This coming Friday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall get an all Japanese world title fight as between veteran Kayoko Ebata (10-7, 6) battles novice professional Erika Hanawa (7-0, 2) for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, which was vacated by former champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara.
Of the two fighters it's clear that Ebata is the more experienced. She has as many losses as Hanawa has total fights, but she is far from a professional loser. In fact she's a genuine world class fighter who has continually competed at the world level, but unfortunately has come up short every time she has faced a world class fighter.
Ebata debuted back in 2007, as a 31 year old, and in just her second bout she challenged Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. That was one of 5 world title bouts that Ebata has come up short in, along with 2 losses in OPBF title bouts. Whilst that sounds horrific for Ebata she has been in with not only Samson but also Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Nancy Franco and former champion Ikehara, twice.
Aged 41 now Ebata is almost certainly in last chance saloon, and will know that another loss will probably be the end. She has flirted with retirement a number of times but seems to be determined to hold a world title before retiring, adding it to a short reign as an OPBF Flyweight champion. That determination has been seen through her career, and despite her age she has a great engine, but sadly determination doesn't always equal titles, and she does have a lot of rough edges and can be out fought and out boxed.
Aged 26 Hanawa really is a novice to professional boxing, and only made her professional debut in July 2015. Her early bouts were are against fellow novices, before she beat professional loser Christine Latube for the WBC ABC Continental female Minimumweight title in June 2016. The win over Latube hasn't been followed by anything too major, but she did defeat Norj Guro back in March, in what is her best win to date.
Little is really known about how good Hanawa is, something that is almost impossible to judge given her level of competition so far. What has been seen of Hanawa suggests there is real skill there, but we're very much unsure of just how much skill she really has. What is very clear however is that this is a huge step up in class for her, as she takes on her first foe coming to win, and one who has fought at world level.
Given her age it's clear that Hanawa will have youthful exuberance and energy on her side, she's also never tasted defeat and will have the confidence of being an unbeaten fighter. That youth and confidence might help Hanawa here, or could hinder her against a fighter with the experience and toughness of Ebata.
Although Hanawa is the unbeaten youngster it's hard to favour her here against the talented, though unlucky, Ebata. There is a chance Hanawa is really class, but this is a huge step up and we suspect Ebata, at long last, will win the big one and finally become a world champion, ending her long and hard wait for a major title.
On May 14th fans in Kyoto get the chance to see two female fighters trading blows as they battle for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In one corner will be local hopeful Tamao Ozawa (12-3, 4) whilst the other corner will have Korean visitor Su Yun Hong (14-1-1, 7), who looks to become a 2-weight world champion.
Of the two fighters the 30 year old Hong is the more well known. She debuted back in 2010 and become one of the more notable Korean's of recent years. She's a talented southpaw based in Hwaseong City and has been known on the world stage for around 5 years. Her first title was the WIBA Light Flyweight title but she really made her mark by winning the WBO female Minimumweight title in June 2012, when she beat Teeraporn Pannimit in Macau.
As the WBO female Minimumweight champion Hong was one of the faces of Korean boxing and made 2 defenses of the belt, including a split decision win over Mari Ando, before losing the belt to teenager Mako Yamada in 2014. Following the loss to Yamada Hong moved up in weight, and reclaimed the WIBA title which she has held since October 2014, defending it 4 times.
Although not well known by Western fight fans Hong does hold some decent wins, but her loss to Yamada showed her limitations, with Yamada ripping the title from the Korean. Also needs to be noted that her opponents since the Yamada bout haven't been great and she hasn't fought in over a year, since beating Filipino veteran Jujeath Nagaowa.
Aged 31 Ozawa is the slightly older fighter, and the one with the less impressive looking record. Despite that she probably starts the bout as a fighter full of hunger and as someone who will see this as their chance to win a world title, adding it to an OPBF title. Talking about that OPBF title that belt was up at Super Flyweight, where she beat Terumi Nuki for the belt, and it's worth noting that Ozawa has fought much of her career at 115lbs, where she has suffered all 3 of her losses.
Although Ozawa has been stopped 2 times during her career, including a blow out to Tomoko Kawanishi and a 2nd round loss to Kai Johnson, she did recently prove her toughness by going 10 rounds with Mariana Juarez in Mexico last May.
Ozawa hasn't proven herself at world class, yet, but moving down in weight to Light Flyweight might well help her do so, and her last two bouts where at Flyweight where she does look like a more imposing fighter than she had at Super Flyweight. If she can make Light Flyweight comfortably she could end up being a very imposing fighter at the weight class.
On paper Hong should be favoured, she has the better record and is the more proven fighter, but we suspect that the move down in weight by Ozawa will really help her here and we're predicting a win for the Japanese fighter, who will be strongly supported by the fans in Kyoto. Hong may be the more naturally talented fighter, but we're expecting to see the local take home the decision here.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.