The first of 3 world title fights in May 9th comes from Japan where fans get a female world title fight. The bout may not have the excitement factor of the two male world title bouts later in the day though it does promise a lot of very competitive action and also promises to see how legitimate the defending champion really is.
The champion in question is current WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (12-4-1, 6), a champion who has the looks of a model and the gutsy determination of a true fighter. She'll be needing to call on all that determination as she goes in to the second defense of her title and takes on perennial contender Masae Akitaya (9-5-2, 3), a woman in her 4th world title bout. Unfortunately for Akitaya she has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride.
Aged 24 the champion is a fighter who is still in the early stages of her career, despite the fact she made her debut way back in 2008. Like many fighters she didn't look special early one and actually lost 2 of her first 3 bouts, including a decision to current IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata. Since then however she's gone 11-2-1, with all 3 of her set backs coming to world class fighters with a loss and a draw to Saemi Hanagata and a loss to Etsuko Tada, and none of those results are too shameful.
Whilst Kuroki has come up short against most of her most notable foes she has also scored a number of solid wins. The first of those came against Amara Kokietgym back in 2011 and she has since added wins over Mari Ando, in what was her title winning effort, and Katia Gutierrez, in her only defense so far. In those wins against Ando and Gutierrez we saw Kuroki prove her toughness and she was forced to grind out the wins in bouts that saw her being pushed very hard by talented opponents.
As for Akitaya she's mixed with very good company through out her career. She began 5-0 with wins over Shindo Go and Mika Oda before suffering back to back losses to Amara Kokietgym and Nao Ikeyama in 2009-2010. Since then she has struggled to get her career back on track. Although she's struggled for form Akitaya has challenged the likes of Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao and Nao Ikeyema in world title fights, though she has failed to win any of those bouts.
Aged 37 when this fights takes place the challenger is essentially in last chance saloon and knows that if she fails to win here it's unlikely she'll get another shot. In many ways however she's lucky to even get this one considering the fact she has gone 1-3-1 in her last 5 bouts dating back more than 3 years. Part of that run has been due to her competition but losing to top fighters shouldn't be rewarded with more opportunities to do the same.
Although the challenger is in poor form she has the traits to make for exciting fights. She's gutsy, aggressive and comes forward throwing a lot of punches. Those punches may not have concussive power on them but they are a nightmare due to their volume and for Kuroki to retain her title she'll need to grit her teeth and fight through the often wild storm of shots. It's going to be a gut check for the champion who is a more technically capable fighter, but one who will need to show that can fight back when she had a very aggressive against her.
We suspect Kuroki will come out on top. She has the natural size advantage over a fighter who has made her career at Atomweight, though we do expect her to look less that world class here against a fighter who will make her work very hard for the win. It'll be exciting, action packed but not the highest quality for we'll see this year.
On May 6th Japanese fans get a triple header at the Ota-City Gymnasium. Whilst one of those bouts is a mouth watering clash between unbeaten Super Featherweights another is easily over-looked as female veterans collide in a Minimumweight title bout. The bout won't set pulses going but it's one of those interestying match ups which could well end with a fight topping off their career with a big win, at last.
Coming in to the bout the fighter with everything to lose is WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-2, 3). The champion is a 30 year old who comes in to the bout seeking her 2nd defense of the title. Sadly for Ikehara her first defense, back on February 28th, was a forgettable affair with a clash of heads ending the bout after just a round.
For Ikehara that was clearly a disappointing defense however it does extend her title reign that began last September when he took a split decision win over Gretchen Abaniel.
The champion is a nice boxer to watch. She can scrap when she needs to and she can box when she wants. Her ability has taken her two notable wins, the decision over Abaniel and a decision over Saemi Hanagata, though those two wins aside there is little on her record to be impressed by and there is little to really make her seem world class. In many ways she's lucky to have had the chance to fight for a vacant after the sensationally talented Mako Yamada gave up the belt and retired.
Whilst Ikehara is relatively unproven there is plenty to admire about her and she is developing well as a fighter. Despite being 30 she's a young fighter without many miles on the clock, she's growing in confidence and has developed alongside veteran Nao Ikeyama who appears to have really brought the best out of Ikehara.
As for the challenger, that is 39 years old Kayoko Ebata (8-5, 4) who is in last chance saloon and, unfortunately for her, she's not had much luck in her career.
Ebata turned professional back in 2007 and got her first world title fight in just her 2nd professional bout, unfortunately however she was controversially beaten by Samson Tor Buamas in Cambodia. Just 2 fights later later Ebata lost a close one to Nanaka Kikuch and she soon fell to 3-4 with losses to Tenkai Tsunami and Naoko Shibata. All 4 of those losses had come in title bouts and all 4 had seen her mixing with world class opponents. There was nothing coming easy for Ebata.
Since that hard start we've seen Ebata turn her career around and she's since gone 5-1 with a solid victory over Cho-Rong Son for the OPBF Flyweight as well as a loss, at world level, to Nancy Franco.
In an alternate universe Ebata would have won a world title in her second bouyt and have been one of the fighters who would have helped develop female boxing in Japan. Instead she's 1-5 in title bouts and 0-3 in world title bouts.
On paper this looks likely to go with Ikehara. She's got the better record, she's almost a decade younger and she's the defending champion. In Ebata's favour however is the fact she's better than her record, her promoter is in charge of the show, she's among the very best that Ikehara has faced and she knows that this will almost certainly be her last shot at a world title.
We suspect this will be close though we think that Ebata's bad luck will finally change and she'll claim her world title at last. We don't think she'll hold it for long but we think she'll put it out here in a fight that becomes very messy as it goes on. Whilst it won't be the best fight we see this year the emotions at the end of it will have made it worth watching. And for those wanting to watch it, TV Tokyo have said they will stream it on their website for free!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.