Last November fans at the Korakuen Hall saw female IBF Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (15-3-1, 5) [柴田 直子] retain her title with her 4th defence, a very hotly disputed draw against Mexican based American Maria Salinas (11-4-3, 4). This coming Saturday the two women go at it again in a really interesting rematch being held in Saitama.
Since their first bout the 27 year challenger hasn't fought. She has been out of the ring for 9 months exactly and has only actually fought 20 rounds in the last 24 months, suggesting their could be some serious ring rust. At her best however she's a very capable fighter. She came close to over-coming Shibata last year, she also fought to a draw with the talented Arely Valente in 2014 and managed to be competitive with the likes of Etsuko Tada and Esmeralda Moreno.
Not blessed with big power Salinas is a busy but talented boxer who knows how to look after herself in the ring and often does enough to be competitive. Sadly she sometimes fails to go that extra bit to be more than just competitive, and has come up short in close decisions numerous times during her career.
Aged 35 Shibata is a veteran of the ring and has fought with some of the best in the world during her career. She holds notable early career wins over Yuko Kuroki and Ayaka Miyao whilst more recently she has claimed the IBF title and made 4 defenses, including an impressive stoppage of Ana Arrazola. She's not a puncher but she is a busy fighter who has shown her experience in recent bouts.
Although experienced Shibata does look like a fighter coming to the end of her career and her last two defenses were both razor thin wins. She started slowly against Saemi Hanagata in February 2015 before just doing enough for the decision whilst her first bout with Salinas saw her holding on to the title with a draw. There are some question marks about her stamina, given her age, he speed and her strategy with the fighter perhaps getting her gameplans wrong in recent fights. She has however been retaining the title and showing that she won't just roll over and take the belt from her.
Here we have a battle of a ring rusty against a possibly aged fighter. Sadly for Shibata however her performance have regressed since scoring her defining stoppage against Arrazola and we think that regression will continue here with Salinas taking a very close points decision over the 10 rounds.
It's seemingly ladies week in Japanese boxing with 3 female world title fights in just 3 days, the final of which is an IBF female Light Flyweight title defense by Japanese veteran Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4), who faces Mexican southpaw Maria Salinas (11-4-2, 4). The bout will be Shibata's 4th defense whilst Salinas is challenging for a world title for the second time, incidentally her first world title bout was also in Japan where she was out pointed by Etsuko Tada.
Aged 34 Shibata is one of the “elder-stateswomen” of Japanese boxing. Like a fine wine however Shibata has gotten better with age and has turned a faltering 9-3 record into her current 14-3 record, winning a world title in her third attempt, out pointing Alondra Garcia in November 2013, and keeping that title one way or another.
It's fair to say that Shibata hasn't been a sensational fighter, though wins over Garcia, Guadalupe Martinez, Ana Arrazola and Saemi Hanagata are certainly wins that deserve respect. Those wins have shown Shibata to be a fighter who has improved with the title around her waist. She has shown her heart and determination, her improving skills and her will to win, gutting out some real problems, especially against Hanagata, to retain her title.
Although not the best, or hardest hitting, or most skilful fighter out there Shibata is a good, solid all rounder who, as mentioned, has that real will to win. In fact it sometimes seems that she would be willing to go through anything to retain her title and continue being a world champion.
In Salinas we have a hungry young challenger. She's 26 and has been mixing with top tier competitive for the last 4 years. That run has seen her going 4-3-1 though has featured bouts with the likes of Esmeralda Moreno, Etsuko Tada, Jessica Nery Plata and Arely Valente. Although she's mostly lost to those top names she will have improved just by being in that type of company and she'll have improved so much from being the fighter that she once was,
In the ring Salinas isn't a puncher but is a good solid southpaw who has shown bravery on the road, especially in the loss to Tada. Sadly though she hasn't shown world class ability and her best achievement so far is becoming a 2-weight WBC Youth champion, claiming the title at 105lbs and 115lbs. Notably she has fought across all the lower weights, apart from Atomweight, and although she's growing it does seem like she could make anything from 105lbs to115lbs with no real issue.
Whilst Salinas has been up against some very capable fighters it does need to be said that sh has usually lost to the better ones. We suspect that will be the case again here with Shibata who we suspect will just refuse to lose in a bout that will be full of action but see the champion just out hustling the challenger over the scheduled 10 rounds.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.