The female boxing scene in Japan is an interesting one, with a wave of young and emerging talent looking like it will create a golden generation, lead by Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda. Others following in the lead of those two include talented teenager Eruka Hiromoto (5-0), who looks to extend her perfect record this coming on November 17th, when she defends the OPBF female Minimumweight title against Sana Hazuki (7-4-1, 2).
Aged just 19 years old Hiromoto is one of the youngest Japanese female prospects actually making a mark of some sort on the sport. She made her professional debut in October 2017 and quickly impressed, take 3 unbeaten records in her first 4 fights. Although her competition wasn't great she was stepping up and won a 6 rounder in her 4th bout and the OPBF title, over 8 rounds, in her 5th bout. She's not looked super impressive all the time, but there is a lot to like about the talented youngster, who is maturing and growing into the sport.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance Hiromoto is a talented and quick fighter with a sharp jab and intelligent movement. She does however lack power, works incredibly hard for her success and always looks a little bit like a child in an adult's sport. She looks like for all her skills, and she really is a talent, she can be bullied and a strong, aggressive pressure fighter could really be her Kryptonite and she does need to be careful. What also needs to be noted is that she slows down, a lot, as the fights goes on, and in an 8 rounder she needs to be more conservative early on.
Aged 35 Hazuki is certainly closer to the end of her career than Hiromoto, but she's not shown real signs of ageing and in fact like many female fighters seems to be getting with age, and has "only" been a professional for 5 years anyway. She's proven to be a handful and win or lose she's always in the fight with an intense and aggressive mentality that makes her a real nightmare to go up against. Even with 4 losses in 12 bouts she has never given anyone an easy night, and even gave the sensational Eri Matsuda a serious test in 2018.
Although not the most naturally skilled of fighters or the biggest puncher Hazuki is a rugged, ugly, pressure fighter, who applied pressure from the first round, popping her jab out as a distraction whilst trying to get close and work away on the inside. For fighters who can't get her respect Hazuki is a complete horror to go up against, even if she's up against someone more skilled and with better ring IQ.
We think Hiromoto is a real talent and a proper one to watch for the future. This however is a bout that we suspect will be very, very tough for her. Hazuki is a really horrible match up for Hiromoto, especially this early in her career. In a few fights time, when Hiromoto has a few 8 rounders under her belt, this might have been a good test to see how far she has improved. Here however it's a very high risk bout for a talented young fighter with a lot of promise. We suspect that Hiromoto will do enough to win, but only just in a very, very close bout. Though we certainly wouldn't be massively surprised by an upset here
PRediction - SD8 Hiromoto
Female boxing is on the rise, with more attention being given to it than ever before and more and more female fighters being involved in interesting match ups. No longer is female boxing a case of a trained athlete against going up against someone who has little idea of the sport in a world title fight, but instead we're getting two trained fighters meeting a pure contest of skills. One of the best things about the rise in female boxing is that the previous generation's fighters are being met by a rising wave of young prospects who have come through the amateur ranks and look like polished fighters straight away.
We've already seen fighters like Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda race away to titles, and we're now expecting to see Mizuki Chimoto (1-0, 1) follow suit. The unbeaten 25 year old from the Watanabe gym gets a chance to claim a title in just her second professional bout as she takes on Japanese female Minimumweight champion Chie Higano (8-8-1, 2) on June 25th. A win for Chimoto will see her match Matsuda's achievement of winning a title in just her second bout, whilst a win for Higano would be her first successful defense of the title.
Chimoto was a stellar amateur, running up a 45-12 record in the unpaid ranks, placing in national competitions and gaining some valuable international experience. That foundation saw her turn professional last year with big expectations on her shoulders. She debuted in November, on an all female card, and impressed as she stopped Thai visitor Kannika Bangnara in 3 rounds. It was clear from the start that Shimoto knew her way around the ring, she judged distance well, made the Thai flail at the air and landed her own sharp shots. She looked incredibly relaxed and calm, sharp and smart, and mixed up her shots really well.
Despite being a professional novice it's clear that Chimoto is a very talented and special fighter, and someone who's amateur credentials have marked her as someone who will be fast tracked.
With 17 fights behind her Higano is much more experienced in the pro-ring than Chimoto and she debuted more than 5 years ago. The 34 year old has a very mixed record, but she has been in with a genuine who's who of the Japanese female scene, including Shione Ogata, Saemi Hanagata, Momo Koseki and Nanae Suzuki. In terms of international bouts she has faced the likes of Eun Hye Lee and Casey Morton, and was very competitive with both. Despite being a veteran she only actually won her Japanese title this past February, in her second shot at the title.
