With Naoko Shibata eventually claiming a world title with her decision victory over Alondra Garcia back on November 14th, it's probably fair to hand the title of "the almost champion" of Japanese female boxing over to Kayoko Ebata (7-4, 4).
Ebata, like Shibata, has come heart wrenching close in previous bouts. These have included fighting to a majority decision in Thailand against Samson Tor Buamas in a WBC title fight and fighting in a competitive but clear loss to Tenkai Tsunami.
The 37 year old Ebata now fights in her third world title bout as she fights Mexican Nancy Franco (11-5-2, 4) for the vacant IBF female Minimumweight title. A title that has only been held by Katia Gutierrez.
Franco, fighting outside of Mexico for the first time, is a fighter who at just 24 years old is young and fresh. Despite having suffered 5 losses and being stopped twice in her career she is youthful and fresh faced.
Part of the reason for Franco having so many losses so early in her career has been the match making involved in her career. She has been sharing the ring with talented fighters such as Arely Mucino, Ibeth Zamora Silva and Ana Arrazola. This has seen her winning some and losing some though on the most part she has been competitive.
Although still young Franco has got world level experience thanks to her fights with the likes of Arrazola, Mucino and Zamora Silva, which were all scheduled for 10 rounds. Despite that she hasn't faced a crowd like the one she will be fighting in front of when she faces Ebata.
When it comes to Ebata we have a talented, tough fighter who hits with hurtful shots. Like Franco, Ebata picked up a number of early losses and actually started her professional career 3-4 with her losses coming to Samson, Tsunami, Naoko Shibata and Nanako Kikuchi, all of whom where, are or have been world champions.
Since the "poor start" to Ebata's career she has turned things around with 4 straight victories, including one over Cho-Rong Son for the OPBF title.
This level of competition and being at home, should be what sees Ebata defeating Franco, though of course at 37 it's hard to know what she has left in the tank and Franco may have the speed to make Ebata look all of her 37 years.
We favour Ebata to make the show a 2-0 for Japan with Ayaka Miyao fighting Gretchen Abaniel on the same show, though we'd refuse to write Franco off due to her youthfulness, especially considering what George Groves did in Britain against Carl Froch this past week end.
Having seen Momo Koseki recently defend her WBC Atomweight title against Nora Cardoza it now seems we have just one stumbling block before a possible all-Japanese WBA-WBC Atomweight title unification.
That stumbling block is Filipino Gretchen Abaniel (13-4, 4) who challenges Japan's WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (15-5-1, 1) for the WBA title on November 28th.
Abaniel, who comes in to this bout highly regarded and with the reputation of hitting harder than her record indicates, is a real banana skin for someone like Miyao.
Aged 28 and stood at 5'1" the Filipino challenger is younger, taller and rangier than the champion. As well as those physical advantages she has proven to be a credible world level fighter having previously shared a ring with Cho-Rong Son, Samson Tor Buamas, Katia Gutierrez and Teeraporn Pannimit.
Whilst Abaniel is 0-3 is world title fights recognised by "the big four" she has previously won a secondary title, the WIBA Minimumweight title, suggesting she has the ability to be a world champion in the future and in all honesty "on her day" she could possibly beat anyone at 102lbs.
Japan's Ayaka Miyao is, at 30 years old, probably coming into the later years of her prime physically. Whilst some female fighters have managed to find success in their later years, such as Naoko Fujioka who is almost 40 yet looks to still be improving, it's fair to say most are beginning to slow by their 30's, especially in in the smaller divisions.
Although not a big puncher Miyao has proven to be tough, talented and a fighter who has improved massively since she began her career. Saying that it is worth noting that Miyao began her career 4-4-1 before going 11-1 in her following 12 as she went from talented but inexperienced fighter to world champion.
Those 12 fights that Miyao has fought in since her poor start have included 8 straight victories. These have seen her claiming the WBA Atomweight title and subsequently defending it twice and she's become another notable member of the Ohashi stable which also over-sees the careers of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi.
For us this bout comes down to two things. Can Miyao get the respect of Abaniel with her light punching? If she can't, does she have the skills to out boxing Abaniel?
