To end an action packed Saturday our attention turned to Mexico where the IBF female Light Flyweight title was on the line, as Japan's Naoko Shibata (16-4-1, 5) [柴田 直子] sought to continue her reign and do the double over Mexican foe Alondra Garcia (17-3-1, 1), the woman she originally beat for the title back in November 2013. Sadly for Shibata her 3 and a bit year reign came to end, after 5 successful defenses.
The bout didn't seem to start with round 1 of fight 2 but instead round 11 of the Shibata Vs Garcia rivalry, and was fought at a brilliantly high tempo pace which just got better and better as the rounds went on. The high octane nature of the fight wans't just exciting but also compelling with both fighters having their moments in a back and forth round.
The back and forth action continued through a number of rounds, with only a number of clear cut rounds either way, such as round 2 and 9 for Garcia and rounds 5 and 8 for Shibata. Unfortunately though with 6 close rounds it was clear the score cards could have been all over the place, and unfortunately for Shibata they were all against here.
The close nature of the rounds, and the back and forth highlights that both ladies had, meant almost any score was allowed,though all 3 judges favoured Garcia with cards of 94-96, 92-98 and 93-97. It's fair to say the 94-96 card was the nearest to ours, and whilst we could see the the other two cards they did seem hard, especially the 98-92 card. Incidentally the cards were exactly reverals of their first bout, which Shibata won 96-94, 97-93 and 98-92.
A third bout would make sense going forward but we wouldn't be surprised by Shibata taking another option and Garcia looking for bigger paying opportunties instead.
"If at first don't succeed try and try again". That old phase came in handy this past Thursday for Naoko Shibata (11-3, 3) who finally won the big one and for the first time in her career claimed a world title.
Shibata, who has been a professional for almost 5 years, had come up short every time she has fought a world level opponent. She had lost to Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. With the losses to Tada and Silva being very narrow losses in world title fights.
Today however it was third time lucky for Shibata who took on the previously unbeaten Mexican Alondra Garcia (8-1, 1) for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. A belt last held by Jessica Chavez, herself an excellent fighter.
The fight didn't start well for Shibata who suffered a nasty cut early on above the left eye (see picture above) and was tagged by the much younger Garcia, who was fighting in her first world title bout.
Things didn't really get better for Shibata who was forced into a tough, tough fight by the young Mexican who hadn't traveled the globe to give up her unbeaten record.
Although more experienced Shibata struggled to get the upper-hand and it seemed that every time she was getting a foot hold Garcia would fight back in a valiant effort to take the title back to Mexico. With out a doubt the fight was close and both women knew they needed to make an impression. Unfortunately for both they each cancelled the other out at times making rounds incredibly difficult to score.
Fortunately for Shibata, who was cheered on by the crowd, she managed to just do enough to impress the judges that little bit more than the away fighter to take a decision with scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94. It wasn't a robbery by any means, but it's one where the decision went with the home fighter and a 96-94 scorecard either way would have been accurate. Unfortunately the 98-92 card was a bit too wide for our liking.
Note-This fight served as the chief support bout on "Earnest Efforts", a card headlined by Momo Koseki defending her WBC Atomweight title for the 12th time.