Today saw one bout that summed up what is great about female boxing, the hunger and desire to be a champion and the drive to prove yourself against a credible adversary.
That bout saw IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (13-3, 4) bite down hard on her gum shield, grit her teeth and give her all to over-come the very game and gallant challenge of fellow Japanese fighter Saemi Hanagata (9-6-2, 4), in a bout that was much more competitive than the records of the fighters would have suggested.
Hanagata, a former OPBF female Minimumweight, started the fight fast, it was her typical aggressive beginning and one that forced Shibata to answer back. Hanagata's early aggression certainly won her many of the early rounds and really put the pressure on the champion.
Sadly for Hanagata she couldn't keep up the intense pace and in the second half she slowed down, noticeably. When this happened Shibata began to turn the screw and fight back against a tiring Hanagata who really struggled in the second half of the fight. When this happened it was clear that Shibata was racking up the rounds.
The fight, a tale of two halves, really was a tough one to score and the judges knew it as they all turned in similar and close scorecards. Unfortunately for Hanagata however not one of them went in her favour as Shibata retained her title with a narrow majority decision taking cards of 96-94 and 96-95 in her favour whilst the dissenting judge scored it 95-95.
For Shibata this was her third successful defence whilst Hanagata came up short for the second time in a world title bout. Despite the loss Hanagata has proven she belongs on this level.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)