This coming Saturday is an insanely fantastic day in the world of Asian boxing and part of what makes it so great is a pair of amazing female title fights in Japan. Whilst we're really excited about the WBC Atomweight title bout between Momo Koseki and Denise Castle it's also hard to ignore the potential excitement of the IBF Light Flyweight title fight between Naoko Shibata (12-3, 3) and Ana Arrazola (20-9-2, 13).
Shibata was, for a few years, one of the sports sad luck stories. She had come very close to winning the WBA Minimumweight title in 2012 and then even closer to winning the WBC Minimumweight belt the following year. It wasn't until late last year, in her third attempt, that Shibata finally won the big one and became a world champion.
Although not one of the truly outstanding female fighters in Japan, such as Naoko Fujioka, Shibata is genuinely world class. She's tough, well schooled and although not a puncher she can hit hard enough to make opponents respect her.
Despite the talent and experience of the champion she will be fully aware of just how tough this bout will be and will know perfectly well that Arrazola isn't a push over. In fact if anything Arrazola is the second best opponent that Shibata will have faced, only behind the aforementioned Fujioka.
The Mexican challenger comes in to this bout having previously faced a who's who of female boxing including Ibeth Zamora Silva, Yesica Yolando Bopp, Nancy Franco, Susi Kentikian, Katia Gutierrez and Shibata's previous challenger Guadalupe Martinez. To suggest Shibata is anything less than world class is disingenuous and it's clear that she's tough, experienced and come to win.
With this possibly being Arrazola's last chance at a world title we expect her to start fast and really take the fight to Shibata who will have to fight back hard from the off. This is dangerous for the champion considering the challenger is the bigger puncher though it should make for an enthralling contest between two women desperate to prove their value near the top of the Light Flyweight division.
Unfortunately for both we think this is a bout that is going to be too close to call. For Arrazola that will likely result in a narrow defeat considering she's the one who has travelled for the fight. For Shibata it will likely result in her retaining her title but many will claim that it was a rough decision in her favour and devalue it due to a perceived "home town" logic. We don't think it'll be a robbery but a bout so close and exciting that it could go either way, and a home fighter winning those isn't a surprise.
The one thing we're going to say is don't be too shocked if this is the sleeper contest of the week. It really does look likely to be enthralling.
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.