Marlen Esparza "nervous" but ready for experienced champion Fujioka

Marlen Esparza still doesn't have a boxing nickname, but she may have to adopt 'Straight Shooter.'

The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist returns to the squared circle on Saturday as she puts her WBC flyweight title on the line against WBA champion Naoko Fujioka at Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, where the vacant Ring Magazine 112-pound world title will also be on the line. The card will also feature the long-awaited return of rising lightweight star Ryan Garcia, who takes on Ghana's Emmanuel Tagoe.

Esparza has never been one to mince words, and this was no exception. The 32-year-old admitted that she is "nervous" coming into her title unification against Fujioka.

"I'm good to go, but at the same time I like to be realistic. I'm a straight shooter. I feel good, and training camp has been great, and the gameplan has been 1,000 percent. I couldn't expect it to be better, but yeah—it's a big deal. [Boxing] has been my whole life. I can't lie about that."

When asked if her blunt honesty is a major strength leading into a bout of this magnitude, Esparza (11-1, 1 KO), 32, of Los Angeles, warned the masses not to judge her sincerity for infirmity.

"Yeah. Yeah. I know what I can do, and I know what I can't do. I know what I'm capable of, and I know what I'm [striving for]. I know my limitations, and I know what's out of balance.

"But yeah, I'm nervous; I'm afraid; I'm a lot of things, but I'm very aware of what the possibilities are. It's a bit dangerous."

Esparza also provided viewers with a glimpse of what they could potentially witness on fight night against Fujioka, who is 14 years her junior.

"I know how to fight and also how not to fight. I know how to move [effectively] in the ring according to [what my opponent is doing]."

The 46-year-old Fujioka (19-2-1, 7 KOs), who hails from Japan, fights for the first time since last July 9 when she defeated Sulem Urbina via 10-round majority decision at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.

Although Fujioka made her pro debut in 2009, at the age of 34, she has won world titles in five weight classes, strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight, junior bantamweight, and bantamweight. April 9 will mark the third defense of the WBA title she won in September 2018 with a 10-round unanimous decision win over Mexico's Irma Sánchez in Tokyo.

Esparza expects to be in a dog fight against the older but more experienced Fujioka.

"I think she did an amazing job [against Urbina]. She showed more of her [ring] intelligence; she had a gameplan, she knew what she needed to do, she didn't [punch herself out]. She's an intelligent, experienced fighter that I really need to focus and worry about."

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