The unified OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion Akio Shibata (22-8-1, 9) will be making the first defence of his unified crown on July 5th at the Korakuen Hall, according to promoter Watanabe Gym.
Shibata unified the titles earlier this year when he took the Japanese belt from the hard hitting Daisuke Nakagaawa in an excellent performance. He will be hoping to replicate that display as he battles the JBC #3 and OPBF #8 ranked challenger Hikaru Nishida (10-6-1, 3).
Although best known by many fans as being the debut opponent of Ryota Murata, Shibata is a talented boxer who has lovely speed and movement and excellent technical skills though unfortunately a lack of power and questionable toughness has prevent any real aspirations of world title fights. His record includes a misleading number of losses with the decisions all being close though he has been stopped 5 times including the loss to Murata and a pair of stoppage losses to Charlie Ota.
Shibata is probably better known for his losses though he has scored credible wins over Yuki Nonaka, Daisuke Nakagawa, Takayuki Hosokawa and Makoto Fuchigami all very good wins at the domestic to continental level.
In Nishida we have another fighter with a somewhat misleading record. Nishida's career began 4-5-1 (1), though he could just have easily have been 10-0 with all of the early losses coming by very close decision. His one clear loss was his most recent, coming in February 2013 against Yuto Shimizu in what was to be Nishida's final bout at Light Middleweight.
Despite the bad start Nishida has gone 6-1 (2) in his last 7 bouts and that has included victories over former title challenger Fukutaro Ujiie, 2-weight OPBF champion Kazuhiko Hidaka and former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami. This run of good victories has helped push Nishida in the rankings and genuinely earned him his title opportunity.
Whilst we expect Shibata to to win we need to admit that this is a great match up and well done to Watanabe Gym for putting the bout together, fantastic work!
(Image, of Shibata, courtesy of Watanabe Gym)
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