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.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.