Despite losing 8 of her 17 bouts Higano is a really solid fighter, she's aggressive, she sets a high work-rate and comes forward with a lot of upper body movement high volume output. There's a lack of real crispness to her work, but she's a nightmare with her pressure and output and will ask a lot of questions of very good fighters.
Higano certainly has the style to test Chimoto, she has the experience and energy to push the novice all the way in a really tough bout. But, we suspect the amateur skills, the crisp punching and the sharp movement of Chimoto will see her over the line and put her on the fast track to a world title fight. It'll be tough, but we see Chimoto taking the clear decision.
Prediction Chimoto UD6
It's fair to say that April 2019 was a month that will go down in female boxing as a big one. We had a card in Japan, on the 14th, that was an all-female card and, of course, we had "the biggest women's boxing match in history", when Christina Hammer and Claressa Shields threw down on Showtime. We're also set to see Kasumi Saeki battle for a world title in just her 4th bout, on April 28th.
Saeki isn't the only notable fighter on the April 28th card, with former 3-time world champion Etsuko Tada (18-3-2, 5), a stablemate of Saeki's, takes on former Saeki opponent Kanyarat Yoohanngoh (5-2, 3), in a WBC Minimumweight world title eliminator. A win for the Japanese veteran sets her up with a chance to become a grandslam champion, whilst a win for Kanyarat sets her up for a huge year.
At 37 years old, and with her 38th birthday coming next month, Tada will know that time on her long career is running out. She debuted almost 11 years ago and has had a genuinely notable career. She would claim her first world title in her 5th bout, beating ChoRong Son for the WBA Minimumweight title and would twice fight to draws in unification bouts. The first of those was a draw with the then WBC champion Naomi Togashi before then fighting to a draw with the then "interim" WIBA champion Ria Rammarine. To 2013 they were the only marks on her record, which she notched notable wins over Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki.
Sadly a couple of split decision losses to Anabel Ortiz saw Tada losing the WBA title, though she would bounce back by winning the IBF title, which she lost in her first defense to Cai Zong Ju. She would later claim the WBO title in 2018, though vacated without making a defense to pursue her dream of a grandslam.
Although older and slower than she once was Tada is still an aggressive, tough, hard hitting fighter. In a small ring, or at least one that's smaller than she fought Cai Zong Ju in, she is a nightmare. The larger the ring the more she will struggle, but this bout isn't expected to be in a big ring.
The 20 year old Thai is a bit of an unknown, unless you are a hardcore fan of as female boxing in Asia. She made her professional debut at the ridiculously young age of 15, yes you did read that right 15, and took a break after her debut. Since then she's had mixed results, losing on the road, to Zhezhe Ni in China and to the prodigious Kasumi Saeki in Japan, but did score a huge win last time out, stopping Umi Ishikawa this past February. That win was, by far and away, the best of Kanyarat's career, and is a huge boost fert her coming into this bout.
We've seen the Thai look confused and lost, showing no answers to Saeki's speed and skills last July, but with 3 wins in a row she does have confidence. She's proven that she's aggressive, a physical fighter and doesn't mind bending the rules, something she did regularly against Ishikawa. Sadly for her Tada has sene it all before and there will have to be more than a few dirty tricks to pick up a win here.
We suspect Kanyarat will become a fixture on the regional scene in the years to come, however we can't see her having the tools or experience to deal with Tada. The Thai does have some momentum coming into this bout, but we expect to see that being destroyed early before Tada breaks her down and scores a mid-round stoppage.
Prediction - TKO4 Tada
On April 28th we'll see Japan's Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) look to announce herself on the world stage, as she takes on once beaten Mexican Elizabeth Lopez (6-1-4, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Minimumweight title, a title vacated by stablemate Etsuko Tada. For Saeki this is a chance to win a world title in just her 4th bout, whilst also looking to prove she is more than just a talented prospect. For Lopez the bout will be her first outside of Latin America, and also her first for a major title.
