The bout, the headline contest on the "526th Dynamic Glove" show, was really competitive early on with Nishida pressing the champion hard from the off. It looked, for the first 4 rounds, as if Shibata's 32 year old legs were going and although the champion was in the lead on 2 of the cards after 4 rounds it was clear that this was a more competitive match up than the records would have suggested going in.
The open scoring after 4 rounds saw Shibata in the lead with scores of 39-37, twice, whilst the third judge had the bout as a 38-38 draw. It was hard to argue as both men really were hard to split.
Shibata began to find his groove in round 5 as he moved up a gear, and through the middle section of the fight it seemed clear that he was making the most of his edge in experience. At the end of round 8 it appeared not only was Shibata the man with more skills and experience but also the better tank and it seemed that Nishida was slowing, feeling the pace of the contest. The edge in favour of the champion was shown again when the open scoring kicked in after the 8th round and Shibata was winning with scores of 78-74, 77-75 and again on judge had the bout even at 76-76.
Going into the final few laps it was looking like Nishida was going to need a big rally and whilst he did try to turn up the heat he was unable to over-come the hole he was in.
Despite his solid effort Nishida lost via unanimous decision with the cards reading 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 all to Shibata who retained the unified crown for the first time.
Although unlikely to get a world title fight Shibata does deserve a lot of credit for very credible back-to-back victories following his loss, last year, to the then debuting Ryota Murata. As for Nishida we genuinely believe he will come again and we'd be very shocked if he didn't claim a title at some point in the future, he is much better than his record indicates.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)