Yes it is only January, but Jessica Nery Plata of Mexico won a hotly contested unanimous decision over Kim Clavel last night to unify the WBC and WBA titles at light flyweight in what could be the women’s fight of the year. Plata had to go into Clavel’s backyard winning at the Place Bell in Montreal, Canada. Ringside and in Clavel’s corner during introductions was former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Lucian Bute whom this author used to be a massive fan of. Plata and Clavel from the opening bell traded punches in combination in an intense pace that maintained all throughout the bout. Plata won via scores of 97-93 twice from judges Guy Girard and Nathan Palmer with judge John Madfis seeing the fight closer at 96-94. The fight commentary team from the ESPN+ broadcast felt the match was close and even possibly in favor of Clavel. While not keeping a scorecard myself, the fight appeared to favor Plata with consistent body work and heavy blows to the head.
Clavel competed in a style reminiscent of Katie Taylor and Plata was move of a plodding consistent force. Clavel threw combinations in threes often attacking with a jab, cross, and hook attack. Plata would dig left hooks and sweeping rights to the body and would place a hard right hand down the middle. Clavel showed the effects of grueling fight with bruising around her eyes and blood coming from her nose while Plata appeared largely unscathed. With the fight seeming to hang in the balance, Plata sealed the fight in the final round with constant pressure and appeared to have Clavel hurt near the end of the round. An overeager Plata fired one last right hand well after the bell and stunned Clavel but the two still showed great sportsmanship despite the late shot. Both fighters competed at a high level displaying skill, grit and conditioning. Clavel rises to 29-2 (3) and Clavel falls to 16-1 (3).
A rematch is a very interesting fight as the landscape of the division is still wide open. With the victory, Plata now holds two of the four main sanctioning body titles with the other two recently vacated by Yokasta Valle of Costa Rica. Valle a two division unified titlist unified two titles at minimum weight and moved up to light flyweight and defeated unified champion Evelin Nazarena Bermudez. What makes those accomplishments more impressive is the fact that Valle did this in the span of September 2022 and November 2022 while competing four times last year after a three fight 2021. Valle has decided the stay at her original weight class and face Seniesa Estrada to fully unify at 105 pounds. It will be interesting to see what the sanctioning bodies and promotional companies do in the wake of the vacant belts. Will there a push to unify or develop new champions. Either way, all roads lead to Plata with last night’s victory.
All of this continues the great strides that women’s boxing has made in the last couple of years. Streaming services like ESPN+ and DAZN with promotional companies like Top Rank and Match Room have prioritized women’s boxing. In many ways the female competitors are setting the example that their male counterparts have been missing in the last few years. The women’s divisions have seen a surge in unification fights and other champion versus champion match ups. In addition to these matches being made, the women’s title fights have often been action packed contests that have lived up to the billings. Men’s boxing is being plagued by the best not facing the best and the top fighters making lists of excuses not to meet in the ring. Fans have been demanding more of fighters like Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence to get in the ring and fight it out and they face lesser opponents while teasing the public. If Plata and Clavel started the year with these fireworks we fans can only hope the rest of 2023 can follow this lead.