Today was an historic day for the WBO and the Atomweight division as, for the first time ever, the WBO crowned a champion the smallest division in professional boxing. Surprisingly we think they may also have crowned the oldest ever "first time" champion as recognised by one of the big 4.
That fighter was the 44 year old Nao Ikeyama (14-3-1, 4) who added the newly created WBO Atomweight title to the lightly regarded WIBA title she he held, for a short period, back in 2007-2008.
Ikeyama's victory was a real shock as she took on the previously unbeaten Filipino Jessebelle Pagaduan (6-1, 4) who was not only unbeaten going in to this bout but was also 15 years younger than Ikeyama.
We, like many, had thought this was a forgone conclusion and the younger, fresh Pagaduan was going to walk through the older fighter, out work her, out speed her and generally dominate with youth. Instead however it was a masterclass like a teacher gives a young student and Ikeyama, despite her age, was still too quick for Pagaduan, not only that but she was also too good for the younger fighter who was made to look completely out of he depth.
Although older and with a lot more miles on the clock this bout proved, a lot of Bernard Hopkins bouts do, that skills can over-come age, knowing how to box can be the key to winning. That's not to say that Ikeyama is half the fighter that Hopkins is but this was nothing short of a fighter proving that father time can be held off if a fighter is simply on another level to their opponent.
For Pagaduan this is embarrassing though probably less embarrassing than if she had faced Momo Koseki who would have mauled her, roughed her up and mentally broke her. As it was Ikeyama just took a clear decision with cards of 98-92, 99-91 and 99-91 again, there was no doubt over who deserved the victory.
With Ikeyama saying she would retire if she lost we're expecting to see her make at least 1 defence of the title, though we're unsure who the WBO will accept as an opponent for their newest champion. By the time of her first defence Ikeyama may well be 45 years old though if she can fight as well as she did here then there may well be no need for her to even consider retirement again any time soon.
(Image courtesy of http://www.zukunft.co.jp)