The 46-year-old housewife who wants to make boxing history

Kazumi Izaki is set to be the world's oldest champion – if she's allowed to fight

For most of the day, Kazumi Izaki's routine is the same as any Tokyo housewife's: she rises at 5:45, makes her daughter's packed lunch, shops, cooks and cleans. Then her husband comes home in the evening and the willowy housewife heads for the local boxing ring to spar for a world title shot.

That in itself makes her a curiosity in the conservative suburb where she lives. But if she pulls it off and beats her Mexican opponent Ana Maria Torres, she'll make history by becoming the oldest boxing title holder on the planet.

The odds are long. At 46, Izaki is 17 years older than her famously tough opponent and fighting not just age but officialdom. The World Boxing Council (WBC) called off a scheduled bout for the world super flyweight title between the two in February after expressing concerns about Izaki's ability to withstand a pounding in the ring.

But the 50kg frizzy-haired flyweight calls those fears misplaced, if well-meaning. "It's natural that they worry about the age difference because it could be dangerous," she says after a punishing two-hour evening workout. "But I've been doing this for years and I'm strong. I'm going to bring home that belt. I'm confident, I'm not afraid."

Susumu Hanagata, her trainer, says Izaki, Japan's oldest professional boxer, was "devastated" by the cancellation, but is training harder than ever. "She has the tough spirit of a real fighter."

Izaki cooks dinner every night for her family before heading for the gym in Yokohama for two hours and spars with men half her age. Since starting to box competitively, she trains as hard as anyone and expects no quarter, says Hanagata. She has broken her eye-socket and her nose – three times – during sparring. Izaki says the injuries have made her tough. "I don't mind getting hit. It's natural in this sport."

Izaki's camp is battling with the WBC to reverse its ban and allow the fight to go ahead in Mexico this summer. But the swine-flu outbreak has postponed the decision. In the meantime, she trains to beat a 15-year-old record held by the legendary George Foreman, who retook the world heavyweight title in 1994, aged 45.

A mother of two girls aged 15 and 22, Izaki began boxercising to get fit over a decade ago. she had her debut fight in 2001. "I wanted to try it once, and when I saw everyone supporting me I became addicted." Japanese commentators say despite her skinny frame, she has a powerful left hook. But there are concerns she may lack the instinct to put an opponent down. The ex-aerobics instructor claims that despite 15 pro fights, she is not aggressive, hates hitting people and has none of the troubled background of many boxers. An early session in the ring ended when she burst into tears after hitting a sparring partner in the face. "I had one fight in school but I didn't like to fight. For me, boxing is as much about defending yourself as attacking."

She says her initially-shocked family is now right behind her and her daughters are at the ringside. "My husband was wary, not because he was afraid of me being hurt but because he thought I was too gentle for this sport. Now he's the person who understands me best."

Izaki claims her body is in its best shape ever after years of running and workouts six times a week. "But I've noticed myself getting a little short of memory and my hearing has got weaker," she laughs. "I don't know if that's because of the boxing or not though; maybe it's just age."

Hanagata, a world champion in the 1970s who fought 65 pro fights, admits he was repulsed at first by the sight of women in the ring. "When I was fighting it wasn't a sport for women. I hate to watch them getting hit in the face, and blood pouring from their nose or mouths. It's just not pleasant. But times have changed," he says, adding with a laugh: "And if she wasn't a woman you wouldn't be here writing about her."

He remembers Izaki as "very ordinary" when she first began visiting the gym. "She looked like any other housewife, but she worked very hard. Now I think she is probably stronger than me. I wouldn't like to go up against her."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'