When Akio Shibata (24-8-1, 10), the unified Japanese and OPBF Middleweight champion, said he was going to fight with the intention of stopping Makoto Fuchigami (21-10, 12) at the weigh in ahead of their fight we suspected he was all talk. We'd heard it all before about a light hitting fight talking up the stoppage though fighting with little intention of actually going for it. In fact we hear that type of talk every time Floyd Mayweather Jr fights.
Shibata however was doing more than just talking the talk and today he actually did stop Fuchigami and recorded his first stoppage win in almost 2 years, and just his second stoppage win in 10 fights!
Defending the OPBF title for the third time and the Japanese belt for the second time Shibata seemed full of confidence in the build up to the bout, as if he had developed real self belief in recent months. That self belief was shown early on as he boxed beautifully behind his jab and took his opportunities to unload sharp power shots when the openings were there. It was a sharp Shibata jab in round 3 that resulted in the first knockdown of the fight with Fuchigami taking a count, though he wasn't badly hurt.
After 4 rounds the scoring was all in favour of the champion though the cards did have the fight looking somewhat competitive at with one card reading 38-37 whilst the others were 39-36.
Knowing he was down going into the middle rounds Fuchigami tried to up the pressure, unfortunately for him that backfired and it left the challenger open to sharp shots that he effectively walked on to, especially the right hands which were very eye catching in rounds 7 and 8. You couldn't fault Fuchigami's intentions but his skill and speed were lacking as Shibata continually picked him off to extend his lead which was 77-74 on all 3 cards at the end of round 8.
Going into the championship rounds Fuchigami had to either stop Shibata or sweep the rounds to win the bout. Unfortunately for the challenger however the best he could do was follow the champion around with Shibata tagging him at will. The clean shots of the champion had Fuchigami ready to go in round 11 though the heart of the challenger, and the champions lack of power, just kept him in the fight. The following round however the referee stepped in to save Fuchigami with a little over a minute left.
The champion, who is best known for his loss to a then debuting Ryota Murata, might never be a world title challenger but no one can fault him for the success at this level where he is a 2-weight unified champion. On this performance he really is the #2 Middleweight in Japan and there is only Murata that can beat him. As for Fuchigami this could well be the end. This is his 4th loss in 6 bouts, his second to Shibata, and really suggests than his win over Koji Sato back in December 2011 will be his major crowning glory.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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