In 2014 we saw veteran fighter Nao Ikeyama (15-3-1, 4) become the inaugural WBO Atomweight champion at the advanced age of 44. To win the title Ikeyama easily out worked, out fought, out boxed and out battled Filipino Jessebelle Pagaduan, despite the fact Pagaduan was more than a decade younger than Ikeyama. Last September Ikeyama recorded the first defence of her title, just days after she 45, by narrowly but clearly beating Mase Akitaya. On February 28th she will hope to bag her second defence as she again takes on a much younger foe and attempts to battle back against father time and mother nature.
The much younger foe will be 24 year old Filipino challenger Norj Guro (7-3-1, 4) who will be fighting in her first “Big 4” world title bout and although she is much younger than the champion she is still viewed as the notable under-dog.
Although the champion is 45 she is full of desire and energy that belie her years. As well as her brilliant engine she is also tough and has shared the ring with several notable fighters, including Nanako Kikuchi, Ayaka Miya, Krisztina Belinszky and Momo Koseki, and has a career dating back to 2003. The desire to be a world champion drove her to winning her title and that same desire will see her doing all she can to keep it for as long as possible.
It's hard to say too much about Guro in terms of what she's like as a fighter due to next to no footage of her being available however we can get a read of her from her opposition and her record.
The Filipino started her career 5-0 (4) though all 5 of those bouts came against debutants. Her running came to an end when she faced her first notable opponent, Japan's Riyo Togo, who stopped her in 4 rounds. Since then Guro has gone 3-2-1 with her wins coming against a debutant and a 0-1 fighter whilst her losses have come to the only fighters with more than a single bout of experience.
Going on what we know of the two fighters it's hard to see anything but a clear win for Ikeyama who should retain her title with out too many worries. The only worry we have for Ikeyama is her age and there is a chance she could “get old over-night”. There is a chance of that but it's slim and even if that happens we still suspect she'll know enough trick to over-come Guro.
Female boxing in the east may not have many stars but it does have an interesting fight scene with several notable fighters. Sadly however many fighters are over-looked for one reason or another, including many world champions. One of those over-looked world champions is WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-1, 3). The champion, a 30 year old based in Kyoto, won the title last time out when she over-came the more experienced Gretchen Abaniel in what is a career defining win for Ikehara.
Although Ikehara isn't a sensational fighter she is a good one and is much more proven than her record would suggest. The win over Abaniel is the stand out result though she also holds a big win over Saemi Hanagata which is head and shoulders above anything else on her record, other then the win over Abaniel.
At the end of the month we will see Ikehara return to the ring as she attempts to record the first defence of her title and over-come former title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (7-1, 4).
Pagaduan's career defining fight was a previous world title tilt, and her only loss, as she was routed by the then 44 year old Nao Ikeyama in the inaugural WBO Atomweight title bout. That bout saw Pagaduan being completely out classed though coming into this bout she will be allowed an extra 3lbs of weight on the scales which may well translate to a more energetic performance.
Prior to the bout with Ikeyama it was hard to say much regarding Pagaduan. She had won the GAB female Minimumweight title but her opponents were limited to say the least with a combined record of 2-6-6. Against Ikeyama she was coming up against an opponent with a 13-3-1 record and the class difference told. Sadly since he Ikeyama bout we've only seen Pagaduan claim a win over a debutant and learn next to nothing.
Whilst Pagaduan is pretty limited she also has another thing to worry about. That's the fact Ikehara and Ikeyama are close friends and stable mates at the Kyoto Fitness Gym. Essentially Ikehara has seen her stablemate dominate Pagaduan and will know what to expect of her challenger here. We're not saying Ikehara is something exceptional but she's a solid fighter and will have had an excellent scouting report on her opponent here.
We suspect Ikehara could beat Pagaduan “going in blind” though with Ikeyama's win and a chance to see Pagaduan in action this really is almost certainly going to be a clear an easy win for the champion who should be too good, too busy and too clever for the challenger.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.