Nike sponsored athlete has accomplished much, and has much more ahead of her in the sport of women’s boxing.
Raymundo Dioses: First off, congratulations. That was an awesome performance, really from both of you. I think it should get some Fight of the Year consideration, or honorable mention. It was a great fight. Now that it has been a few weeks, how do you feel?
Esparza: I feel great. My team feels great. My coach, James Cooper; we all feel great. The performance was solidified not only to myself but to my team, and I think to everybody else, that I am who I say I am. Not only because she was an amazing fighter and it was an amazing fight, and a difficult fight. It was more of the fact that she was the style that I think I needed to kind of prove that I am an all-around fighter. All the way from Sulem (Urbina), who they said hit hard and was on her way up, to get to (Ibeth) Zamora, who was known for crazy volume, ‘La Roca’, I believe I made her look like pebbles; I was dropped in the first round, I made a mistake and got cocky. You will never see that again… After that I fought Ortiz, who had just lost to Seniesa (Estrada).
All of those girls had about 30 fights, and that was more of a patient fight. She was more of a counter puncher. And then you have somebody like Fujioka who goes forward and is really going to give you that type of grueling fight. I had to change my styles with every single one of those fights. With ‘La Roca’ I really had to box. With Ortiz, I had to be patient, and counter a counter puncher. I had to be extremely slick with Fujioka because she can only go forward, and everybody knows that yes I can box, so I wanted to go forward, because I know she cannot box. So we made that plan, me and my trainer James; he made the plan, and that was the execution. With that fight being so difficult, and (Fujioka) being so decorated, I could feel it in there. She was a champion, I am a champion. From the outside, the commentator’s were saying that I was making it harder than it needed to be, and that was absolutely not the truth. If I would have blocks, I felt like that would have made it a lot harder.
We had to do a lot of different things that people did not see that we planned for. We made sure that we jammed her, that we turned her, that I rolled under, that I slipped, that I freeze fainted her, then I went forward, then I boxed. Sometimes I used my jab, and sometimes I did not. That was on purpose. Pushing her back as she does not know how to box, being aggressive, and making it a little bit dirty, was 100% the plan. That is what made the fight so great.
Raymundo Dioses: It sounds like you and your team did have a sound game plan. Fujioka came out ready to go. So it was good that you were ready to go as well. You want to be careful with a champion, even though she had age on you, you did not want to give her any opportunity from round one. Have you watched the replay yet?
Esparza: I have. As soon as I fight, I do not go out or anything. We literally do analysis of the fight, that night of the fight. My coach, James Cooper, make sense. He explained that because everything is so fresh and I can remember everything that just happened, and he was there watching it, we can go over what went wrong, or why this happened, or what happened here. We will review fights the night of, when it is still fresh and I can answer all of his questions, and he can answer on his end. It is a lot easier to move forward, and to progress and concentrate on those things, because they are discussed right then and there when it is still fresh. He (Cooper) is a genius, I am not going to lie. He told me during camp; he knows how to get to your mentality, and into the psyche. He was telling me over and over, all throughout the camp, she (Fujioka) is not going to stop. Itsnot going to stop. So when I would be sparring, or working, or mitts, anytime I would try to bounce back or take a little breather, or shut off for a half of the second, James would say that he cannot afford to do that. He would even text me at 10:00 at night or 6:00 in the morning and write, she is not going to stop. And then when I was in there, and then watching it, going over the tape, it was exactly that. I feel like I did do the right things at the right time, as far as not letting her get comfortable. She did not know if I was going to move forward or move backward, or jam, or freeze faint, she did not know. I did not let her catch her rhythm. There are things to be fixed still, yet we were happy with it, and I was happy with it after watching it.
Raymundo Dioses: What do you think about the 100-90scorecard. People were talking about that, although people agree with your win.
Esparza: Well, one, I feel like they got a little bit too upset about it. I understand that there are three scorecards, and one that people did not agree with. I cannot understand why they would disagree, yet I think they went too far with it. It was like okay, there is one scorecard you did not agree with? It was not that serious, and I would say that in all honesty, I would give her two rounds tops. The first round, they gave it to her, which I did not get. I got hit with a right hand, but I got hit with that right hand because I had just hit her with the right hand and she moved back, so I went in thinking that I had her hurt, and I ended up getting hit, yet I was already rolling under, and I did not stumble. Then after that, I spinned her, and then hit her again. So besides that, I think maybe the fifth or sixth round, one of those rounds for sure, she was throwing, going for volume, yet there is no accuracy. When I was in there I was thinking that it does not count as she was not landing or hitting me on my back or sides, but my coach said it did not look good because it looked like she was beating me and that I was just letting her throw stuff. I would say all in all I do not agree with that. I think at the most she won two rounds, yet I would not say it was a shut out. She was bringing it.
Raymundo Dioses: I do not know if you recall from when we last talked, that I did not bring up Seniesa Estrada before the Fujioka fight. That was on purpose because I think when you have a fight coming up, why mention another fighter. So now here we are. I do want to know what you want next just like everyone else, yet at the same time it does not have to be Estrada. The last time we talked we talked about other fighters. So now that you are in this prime position as a unified champion, what do you want? It does not have to be a name, it could be what your next move is. What does the unified champion want next?
Esparza: I want to be undisputed. If Seniesa was in my weight class, then she would be someone that I would mention right off the back. She is 105 pounder. That fight will 100% happen, and that will be a whole thing because to me, I feel like the whole boxing world, and unless you really know boxing, that she is not in my weight class. So if you do not hold any belts that I want, then really it is a grudge match. Grudge match means catch weights, and that is a whole different situation. Boxing is about being a champion. Because she is not in my weight class, right now I cannot do much about that. What I do want is to be undisputed, quickly, and then see what is next.