Shibata, who has been a professional for almost 5 years, had come up short every time she has fought a world level opponent. She had lost to Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. With the losses to Tada and Silva being very narrow losses in world title fights.
Today however it was third time lucky for Shibata who took on the previously unbeaten Mexican Alondra Garcia (8-1, 1) for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. A belt last held by Jessica Chavez, herself an excellent fighter.
The fight didn't start well for Shibata who suffered a nasty cut early on above the left eye (see picture above) and was tagged by the much younger Garcia, who was fighting in her first world title bout.
Things didn't really get better for Shibata who was forced into a tough, tough fight by the young Mexican who hadn't traveled the globe to give up her unbeaten record.
Although more experienced Shibata struggled to get the upper-hand and it seemed that every time she was getting a foot hold Garcia would fight back in a valiant effort to take the title back to Mexico. With out a doubt the fight was close and both women knew they needed to make an impression. Unfortunately for both they each cancelled the other out at times making rounds incredibly difficult to score.
Fortunately for Shibata, who was cheered on by the crowd, she managed to just do enough to impress the judges that little bit more than the away fighter to take a decision with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94. It wasn't a robbery by any means, but it's one where the decision went with the home fighter and a 96-94 scorecard either way would have been accurate. Unfortunately the 98-92 card was a bit too wide for our liking.
Note-This fight served as the chief support bout on "Earnest Efforts", a card headlined by Momo Koseki defending her WBC Atomweight title for the 12th time.