We feel that Miyao won't be able to get Abaniel's respect but will have the skills to win enough rounds to win a decision. It won't be decisive and dominant but the right woman will win for use. Thankfully for Abaniel we don't think this will be her last chance.
Of course no matter who wins we would love to see the winner fighting Koseki in a major unification bout. It would, of course, be bigger if it was an All-Japanese bout though even if it wasn't it would still be a major bout and the most important in the Atomweight division's history.
Note-This bout is the headline contest from Ohashi gym's "47th Battle Phoenix" which also features a contest between Kayoko Ebata and Nancy Franco.
Just over 2 and a half years ago it seemed Asian fans had seen all they were going to get to see of Mexican Anabel Ortiz (12-3, 2). She had just been stopped by the excellent Naoko Fujioka and lost her WBC Minimumweight title in what was just her second defense of the title.
Since then however Ortiz has proven her ability and found a way to get back on top of the boxing world and back in the mind of the boxing public.
Ortiz did that in her last bout, a bout in which she upset the previously unbeaten Etsuko Tada for the WBA Minimumweight title, a title Ortiz defends for the first time on November 19th in Jeju, South Korea.
Fighting for the second successive time on a Koki Kameda undercard Ortiz will be fighting South Korea's very own Hye-Soo Park (3-6-1, 1) in what, on paper, appears to be a mismatch.
Despite the record of Park being appalling for a world title challenger there are some things that oddly make this bout at least a little bit interesting. Firstly is the fact Park is on a 3 fight unbeaten run, the longest unbeaten streak of her career. In fact when you consider she lost 6 of her first 7 contests it's a somewhat impressive career turn around. One that becomes more impressive when you consider she has won the PABA Super Flyweight title.
The fact Park has claimed any title at Super Flyweight brings some intrigue into this contest considering that she'll be the bigger women going in to this contest. Sure she is the less skilled but the size advantage may be able to help her somewhat against a fighter who did struggle in her most notable bout against a naturally bigger foe.
The final thing Park has in her favour is the fact she's fighting in Korea where she may get favourable crowd reactions.
Unfortunately for Park the positives are very limited and it'd be a genuine shock if the talented Ortiz gives away her title here. We don't expect the light hitting Ortiz to force a stoppage but we do expect this to be incredibly one sided in favour of the Mexican who will be fighting in her fourth bout in Asia.
As mentioned above this will be one of the chief support bouts for Koki Kameda's up coming title defense in which Koki fights Korean Jung-Oh Son in what will be the first male world title fight in Korea in a number of years.
Female boxing isn't full of fighters that look like models, though one that certain does is Russian blonde bombshell Svetlana Kulakova (8-0, 1).
Kulakova, the current WBA interim female Light Welterweight champion not only possesses stunning good looks but stunning skills which have seen her climbing from obscurity to a world title in the space of just 8 bouts.
The unbeaten Russian will look to make the first defense of her title as she takes on teak tough Kenyan Florence Muthoni (8-2-1, 3), a fighter who was unfortunate not to claim the IBO Welterweight title in her most recent contest, a draw with Jennifer Retzke.
Kulakova, who won her world title last time out when she took a clear decision over Judy Waguthii, may not be expecting much of a challenge in Muthoni though the Kenyan is a genuine threat to her crown here. In fact Muthoni is easily the toughest opponent Kulakova has faced so far in her short career.
The 30 year old Russian who has boxed just 44 rounds as a professional has had a year to remember. She started the year with a record of 5-0 though has ran up three victories to take her to a world title with two of those three fights appearing on major undercards.
Although skilled the Russian has never faced anyone nearly as good as Muthoni who is tough, skilled and on a 9 fight unbeaten run, in fact Muthoni hasn't lost since her second professional contest way back in 2007. Of course Muthoni doesn't have many notable victories though she proved against Retzke that she was able to compete with talented fighters and was widely regarded as unfortunate not to have taken a victory in that contest.
If Kulakova can use her boxing skills to keep some distance between herself and Muthoni it's hard to bet against the Russian, however if Muthoni can turn this into a war then it really could be a very hard night for the talented though somewhat unproven champion.