The 22 year old Saeki is a novice professional. She only turned professional in 2018, making her debut on May 27th 2018, though had had a solid amateur background with a 35-9 record including bouts on both the national and international stage. That amateur background showed on her debut as she showed flashes of genius in a 6 round decision win over Floryvic Montero on debut. Following up her debut Saeki would score a stoppage win over Kanyarat Yoohanngoh, who would subsequently win the OPBF silver female title, and then stop Wassana Kamdee, to become the WBO Asia Pacific champion.
Saeki is a real natural talent. She is one of the purest female boxers out there, with exceptional skills, lightning speed, alarming accuracy and amazing ring IQ. even this early in her career she looks to be a special fighter, not just a special prospect. She looks to have all the tools to go a very long way, has already shown she can do 6 rounds. Given the fact she's in the Shinsei gym will have really helped her develop her skills and it's clear that she will have been working alongside Etsuko Tada to prepare for this bout.
With 11 bouts to her name the 4'9" Lopez has one of the sports oddest looking records, with 4 draws from her 11 contests. The 26 year old, who made her debut in March 2015, would strangely begin her career 2-1-3, with her loss coming to the under-rated Yesenia Gomez who has since become the WBC female Light Flyweight champion. As well as those 3 early draws Lopez actually drew last time out, fighting to a 6 round draw with Kumora Yang Badillo.
Footage of Lopez is hard to find, though what is available makes her look quite slow and clumsy. She's wild and rough around the edges, but does seem tough and marches forward. She has an aggressive style, but it is a very agricultural style and she does seem wild and reckless at times. Despite being aggressive she has only scored 1 stoppage win in 11 bouts, showing a lack of power and it seems like that will cause her bouts to go longer than she would like.
From the footage available of both it seems hard to see anything but a win for Saeki. She has too much skill, too much speed and too much polish for someone as sloppy as Lopez. Lopez will come to fight, but we expect to see her wide shots beign countered time and time again as Saeki goes on to take a wide, and clear decision. The only worry about Saeki is whether her lack of professional experience will be exposed, though with her training at the Shinsei gym we don't imagine that will actually be a problem here.
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.
This coming Friday fight fans in Spain will Thai visitor Samson Tor Buamas (40-4, 22) face off with local champion Joana Pastrana (13-1, 4), for Pastrana's IBF female Minimumweight title. The Spanish fighter will be making her first defense, following her title win in June against Oezlem Sahin, whillst Samson will be looking to claim a “big 4” world title for the second time in her career, more than a decade after she last won bout for a big title.
The 27 year old Pastrana debuted in 2016, and began her career with 3 stoppage wins, all within the first 2 rounds. She then followed up with 4 decisions against novices before losing in her first step up in class, losing to Tina Rupprecht in 2016, when she actually suffered a broken hand. Since then she has racked up 6 wins, claiming the European female Minimumweight title, which she defended once, and now the IBF title.
The footage of Pastrana shows her to be a strong but clumsy fighter. Her foot work looks slow and calculated, rather than natural and fluid, her upper body movement is much better but still isn't genuinely world class. She does however look strong and powerful. She might have only scored 1 stoppage in her last 10 wins but she looks like she gets the respect of her opponents quite easily. Sadly for her though she's not very sharp, accurate or quick. Everything she does looks a bit awkward, almost as if she's converted to boxing from another combat sport.
At 35 Samson is past her best. At her very best she was a top female fighter, who literally fought her way out of prison to become a boxing world champion. Less than 2 years after her debut she defeated Ayaka Miyao to claim the WBC female Light Flyweight title, which she would defend 3 times include a very notable win over Momo Koseki and another against Kayoko Ebata. Since then however she has really failed to capture the attention of the boxing world. She's shown good skills,scoring only a single win of ant note when she beat Gretchen Abaniel. For the most part however she has faced limited novices, with the only exceptions being in losses to Nadia Raoui and Cai Zongju.
At her best Samson would have given fits to almost any female fighter in the lower weights. Now however she is well past her best. Her recent competition won't have done much harm physically, but will have failed to keep her sharp enough to really be competitive at the world level. Added to the low level of competitive is her inactivity, with just 2 bouts in the last 2 years, and we expected her to look slow, clumsy and out of sorts.
Despite the issues that Samson has with age, competition and activity we feel she has a chance to show how flawed Pastrana is. Sadly though we don't see her doing it often enough to take the win. Instead we suspect that the home fighter will take the decision, but not shine like a champion would want to in her fist defense.
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.
