Since Yamada's retirement however the title has remained vacant and it's only now that we are set to see a new champion crowned as Japan's little known Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (5-1-1, 3) battles against Filipino foe Gretchen Abaniel (15-5, 6).
Of the two it's Abaniel that is the more well known fighter, not just internationally but also by Japanese fans. The 28 year old "Chen Chen" has been a professional since late 2006 and fought several times for world titles, including a very controversial loss to Cho-Rong Son in 2008 and more recently a decision loss to WBA Atomweight champion Ayaka Miyao. Of those bouts it's the Miyao one that many fans will be interested in, especially considering that was her only other fight in Japan.
Against Miyao we saw Abaniel give a good account of herself early on though by the end she was looking exhausted. We think that whilst that was partly due to Miyao's insane work rate it was also partially down to issue making 102lbs. For this fight she'll be allowed another 3 lbs and that, and probably should, help her with stamina, work rate, durability and power.
As for Ikehara we really need to admit she's a bit of a mystery to us. Aged 29 she hasn't faced much competition so far though she does have a single win of note, a decision over Saemi Hanagata. Other than than the win on Hanagata the only other thing of note about her record is a loss and a technical draw to Mika Iwakawa.
Having been a professional for little over 2 years we can accept that Ikehara hasn't stepped up as a though we cant really understand what she's doing taking a leap up from her previous opponents to a fight with the experienced Abaniel. With that in mind we can only assume that the title will go back to the Philippines with Abaniel who is tried and tested at the world level.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)