Reporting from Japan: Etsuko Tada Powers by Naoko Shibata
By Yuriko Miyata
Showdowns between fellow rivals have always pleased fans in Japan. Here was another one:
Former WBA minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5 Kos) defeated Naoko Shibata (17-5-1, 6 Kos) ex-IBF light flyweight champion, by unanimous decision in scheduled eight rounds for the vacant WBO Asian-pacific 105lbs title on Friday night at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.
The two 36-year-old ex-champions gave off sparks as it was a fight not only for the title but for survival and the southpaw Tada took advantage of her solid left cross to win by scores of 77-75, 78-74 ,And 80-72.
It was a clear victory for Tada this time against Shibata much more than five years ago. Back then Tada boxed out her rival to retain the WBA minimumweight title by unanimous decision, but by very narrow margins in September 2012 in Osaka, closer to her hometown.
After that, she added one more defense against Yuko Kuroki, then the WBC version titlist, until giving up her belt to Anabel Ortiz of Mexico in July 2013. She won another 105lbs crown of the IBF version in 2015, but lost it to Zongju Cai in China in January this year.
As for Shibata, after being defeated by Tada and Ibeth Zamora of Mexico for world championship in a row, she finally got the vacant IBF 108 lbs belt on her waist with an unanimous decision over Alondra Garcia exactly four years ago. She made five defenses but gave it up to Garcia in a rematch in Mexico in March this year. Therefore this rematch between two uncrowned and still eager boxers was much anticipated not only for the regional title but more for survival.
After the weigh-in Shibata said it was not a problem for her to make 105lbs for the first time since that first fight with Tada.
“Actually minimumweight is my best division I’ve thought. Honestly it took only two days to make weight. This fight is not about the title for me. I want to do what I could not do last time to her. After losing to her I became a world champion. Now we both are in a similar situation. We will show world class performance, and I believe I can get revenge,” said Shibata.
Tada also showed her enthusiasm for the fight, facing a comrade boxer for the first time in four and half years.
“I cannot wait to get into the ring. I’ve forgot this exciting feeling of facing national rivals. I would tell Shibata that I am different person from last time. I’ve focused on physical strength for three years and brushed up my left straight. I want to show that in the ring that I am still developing.”
What Tada said was really true. She obtained power that she had not had before and was able to connect clearly throughout the fight. Tada rolled up Shibata into a busy fight from the first round and piled up lefts to the body and head. Shibata hung in there and barraged with strong rights in the middle of the fight. But Tada’s confident offense had more power to rule the majority of the rounds. It was a competitive and a straight-forward fight proving both boxers’ earnestness.
“I am simply so happy. I cannot find any other than gratitude to Shibata for taking this fight. I love Korakuen Hall, even though away from my hometown, this is where I made professional debut (in 2008). Now I have the WBO Asian-Pacific belt and this must be the ticket to challenge for the WBO world title. I believe the champion Ebata is here in the ringside.”
Tada called out WBO minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata from the ring. It’s not been official yet but most likely early next year.
Shibata left the ring with a deep bow to the four sides of the boxing ring and said, “I never knew her power was like that. She was a different person. But I feel blissful that I could have such a great fight with the great fighter. I was right. I was right to decide not to retire when I came back from Mexico. Otherwise I could not have this moment. I have nothing left to do. I am going to the other side to support female boxing world.”
The winner Tada smiled with hope for another glorious moment and the defeated also smiled proud of her decision to hang up the gloves.