On December 17th fight fans at the Kyuden Gym in Fukuoka get the chance to see a really intriguing female title fight, as two champions collide in what could be a passing of the torch bout or further proof of one fighter's legendary status in female boxing. The bout will see Yuko Kuroki (17-4-1, 8) defending her WBC female Minimumweight, for the 6th time, taking on the legendary Momo Koseki (23-2-1, 9), with Koseki looking to add a divisional world title to her collection.
The 26 year old won the title back in May of 2014 and her 3 year reign has seen her defeating the likes of Katia Gutierrez, Masae Akitaya, Nancy Franco and Mari Ando and really showing that she is a world class fighter. Although her record is less than perfect she has gone unbeaten for more than 4 years, and is 8-0-1 (3) since her last loss, which came when she was just 22. Kuroki has really matured in that time to become a good boxer-mover and she has shown her toughness, her ability and almost a new found confidence and self belief.
Despite being on an impressive run Kuroki perhaps lacks a real defining win. She has good wins, Franco and Gutierrez are very good wins in fact, but there is no monster win on her record and nothing that really has gone and told the division “I am the queen”, a win over Koseki would do that, and would really allow Kuroki to make a statement.
Whilst Kuroki is looking for a defining win the same can't be said of Koseki who has had an incredible career. The 35 year old from Tokyo is riding a 24 fight unbeaten run which has seen her record 17 world title defense, unify the WBC and WBA title and holds wins over almost every notable fighter in the division, such as Ayaka Miyao, Nao Ikeyama and Saemi Hanagata. She has been a staple of the 102lb division almost a decade and both of her losses came in very close bouts in Thailand.
In the ring Koseki is a tough as old boots fighter with a brawling action style. She comes to fight and presses the bout, with a combination of rough tactics, under-rated boxing skills, great energy and fantastic use of being big and strong. Although she's moving up in weight here, by 3lbs, she is a very big Atomweight and she has looked bigger than former Light Flyweight champion Naoya Shibata, in fact she looks like she would be very competitive fighting at Flyweight, if not Super Flyweight.
To date Kuroki has had things mostly her own way, at least in the last few years. Here however she's in with a fighter who will be coming with a point to prove, and a statement to make, a fighter given a chance to become a 2 weight champion. Kuroki will be the home fighter, the fighter who is naturally bigger and the fighter who will be defending her title, she will however be up against an elite level fighter, and we suspect Koseki's aggression and world class energy and toughness will simply be too much for the champion. Koruoki will have moments will her skills, but will be out worked, and out pointed.
This coming Saturday fight fans in China will be able to see IBF female Minimumweight champion Zong Ju Cai (9-1, 1) defending her title against Filipino foe Gretchen Abaniel (17-8, 6). The bout will be Cai's first as a champion whilst Abaniel will be looking to claim a major world title in her 5th, following reigns as a minor champion with WIBA level titles. The bout might not be anything massive to fans in the West, but to fight fans in China this is potentially a massive showdown and a chance for Cai to prove herself as a world class female.
In the ring Cai is a really skilled boxer-mover. She's not heavy handed and doesn't ever try to fight like a fighter with power. Instead she fights with energy, uses the ring and tries to always stay in control of the pace and action of the fight. Unlike many smaller fighters she doesn't fight like type of fighter who wants a high octane brawl, instead she wants to use her skill, potentially hiding a questionable energy tank.
With the Chinese crowd cheering her on it's going to be hard to beat Cai, but she isn't unbeatable. At times in her title win, which came back in January against Etsuko Tada, she seemed to flag late on and looked like she was running out of steam. If a fighter can force the pressure on her quickly then she could struggle later in the bout. If Cai can dictate the pace and tempo however, she will be very tricky to beat, and not many will have the skills to beat a comfortable Cai.
Aged 31 Abaniel is a true veteran, and one who has fought almost everywhere. She made her debut in China and has fought not only in the Philippines but also South Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, Australia and Germany. Whilst she has had mixed success in the ring she has proven to be a world class fighter with only a single stoppage against her, back in 2011 to Katia Gutierrez, and competitive losses to a number of world class fighters like Ayaka Miyao. She's talented, experienced and tough, and a real handful for those on the verges of world class.
Although a talented fighter we can't help but think that Abaniel lacks the style to really compete with Cai. The two fought back in 2015 and Cai won with ease and we suspect that will happen again here. Abaniel will try, she always try, but we can't see her coming out on top here against the Chinese fighter, who is continually improving and is just coming into her prime.
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.