Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Resilient atomweight Denise Castle retires at 51 after fifth-round loss to Sana Hazuki

Denise Castle (right) fought valiantly against Sana Hazuki but was stopped in the fifth round of their atomweight bout in Thailand. (Photo by Wasim Mather)
Fighters Network

Japanese atomweight (102 pounds) Sana Hazuki (10-8-1, 4 KOs) secured victory over England’s Denise Castle (3-4, 3 KOs) today in Bangkok, Thailand, after Castle’s corner — her husband and trainer, Lorne Castle — made the tough decision to retire her after the fifth round due to a significant hematoma forming over her left eye.

The story of Denise Castle is indeed intriguing, as the resilient Englishwoman is currently 51 years old, with her 52nd birthday just around the corner.

Hailing from Bournemouth, located 94 miles southwest of London, Castle embarked on her career as a Muay Thai fighter, achieving success in the sport of eight limbs while claiming the WBC and S1 world atomweight Muay Thai titles along the way. “I proved that I was the best atomweight Muay Thai fighter,” Castle shared with me. “The president of the WBC, Mauricio Sulaiman, made me the mandatory challenger for the WBC atomweight world title in boxing. I always knew I was a strong puncher in Muay Thai and wanted a new challenge.”

Castle made her professional debut in 2014 at the age of 42, securing a knockout victory against Dorkmaipa Keangpompetch (3-3) in Bangkok. After one more fight, she faced then-Japanese atomweight champion Momo Koseki (24-2-1, 9 KOs), but was stopped in the eighth round. Subsequently, Castle remained inactive for four years until she had the opportunity to face Fabiana Bytyqi (20-0-2) of the Czech Republic in 2018 for the vacant WBC atomweight title. “The fight with Fabiana was fantastic; it was even voted as the WBC women’s fight of the year in 2018,” Castle proudly noted. Bytyqi is currently rated No. 2 by The Ring.

At 51 years old, Castle is unable to obtain a license from the BBBoC (British Boxing Board of Control), which prevents her from competing in the U.K. I had the chance to speak with promoter Rico Langbay Santig and asked about his decision to allow Castle to fight. “I promoted a show where she challenged for the vacant WBC Silver atomweight title in Dubai last year,” he said. “I lobbied the WBC in Thailand, and they agreed to let her fight after she passed the medical exams. She is fit and strong, so why not?”

Hazuki, a 39-year-old resident of Fukuoka, Japan, had previously challenged twice for the IBF strawweight title but fell short on both occasions. Despite her seemingly deceptive record of 10-8-1, she has never been knocked out or stopped in a fight, having faced tough opponents along the way. Hazuki expressed confidence in her preparation going into the fight, stating, “Preparation has been good, and we’ve focused on distance control. If I get past this fight, I want to pursue the WBC world title belt.”

Hazuki’s accurate punches piled on the damage as the rounds passed. (Photo by Wasim Mather)

The fight kicked off at a brisk pace, with both fighters aggressively engaging, attempting to land looping left hooks. Hazuki found success with strong body hooks in the first round as Castle pressed forward. In the second round, Hazuki employed a completely different game plan, boxing from a distance behind a solid jab and utilizing lateral movement while attacking Castle with powerful combinations to the head and body. Castle aimed to control the center of the ring, but Hazuki began to find her mark with her right hand.

Hazuki celebrates her victory. (Photo by Wasim Mather)

By the end of the third round, Hazuki transitioned to relentless pressure and combination punching, delivering hard left hooks to Castle’s body and head. With Castle now bloodied, the referee, Thawuth Pluemsamran, called for the doctor to examine Castle’s nose, but the fight was allowed to continue. In the fourth round, Castle, now in a southpaw stance, had recovered well, and her corner advised her to double up her jab. Castle seemed to have gained a second wind and had some success with her jab and right hand. However, Hazuki continued to land precise right hands and employed effective footwork and angles.

By the fourth round, Castle appeared to be absorbing an excessive amount of punishment. In the fifth, swelling began to form over Castle’s left eye, and Hazuki dominated with accurate combinations. At the end of the round, the judges’ scorecards revealed Hazuki leading on all three cards, 36-40. In the corner, Lorne Castle waved off the fight at the conclusion of the fifth round. Hazuki picked up the WBC “silver” belt with the victory.

Hazuki’s team mentioned that she would now likely face Bytyqi, the reigning WBC titleholder. As for Castle, she left everything in the ring at 51 years old, having faced some of the best in the boxing world, challenging twice for a world title and wining a WIBA title along the way. She never fought in her homeland due to licensing, but after her fight with Hazuki, Castle announced her retirement. She remarked, “Sana was a great opponent and, honestly, better than me at this time. I would have preferred to lose on points, but I couldn’t continue with that hematoma obstructing my vision. I’ve had an incredible journey in the sport, and even though I lost, it was to a worthy and honorable opponent, which makes it easy to accept.”

The fight card featured another noteworthy moment when Armenian featherweight Mikael Arutyunyan, who was originally set to fight for the WBC Silver bantamweight title, surprised many by displaying a Russian flag at the weigh-in. The fight was canceled.