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Japan's boxing mom could outdo Foreman

JAPANESE housewife Kazumi Izaki dutifully prepares lunch boxes for her family at the crack of dawn each morning before hitting the gym to take on grown men.

Izaki, who became Japan's oldest professional boxer last year, could soon overtake legendary heavyweight George Foreman by winning a world title at the age of 46.

Unlike Foreman, however, Izaki swaps her boxing gloves for an apron at least twice a day, also cooking dinner for her husband and daughters, aged 22 and 15, before evening training.

"I cook dinner every night and then go to the gym about eight," Izaki said.

"I get up at 5:45 to make the lunch boxes and go to bed about 2:30 in the morning.

"I love cooking. I baked a cake before I came to the gym today. I'm doing grilled mackerel with grated radish tonight. I do try to grab a daytime snooze sometimes though."

Izaki's future has hung in the balance since earlier this year when the World Boxing Council (WBC) ruled she was too old to fight Mexican Ana Maria Torres, 29, for the world superflyweight (up to 52.1 kilograms) crown.

"It was a real shock," said Izaki on the balcony of a Tokyo gym.

"There were problems over my age when I turned pro last year but we had cleared them so I couldn't believe it."

WBC officials pulled the plug on the February 28 fight on health grounds, fearing she could get hurt by the hard-punching Mexican.

Izaki's managers sent the WBC a video demonstrating she had a solid chin and have since been scrambling to get the bout sanctioned.

"I'm not scared of Torres," said a defiant Izaki, shaking her frizzy hair.

"The promoters failed to get the venue changed to Texas so now we're hoping for June or July in Mexico. It's annoying me but I won't give up on a world title. I want Torres' belt."

Sat and sulked

The Yokohama-based Izaki, a former aerobics instructor, had been horrified at having to punch someone when she laced up her first pair of gloves 11 years ago, refusing to climb into the ring to spar.

"I just sat in the corner of the room and sulked for 30 minutes," she said with a giggle.

"I don't like hitting people and I couldn't do it.

"But this guy was waiting patiently in the ring for me so I tried it. I spar with men - the first time I hit a woman I left the ring in tears."

Izaki, who has won over half of her 16 fights, added: "I don't mind being hit so much, but I still don't like hitting people. That wasn't the point of boxing for me."

Taping her hands beneath black-and-white photographs of Muhammad Ali at the height of his powers, Izaki is aware of the dangers involved, and has the scars to prove it.

"I've broken my nose in three places and broken a bone under my eye socket once," she smiled.

"All in sparring against men. It doesn't hurt all that much. Injuries are part of boxing," Izaki said.

"Boxing is the ultimate test. It's about pure body strength. You have no weapons or tools.

"When you get into the ring it's just you. You have to have supreme faith in yourself."

If Izaki beats the red tape and Torres, she will surpass Foreman, who was 45 when he regained the world heavyweight crown in 1994.

Izaki, who lists Puerto Rican world welterweight champion Miguel Cotto as her favorite boxer, has no plans to quit before possibly outdoing Foreman.

"I don't think about my age," she insisted.

"Once the gong rings all I can hear is my trainer - and my kids yelling 'Go on, Mom!' As long as my body works I'll carry on."


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