December 1st is set to be a hectic day for fight fans in Japan with 7 different title bouts taking place across 3 shows and 2 venues. Those 7 title bouts include a female world title bout, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) defends her title against former WBA champion Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout pits two real veterans against each other in what could out to be a real thriller for fans at the venue.
The champion, who is 42, is one of the oldest female fighters in Japan and is also a fighter with one of the most remarkable careers. Ebata debuted at the advanced age of 31 and would fight for a world title in her second professional bout, losing a razor thin decision in Camboia against Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. Despite the loss it was clear she was an excellent fighter, and she was good enough to get 3 more title fights in his following 5 bouts, though sadly lost all 3 of those bouts, including a WBA female Super Flyweight title bout to Tenkai Tsunami. Despite being a fantastic fight she found herself quickly falling to 3-4 (2). She then managed to rack up wins at the lower level, but came up short in 3 world title fights, losing to Nancy Franco in 2013 and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara in 2015 and 2016. With a record of 0-5 in world title fights she was essentially given one final chance in 2017, against Erika Hanawa for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, and she took that opportunity by defeating the then 7-0 Hanawa for the belt. A belt she has defended once, narrowly, since winning. It's fair to say that if Ebata loses the belt her career is likely over, though she has accomplished a dream of being a world champion.
At 37 years old the challenger also can't really afford a loss, though Tada has had a distinguished career. She would win the WBA female Minimumweight title in her 5th bout, defeating ChoRong Son for the belt in 2009. She would make 9 defenses of the title before losing it to Anabel Ortiz in 2013. Prior to losing the belt she had twice fought in unification bouts, drawing both, and had notched up notable wins over the likes of IBeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki. Following he loss to Ortiz we saw Tada become a 2-time champion, as she beat Kareli Lopez for the IBF title in 2015, though lose in her first defense in 2017 to Cai Zong Ju. Her only bout since that loss was a WBO Asia Pacific title win against Naoko Shibata, in November 2017. Sadly in her most recent bouts she has lacked the tenacity, hunger and fire that she once had. She's still a hungry fighter, but one that fights like a tamer version of her once fearsome self.
At their best these two were great fighters, but now they are shadows of their former selves. Neither is bad by any stretch, but they aren't what they once were. Here we favour the challenger. She's younger, looked better last time out and despite not fighting in over a year is likely to be the sharper fighter. Ebata struggled to retain her title in her first defense, and we can't see her getting much luck against Tada, especially given that Tada is the fighter managed by the promoter of the show.
We suspect Tada will take the decision, and we expect a real action bout. It's just a shame these two didn't fight earlier in their career's.
All female shows aren't a regular thing, but they have been seen a few times recently in Japan. The next of those will take place on March 8th at the Korakuen Hall, where the main event will be a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Kayoko Ebata (11-7, 6) and Korean challenger Ji Hyun Park (22-2, 6). On paper this looks like a mismatch in favour of the challenger, but the reality is that things aren't quite that simple, and Ebata's career has never been quite as straight forward as her record may suggest.
The 42 year old champion has seemingly fought by the mantra “if at first you don't succeed try, try again”. She won an OPBF title in her third attempt, over-coming Cho Rong Son for the OPBF Female Flyweight title in 2013, 4 years after her first shot at the title, and a world title in 6th world title fight, winning the WBO female Minimumweight title last year more than 9 years after her first world title bout. Not only did she have multiple shots at the titles, but her world title win didn't come until she was 41 years old, out pointing the much younger Erika Hanawa for the title last May.
On paper it's easy to rag on Ebata, who has lost more than 33% of her career bouts. Those numbers however don't reflect the fact she has come up short against fighters like Samson Tor Buamas, Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Nancy Franco and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, twice. They also don't reflect the fact she could have had wins in 3 of those bouts, at least, and was fighting well above her natural weight.
Ebata is a grizzled veteran, she's flawed, limited, but a tough, hard working, experienced fighter who is much better than her record suggests, and had she been able to get regular fights at 105lbs there is a good chance that her record would better reflect her ability. Instead she is saddled with a misleading record and a tough career full of hard luck.
As for the Korean she's the much younger fighter, at 32, but has had a weird career herself. She lost in 2 of her first 8 bouts, losing a Korean Flyweight title bout to Hwa Won Lee in 2005, with Hwa Won Lee later claiming a world title at Featherweight, and would also lose in North Korea in 2007 to Hye Sung Kim, in what is recorded as Kim's debut. Following those losses she has gone 16-0 and is unbeaten in over a decade! Not only that but she was a long term IFBA Minimumweight champion, and she defended that title against accomplished fighters like Hollie Dunaway, Nao Ikeyama, Krisztina Belinszky, Ana Arrazola, Jujeath Nagaowa and Anahi Torres and has a non-title win against Gretchen Abaniel.
Sadly for Park she hasn't actually fought since August 2015, when she beat Abaniel. That sort of lay off can be career ending for some fighters, and it's going to be very interesting to see what she has left here. At her best, she would probably be a little bit too good for Ebata, but she's certainly not going to be her best with so much ring rust, and her timing, speed and sharpness might be a little bit off. For a boxer like Park, who doesn't have much in terms of fire power, the ring rust will likely play a major part in the bout.
At the primes the bout would be a close one, where Park would be favoured. Now however with Ebata beyond her prime and Park inactive we'd go with the active champion, especially at home. We don't see Park being stopped, but we do see her being out worked and Ebata earning her first defense.
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.
This coming Wednesday we see female world title action return to Japan as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (8-1-2, 3) battles against 40 year old veteran Kayoko Ebata (9-6, 5), in a rematch of a hotly contested bout from May 2015.
Last year these two met with Ikehara taking a 7 round split technical decision over Ebata, with all the cards reading 67-66 one way or the other. The bout was very hotly contested before being stopped, 28 seconds into round 7, following a head clash.
Since their first bout both ladies have been rather inactive with just a single bout each. For Ebata her bout was a 5th round TKO win over Thai novice Sornsawan Sarakarngym, back in March, whilst Ikehara defended her title last November against the limited Momoko Kanda, claiming a 10 round decision.
At her best Ebata was typically a handful for most. Early in her career she pushed Samson Tor Buamas incredibly close in a bout for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. She would later give a competitive effort at Super Flyweight against Tenkai Tsunami in 2010 and a solid effort against Nancy Franco in 2013. It's worth noting however she is now 40, past her best and very inactive with just 2 bouts, combined for 12 rounds, in the last 2 years.
Although a warrior, and tough as old boots, Ebata is still at a very advanced age and has come up short in 4 previous world title bouts, and 2 other OPBF title fights. In fact she is amazingly 1-6 in title bouts.
Aged 31 Ikehara is no spring chicken however she's only been a professional for 4 years and has only featured in 50 professional rounds. Despite her inexperience she is 3-0-1 in world title bouts and has made 3 defenses of her title. That's not to say we don't question her ability, we do doubt she'll be a long reigning champion and her defenses so far lack much in terms of quality, but she's found a win to every bout she's had since September 2009, when she lost to Mika Iwakawa.
Ikehara is less of a battler than her foe but seems to find herself into a war quite regularly. That's resulted in 3 technical decisions, include a pair of opening round technical draws.
Given the fact that Ebata is at the very end of her career we're expecting a shock here and we think she'll just manage to out battle Ikehara and take a narrow decision, likely leading to a third bout in the near future. Maybe we just want to see the fairytale of Ebata winning a title but we'll stick by out prediction, Ebata by decision.
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)
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.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.