Rocking Japan: Shibata Wins and Atomweight Tourney Nearing End

Shibata Wins and Atomweight Tourney Nearing End



By Yuriko Miyata


Former IBF light flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (17-4-1, 6KOs) came back to the ring to stop Shisa Manopgym (0-3) of Thailand at 1:20 in the second round in a six-round contest on Friday Sept. 1, at the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.


After a six month break since losing the world title to Alondra Garcia in Mexico, Shibata returned refreshed and showed a high tempo offense from the beginning of the fight and kept the easy opponent pinned along the ropes.


The referee did not hesitate to halt it when Shibata’s combinations connected and a good body shot seemed to make Shisa spiritless to fight back.


“Thank you all for the support. This was a new start for me to rebuild myself to get the belt back,” Shibata said after the victory and announced that she will fight against Etsuko Tada, a former two time world champion, for the vacant WBO Asian-Pacific strawweight title on November 10th.


Shibata, once awarded the Female Fighter of the Year by IBF in 2014, had suffered a regrettable loss to the much younger Garcia to leave the IBF belt in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was her first fight overseas and was a rematch as Shibata had won the first encounter that was held in her home town Tokyo. It’s also where she was crowned the IBF light flyweight title that she defended desperately for four years.


“I had a very good experience in Mexico. People respect brave boxers no matter the gender. I was so happy to see many people gathering for the press conference and weigh in, and not only for the fight. But I could not show them my best performance. High altitude might have affected me more than I thought. I felt something wrong with my legs, like unfamiliar fatigue.”


Although she reflected that way, the fight did not look bad. Alondra’s endless aggressiveness was favored by judges but Shibata kept up with her accurate counter punches.


One benefit is that her regretful loss encouraged her to keep fighting.


“Of course I’ve thought about retirement, especially when I lost to Ibeth “La Roca” Zamora (for the vacant WBC light flyweight title in March 2013). But not this time. I cannot give up with a loss that I did not do my best.”


Western people are often surprised that most Asian women look younger than their actual age. Shibata does also. At 36 years old she is still improving as a fighter and will face a foe of the same age in southpaw Tada who she lost against by a very small margin for the WBA strawweight title in April 2012.


“The chance to avenge my loss motivates me a lot. I promise boxing fans to make this Japanese derby match great.”



Atomweight Tournament


In the same event of Shibata’s comeback, there was a semi-final of the Japanese female Atomweight Championship Tournament. Nanae Suzuki (5-2, 1KO) the number four ranked fighter upset the top ranked Chie Higano (7-6, 2KOs) by unanimous decision. The scores were 59-55, 59-56, 59-56.


Though both are well known tireless fighters, Suzuki’s combinations connected more quickly and accurately than the much more experienced Higano’s, who already had challenged for the world title last year. Despite her fearless fighting style, Suzuki turned very shy in the post-fight interviews.


“I just want to win the Japanese title. Please support me everybody,” Suzuki said with a school girl smile.


Two days later, on Sunday Sept. 3, another semi-final of the division took place in Kyoto on the undercard of the WBA super bantamweight championship between Shun Kubo and Daniel Roman.


Number #3 rated Sana Hazuki (5-2, 2KOs) started strong with a knock down over number #2 rated Minayo Kei (6-3, 1KOs). A solid right hand did the job. Kei rallied back hard to make the fight toe to toe and it ended up scored 59-56 and 57-56 in favor for Hazuki, whereas one judge saw it 57-56 for Kei.


The schedule of the final for the very first national championship between Suzuki and Hazuki in the Atomweight final will be announced shortly.

(Photo by Hiroaki Yamaguchi)

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE.