One of the final major bouts of June takes place in Jalisco, Mexico as IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4) defends her belt on the road for the first time. In fact she fights outside of Japan for he first time in her memorable and successful career. In the opposite corner to the champion will be Mexican veteran Esmeralda Moreno (30-7-1, 10) who looks to end Shibata's reign after 3 successful defenses.
Shibata, 34, is a true veteran of the sport and like many Japanese fighters she has faced some of the very best in and around her weight class. That has included the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. Although she's lost many of her biggest bouts she has always been competitive, tough and never just takes a loss. She's not the biggest puncher but she's a fighter's fighter with good speed, movement and a real will to win.
Coming in to this fight Shibata is on a 5 fight winning streak. That has included her world title win back in November 2013 against the previously unbeaten Alondra Garcia as well as 3 defenses, including an outstanding TKO win against Ana Arrazola.
As a boxer Shibata isn't the best but there isn't many better than here or gutsier and she has really improved since becoming a world champion, in what was her third shot at a world crown.
With an impressive 38 bouts behind her Moreno is a true veteran, though at just 27 years old she's a young veteran. Her career began a little more than a decade ago and although she was 9-5 after 14 bouts she has really turned turned things around with a 21-2-1 record in the last 6 years. Like Shibata she lost to a lot of really good fighters, such as Ibeth Zamora Silva, Alesia Graf, Ana Maria Torress and Mariana Juarez.
Although Moreno has lost to many of her most notable foes she has scored some really big wins of her own, such as a victory over Jessica Chavez and Naomi Togashi, with the win over Togashi netting Moreno the WBC Flyweight title around 3 years ago. Sadly for Moreno she had to give up the belt after just once defence and is now looking to become a 2-time world champion.
In the ring Moreno can do a bit of everything. She hits hard enough to get get respect, even if she doesn't score many stoppages, she's tough and experienced. Not unbeatable but it takes a very good fighter to beat her.
Unfortunately for Shibata we know fighting in Mexico will make life very difficult for her to keep her title. With out trying to sound too cynical she'll probably need a knockout to get a draw, and that won't be happening.
We're expecting to see a very competitive bout, between two genuinely world class fighters, but we're also expecting to see Shibata lose her belt. Sadly we expect the cards to misrepresent the bout which will be close in reality but made to look one sided by the judges.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.