Although Japan has several high profile female fighters at the top of the sport it also has a number of top contenders and challengers who haven't yet managed to climb to the top of the mountain.
One such "nearly lady" has been the highly talented Light Flyweight Naoko Shibata (10-3, 3), a fighter who has twice come close to being a world champion. In fact had she been any closer in either of her losses she'd have almost certainly have tasted the belt.
On November 14th Shibata looks to make it third time lucky as she battles the unbeaten Mexican teenager Alondra Garcia (8-0, 1), a fighter stepping up massively to fight at the world level for the first time, in a fight for the IBF female Light Flyweight title.
When we say that Garcia is stepping up massively we aren't joking. To date Garcia has fought opponents with a combined record of 0-8. Yes 0 victories against 8 losses. All of her fights to date have taken place in Mexico, in fact only two have taken place outside of Jalisco and it's fair to say she has yet to face a fighter of any note, at all.
Although promising and seemingly talented Garcia is going from fighting local fighters at a very low level to suddenly fighting on the world stage against a top tier fighter. This leap is huge for Garcia.
When we said that Shibata had come close twice we really weren't joking. In September 2012 Shibata was beaten by Etsuka Tada in a WBA world title fight by scores of 96-94, 96-94 and 96-95. Just a fight later Shibata was beaten by Ibeth Zamora Silva in a WBC world title fight by split decision with scores of 96-94, 96-94 and 94-96.
Aged 32 Shibata is some 14 years older than Garcia and will know that her chances are running out. Being a close loser is still being a loser at the end of the day and if Shibata fails to score a victory here she may forever be known as "the nearly lady". The woman who can always get close but can never get over the edge.
Saying that however it'd be a shock if Shibata, an experienced and battled hardened fighter, cannot over-come the inexperienced Garcia here. We expected Garcia to have some success early on, but by the middle rounds she'll be getting broken down by Shibata's great work rate and relentless pressure. By the later rounds we imagine Garcia will be breaking at the seems and may not actually manage to see the final bell as Shibata finally wins the big one.
One often made complain about boxing is that we have too many divisions. Whilst we won't disagree with that claim it's worth noting that female boxing actually one additional weight class, the Atomweight division.
With a weight limit of 102lbs the Atomweight division is the lowest in professional boxing and one only competed in by female fighters. In fact more interesting than just that is that only the WBA and WBC seem to really recognise the division and even Boxrec don't seem that willing to recognise it's existence.
Of the two recognised Atomweight champions it's the WBC champion Momo Koseki (16-2-1, 4) that has the longest and most defined reign.
Since winning the title in 2008 with a stoppage over Winyu Paradorn Gym of Thailand, Koseki has defended her title an impressive 10 times. She now looks for defense #11.
In the opposite corner to Koseki is Mexico's Nora Cardoza (8-4-2, 4), a fighter fighting in her first world title fight and a fighter looking for her first serious victory.
With 16 fights on her record Cardoza hasn't faced too many "name" fighters, and when she has, she's lost. This has seen her being stopped by Jessica Chavez and being out pointed by Jasseth Noriega, her only two high profile opponents.
If we compare Cardoza's record to that of Koseki things are very much one sided. Koseki has more world title fight victories than Cardoza has total victories and whilst they haven't come against great names they have come against credible opponents. Not only has she stopped Winyu Paradorn Gym but she has also beaten Nao Ikeyama, Teeraporn Pannimit, Saemi Hanagata and most recently Eun-Young Huh, all around the same "proven" level as Cardoza.
What's more impressive than Koseki's record is her skill level. She is incredibly talented. Sure she has two losses on her record, coming in her 4th and 5th contests, but both were narrow losses away in Thailand, both in bouts that many felt Koseki was robbed of. She's talented, tough, has great work rate and shows that female fighters can be genuinely skilled. Something that we can't really say about Cardoza.
With what we know about both fighters we really favour Koseki, arguably the best 102lb fighter on the planet to not only defeat Cardoza but also look to force a stoppage. It may come, it may not but there is every chance that Koseki will look to make a statement with WBA champion Ayaka Miyao defending her title just a few weeks after this contest.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.