Japanese university student and pro boxer Nanako Suzuki lights Hong Kong up with her good looks and right hooks
The 19-year-old is mobbed by adoring local fans and media as the popular boxer debuts in the city of her all-time favourite martial arts hero, Bruce Lee
There are no prizes for guessing what Japanese college fresher and professional boxer Nanako Suzuki had after her co-main event victory at DEF Promotion’s Road to Glory II on Saturday evening. After all, she was spotted with Cantonese egg waffles everywhere she went leading up to the fight.
But as the composed 19-year-old (professional record: 2 wins, 0 losses) picks away at some ‘gai dan zai’ or neatly slurps up a bowl of local beef tendon noodles at the weigh-ins ahead of her first overseas bout, local media and fans are taking photos and documenting her every move.
“I was quite surprised at how the media focused on me,” said Suzuki, who did her native Watanabe Gym proud by comfortably dispatching Hong Kong pro debutant Rice Wong Ka-yan (0-1) after Wong’s corner threw in the towel in the fourth round at Southorn Stadium. “Japan has a lot of boxers so being a new boxer doesn’t get you much attention.”
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Suzuki’s youthful looks seemed to either melt or perplex local boxing fans; could this unassuming, ‘beautiful teen’ as several media outlets called her, really step into a ring and trade punches?
“I want to prove my boxing skills, not just appearance or young age,” said Suzuki, whose daily routine usually consists of a morning run, university lectures in the afternoon, and boxing training until the evening. “I want to win Hong Kong fans over with my performance regardless of whether I’m from Japan or Hong Kong.”
Pre-fight activities included sampling local delicacies, ferrying across Victoria Harbour, and visiting the legendary Bruce Lee statue along the Avenue of Stars.
“I’m a Bruce Lee fan and I read through some of his wise sayings before my fights,” said Suzuki, whose boxing shorts have the infamous Enter the Dragon (1973) line ‘Don’t think, feel’ and a mini dragon etched on to them.
“I also like ‘be water’ – don’t let [your opponent] figure you out. Be fluid,” she added.
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In fact, Suzuki’s love for martial arts began at age four – when she started karate lessons – before it transcended into a passion for the stand-up game.
“I was trying to improve my karate punches in second year of high school,” she recalled. “I used boxing to help with it but started to fall in love with it more [than karate]. It’s a lot of technical skills and since I started late, it was difficult to begin with, but I was satisfied with the improvements and I have found switching to boxing is more enjoyable.”
Despite finding herself on the posters of overseas promotions so early on in her professional career, Suzuki remained calm and confident throughout the miscellaneous pre- and post-fight duties and hopes to do so for the rest of her promising career.
“It’s just my poker face – I may have nerves inside but I’m just not showing them,” she said, smiling. “Boxing is for everybody, at any age, and if you want to be one, go for it.”
And judging by the screams and cheers she received after TKO-ing her Hong Kong opponent on the weekend, it is safe to say Suzuki will be returning to her favourite hunting ground soon enough.