Earlier this year we saw the fantastic Mako Yamada win the WBO female Minimumweight title with a sensational performance against Su Yun Hong. Sadly instead of defending that title and proving she was as good as she looked in that performance Yamada announced her retirement from boxing to focus on other things in life.
Yamada's retirement left the title vacant. Earlier today saw that vacancy filled as Japan's Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-1, 3) took a split decision over Gretchen Abaniel (15-6, 6).
The fight saw Abaniel intensely coming forward though Ikehara did well to unload her shots in a very active contest that saw both women unloading shots. The bout's all action back and forth saw both giving as good as they got in most rounds though in round 8 Ikehara made her size and power count.
The power and strength of Ikehara seemed to be enough to take the decision though unexpectedly the bout was ruled a split decision with scores of 98-92 and 97-93 both in favour of Ikehara whilst the third, the dissenting voice, gave the bout to Abaniel with a card of 96-94 for the Filipino. What made these cards a little bit strange is, from what we understand, the one judge who scored it to Abaniel was Japanese judge Katsuhiko Nakamura whilst Filipino judge Salven Lagumbay actually scored the bout for Ikehara. The one neutral judge came from Thailand.
For Ikehara this was a crowning glory of her career and saw her becoming a world champion at the first time of trying. She isn't the fighter Yamada was but still winning a world title is a great achievement. As for Abaniel this is her second world title defeat in Japan inside a year. She's not at the end of the line though she will perhaps realise that she needs to stay at Atomweight, where she has fought in the past, and needs to pick an easier mark for her next bout.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Age seems to be a talking point in boxing right now. Last weekend the 37 year old Floyd Mayweather retained his unified Welterweight titles and this past Friday the 39 year old Omar Andres Narvaez retained his WBO Super Flyweight title. Those two fighters seem like little boys however when compared to Japanese veteran Nao Ikeyama (15-3-1, 4) who retained her WBO Atomweight title earlier today with a narrow and hard fought decision over fellow Japanese fighter Masae Akitaya (9-5-2, 3).
Despite her age Ikeyama looked like a ball of energy and fought the entire contest at an unbelievable. This was simply too much for Akitaya who was dropped in round 2 and generally forced to fight off the back foot.
The challenger, a relative spring chicken at "only" 36, tried to answer back and often succeeded with slightly more crisp and accurate work though at the end of the day she was simply unable to meet Ikeyama's pace. As a result the champion took a unanimous decision to retain her title.
With the win Ikeyama became one of the oldest champions in history to defend a world title. She might not quite have matched Bernard Hopkins but she has hit the form of her career and with performances like there is a chance she could retain that title for quite a while. She might not be classically skilled but with her relentlessness she's going to be very difficult to beat.
As for Akitaya she actually made history as she became to first fighter to fail in title efforts at all 3 Atomweight titles. This loss has followed a technical draw with the indomitable Momo Koseki and a loss to the all-action Ayaka Miyao and unfortunately it seems likely she will become one of those fighters who never gets over the line and never becomes a world champion despite fighting a number of fights at the top level.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)