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)