Earlier today Japanese boxing fans woke up the news of a retirement.
The retirement in question was that of Watanabe's veteran fighter Akio Shibata (27-9-1, 13) [柴田 明雄] who has retired from the sport at the age of 34, having fought 37 times since 2003, when he made his debut.
He began his career in a faltering manner, falling to 5-2-1 (4) after just over 2 years in the professional ranks and was later 9-5-1 (5), after 5 years in boxing. He was however a genuine "later bloomer" and subsequently went 18-4 (8) whilst becoming a unified, JBC and OPBF champion, at both Light Middleweight and Middleweight.
During his career he scored notable wins over the likes of Takehiro Shimokawara, Yuki Nonaka Daisuke Nakagawa, Takayuki Hosokawa, Makoto Fuchigami and Hikaru Nishida. Sadly however he will be best remembered as the man who Ryota Murata beat on his debut back in 2013.
Although best known for that loss to the Olympic champion Shibata bounced back excellently and went Daisuke Nakagawa, Takayuki Hosokawa, Makoto Fuchigami and Hikaru Nishida 6-0 (4), unifying the OPBF and Japanese Middleweight titles, until running into an inspired Hikaru Nishida this past March, with Nishida stopping him in 3 rounds.
As well as losses to Murata and Nishida we also saw Shibata suffer defeats to Charlie Ota, Kazuhiko Hidaka and Motoki Sasaki.
From what we understand Shibata fought the last few years with retirement in his mind if he lost, and the loss to Nishida seemed to be the logical time to retire, having passed on the proverbial torch.
In retirement Shibata will continue in his day jobs, as a gym instructor and a nursery teacher.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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