Japan's Naoko Shibata (12-3, 3) was long viewed as Japan's "nearly girl". She had come up perilously short in world title fights to Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva and many felt she was never going to win the big.
Last year Shibata did manage to finally win a world title, the IBF Light Flyweight belt, by narrowly out pointing young Mexican Alondra Garcia though many did questioned whether or not she deserved the decision. It was as if some fans felt Shibata simply didn't deserve a close decision to go in her favour and that she didn't deserve a world title. It was a harsh view though one that a number of fans, for whatever reason, felt was fair.
Earlier today Shibata defended her IBF title for the first time as she attempted to make a point of the title making her a better fighter. It seemed obvious that the belt was an honour for Shibata and it showed.
Fighting against Mexico's Guadalupe Martinez (6-6, 3) things looked easy on paper though Martinez was an experienced fighter at the world level having twice previously challenged for world titles. They proved to be easier than expected as Shibata got on her toes, and completely out boxed her challenger. From the opening round to the 10th round Shibata simply dominated the fight with her technical skills really impressing.
Martinez, to her credit, refused to take the loss lying down though the #11 ranked challenger never managed to make much of an argument for more than a round or two at most as the technical skills of the champion really were too much for the challenger.
When it came to the score cards it was a formality Shibata had dominated and taken a clear victory with scorecards of 98-93, 98-92 and 99-91. It was clear as day that Shibata had become a fighter who believed she was world class and she showed it with this performance.
Whilst it's obvious that Shibata wouldn't be the favourite to beat the divisional elite such as Yesica Yolanda Bopp or Jessica Chavez she has the ability and experience to give any other fighter in the division a very tough time. We dare suggest that she more defences she makes the more she'll believe in herself and improve.
(This bout was part of the "G Legend 6" show).
(Picture courtesy of http://boxingnews.jp)