The first of 3 female world title bouts on "Hina matsuri" will see IBF Light Flyweight champion Naoka Shibata (11-3, 3) attempt to make the first defense of her title.
Shibata, who won the title late last year with a victory over Alondra Garcia, may not be as good as some world champions in the sport but she is a genuine world level fighter. Her record and performances have proven this as her 3 losses have all been close and all been to top fighters in Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. The performance against Garcia may not have been great but Shibata is world class.
Unfortunately for Shibata her first defense comes against a fighter that will not net Shibata any plaudits at all. That's because Shibata's opponent Guadalupe Martinez (6-5, 3) has a record not befitting of world title challenger. In fact if you looked at Martinez's record you'd likely wonder how the 21 year old Mexican even qualified for a world title fight.
The problem with just looking at records is that you don't tend to see who a fighter has actually fought. For Martinez things have't been easy as she's been thrown in with some very talented opponents such as Daniela Romina Bermudez, Ana Arrazola and Debora Anahi Dionicius all of whom are world class. What also helps distort records is the weight class a fighter has been fighting in, in Martinez's case she has been fighting from Light Flyweight all the way up to Super Bantamweight and has fought in two world title fights at Super Flyweight.
If Martinez had only been fighting at Light Flyweight it's undeniable that her record would look better than it does. On paper she's a weak opponent whilst in reality she's a strong opponent who has been able to survive bouts with significantly bigger opponents.
When it comes to Shibata we have a warrior. She's not the most skilled or the most powerful but she's tough, can hold her own in a fight and is a natural Light Flyweight. She can go to war with anyone in the division and give them a real fight, as she did with Tada and Zamora Silva, and she is genuinely tough to beat.
With the experience and home advantage it's hard to pick against Shibata who we do think is better in most areas than Martinez, though we do expect this to be a much tough contest than the records of the fighters indicate and in fact we wouldn't be shocked this is a very hard to call for the first 6 or 7 rounds.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.