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.