Regional | Boxing

Ngāti Ranginui boxer Cherneka Johnson to fight for world title

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Ngāti Ranginui boxer Cherneka Johnson (13 - 1 - 0) will contest the vacant IBF world super bantamweight title against Mexican boxer Melissa Esquivel (12 - 2 - 1) in Melbourne in April.

The Tauranga-born Australian fighter, who made her professional debut in 2016, won her first title in December 2017 defeating Filipino boxer Gretel de Paz for the vacant WBA Oceania bantamweight title.

A few months later, she stopped Thailand boxer Rungnapha Kaewkrachang to win the vacant WIBA world bantamweight title.

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Johnson has subsequently climbed the major boxing rankings, peaking at 2nd in the IBF and 6th in the WBA.

She was last in the ring on the undercard of Michael Zerafa vs Anthony Mundine in March 2021, where she lost in a split decision across 10 rounds to Shannon O'Connell for the WBA gold bantamweight title, handing Johnson her first defeat.

Johnson's opponent in April's title fight, Esquivel, won her first professional boxing title in 2021 securing the WBC FECARBOX female super bantamweight title in a rematch against Marisol Corona.

Both boxers are stepping up in weight to fight for a chance to become world champion. The fight will be the co-main event of the evening alongside the IBF middleweight eliminator Michael Zerafa vs Issac Hardman.