Vietnamese star boxer Nguyen Thi Thu Nhi made history on Saturday after winning the first-ever World Boxing Organization (WBO) world title for Vietnam. Nguyen defeated Japanese boxer Etsuko Tada after a neck-and-neck 10 rounds of the women's mini-flyweight title fight held in Ansan, South Korea.
Considered an underdog to her 40-year-old opponent, Nguyen, 25, started off the game with cautious strategy, carefully studying her opponent before making a strike. Nguyen is considerably shorter in height and arm span compared to Tada.
Sawaeng Thaweekoon, the main referee of the match, told local media that Nguyen had more effective attacks and also controlled the match well. "If Nhi can maintain her current fighting style, she would be champion for a long time," he said.
Prior to Saturday’s historic win, Nguyen already had four titles under her belt, including her victory against Thailand’s Kanyarat Yoohanngoh last year, which earned her the WBO Asia-Pacific belt and a ticket to the WBO world championship.
Japanese boxer Tada, meanwhile, was the reigning WBO champion who had 26 fights, with 20 wins, three draws and three losses.
"This is a meaningful victory, to become the first female boxer in Vietnam to win a WBO World belt. I didn’t expect that I’d come this far. I have realized my dream after putting all of my passion and strength into this fight as a Vietnamese citizen. This is a victory for the Vietnamese martial arts scene,” Nguyen told VnExpress. With her victory, Nguyen has become the eighth mini-flyweight champion in WBO history.
Born in An Giang province, Nguyen moved to Ho Chi Minh City with her grandmother to help her family back home. She sold lottery tickets and worked at a local restaurant. It was at the age of 14 when she fell in love with martial arts and then boxing. Her official debut in the right was in 2015, when she fought at a semi-professional boxing competition. Her career prospered with a surprising victory over the world-famous Filipino boxer Gretchen Abaniel in 2018.
Immediately after, she received training from the Korean-owned Cocky Buffalo Club, and was further groomed as professional boxer.
‘Ready for a rematch’
Saturday’s match saw all three judges give the same score — 96-94 — in favor of the Vietnamese boxer. However, Masata Yamashita, the chairman of Japan Professional Boxing Association tried to rally against the result. A formal complaint was said to have already been sent to the World Boxing Organization.
"I have contacted the JBC (Japan Boxing Commission) immediately after the match. We will protest this decision," Yamashita said, as reported by Japanese news site daily.co.jp.
While the result cannot be changed anymore, according to Thaweekoon, Nguyen said she is willing to do a rematch if Tada’s camp demands it.
"Tada is the toughest opponent that I have ever faced. If she doesn't agree with the result, she can challenge me as I did with her. I'm always ready to get a rematch," Nguyen said.
Knowing her win didn’t come easy and with the pride she’s brought for her country, Nguyen is firm to defend her title should a rematch be decided by the WBO.