Nhi falls short in her quest to become Việt Nam's first unified champion

September, 09/2022 - 17:08
However, a unification bout against Yokasta 'Yoka' Valle, a Costa Rican native holding the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world champion belt, would be a much sterner test.
ON THE MONEY: Yokasta 'Yoka' Valle lands a straight right hand on Nguyễn Thị Thu Nhi in their strawweight unification bout in Costa Rica on Friday (Việt Nam time). Photo courtesy of Lateja

Seán Nolan

Nguyễn Thị Thu Nhi came up short in a strawweight unification bout against Yokasta 'Yoka' Valle in Costa Rica on Friday morning.

As reigning 105 pound World Boxing Organization (WBO) champion, Nhi entered the ring with the Vietnamese flag in front of her and the WBO belt above her.

The Khmer boxer, 25, won Việt Nam's first and only WBO boxing title when she beat Etsuko Tada of Japan in October 2021 in South Korea.

Before that, she defeated Kanyarat Yoohanngoh from Thailand to set up the fight with Tada for the belt.

However, a unification bout against Yokasta 'Yoka' Valle, a Costa Rican native holding the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world champion belt, would be a much sterner test.

Yoka, 30, came into the fight on a 12-fight win streak that saw her rise fifth in the world, with a professional record of 25 wins, nine knockouts and two losses.

Yoka promised a dominant performance in front of her hometown crowd in the Ciudad Deportiva Heiner Ugalde in San José, and a dominant performance was delivered.

While Nhi stayed in the fight until the very end, she was soundly beaten as the Costa Rican boxer put in one of the best performances of her glittering career to date.

Throughout the fight, Nhi took damage from all angles as Yoka overwhelmed her through sheer volume and accuracy, peppering her with strikes that Nhi struggled to answer.

Entering the final round, Nhi knew that the writing was on the wall and tried to up the tempo, dancing on her toes and swinging for the fences, but Yoka weathered the storm well, countering just enough to keep Nhi at bay.

The An Giang native ruefully embraced the Costa Rican after the final bell before Yoka lapped up the raucous applause of the thousands of fans who had come to see their hero.

At the end of ten rounds, all three judges, Julio Alvarado, Samuel Nieto and Eddie Hernandez, scored the bout 100-90 to Yoka.

This latest victory takes Yoka's professional record to 26-2 with nine knockouts, while Nhi suffers her first defeat as a professional, slipping to 5-1 (1 KOs).

"I feel too happy, I dedicate this fight to all my people and all the kids in Costa Rica," said Valle. "These two titles are staying in Costa Rica. We are going for the other two titles now," said the champion.

This was Yoka's sixth IBF title defence. With the addition of the WBO belt to her collection, she plans to win the other belts in the division, held by Seniesa Estrada and Christina Rupprecht, to become the undisputed 105 pound champion. — VNS

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