Last September we saw a huge, and highly controversial, Bantamweight fight in Japan as Shinsuke Yamanaka (25-0-2, 17) retained his WBC title with a split decision win over Panama's Anselmo Moreno (36-4-1, 12). The bout, a mandatory defence for Yamanaka, saw many suggest Yamanaka had gotten a gift and soon lead to Moreno getting a world title eliminator for a rematch. The Panamanian won the eliminator, defeating Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, and put us where we are today.
In their first bout Yamanaka really struggled to land clean on Moreno. His much vaunted power was neutralised and he was made to look slow and old, like a man struggling to give 100% of himself at the weight. Since then he has fought once, over-coming Liborio Solis in a a bout that saw both men being dropped, twice. For Moreno he's also fought just once since the first bout, scoring the aforementioned win over Suriyan.
At his best Yamanaka was a destructive fighter with a vicious left hand, under-rated skills, and a good boxing mind. He wasn't the quickest or the most defensively sound but he was a big puncher who could take a shot and set them up. As he's gotten older however he's fallen in love with the power, and has become predictable with everyone knowing he's always looking to land the dynamite left hand.
At his best Yamanaka was a real sensation and his resume is incredibly impressive with wins against the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Moreno and Solis. The last 3 of those wins however have made Yamanaka look more and more human and not like the force he once was.
At the age of 33 Yamanaka is old for a Bantamweight and he has been making the weight since 2006. It's fair to say the the weight is becoming harder and harder for him to make and at 5'7” he is a big Bantamweight. The age and struggles with weight have likely been plaguing Yamanaka in recent bouts, but he has continued to fight at the weight, a choice that has perhaps cost him in terms of performance.
Whilst Yamanaka is a true puncher the way we'd describe Moreno is as a pure boxer. He's tricky, he's smart and he's technically excellent with a lovely array of punches, intelligent movement, excellent defense and an amazing ability to read distance. In many ways he's an old school fighter with old school skills, and uses those skills, and his freakishly long arms, to neutralise opponents and get his own shots off.
Aged 30 Moreno is still in his prime and his resume is exceptional, with victories over the likes of Tomas Rojas, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Rolly Lunas, Mahyar Monshipour, Nehomar Cermeno, Lorenzo Parra, Vic Darchinyan and Suriyan. It may be noted that he has lost his last two bouts but both were in questionable circumstances and there is little doubting his claim to be one of the truly elite Bantamweights.
With 4 losses to his record the ignorant fan may well see him as a poor fighters but one of those losses was early in his career, one was to Abner Mares at a weight that Moreno looked poor at, and the other two were the questionable defeats, to Yamanaka and Juan Carlos Payano. He's far from a fighter coming to the end of his career and although he hasn't always looked fantastic he usually raises the bar when he's fighting a top opponent, like Yamanaka.
Whilst Yamanaka will be a confident fighter coming in to this fight. It is worth noting however that Panamanian fighters appears to have the number of Japanese fighters this year and we've already seen Jezreel Corrales stop Takashi Uchiyama and Luis Concepcion over-come Kohei Kono in Japan. A win for Moreno would complete a remarkable year for Panamanian fighters in Japan and would continue a great rivalry between the two countries, who have had a rivalry dating back decades.
We suspect that Moreno will come out on top here, with Yamanaka's poor recent performances coming to haunt him against a very skilled fighter. Yamanaka has a chance, a puncher always does, but we suspect he'll struggle again to land on the brilliant visitor, losing a clear cut decision.
Seeing top fighters face each other in genuinely intriguing contests seems to be something that is really rare in our sport right now. We've started to see prospects matched hard but it's rare that world champions face another top fighter by choice, instead waiting for a mandatory to give them a tough test. For some fighters however the pursuit of making a name for themselves has made them chase big names and tough match ups.
One fighter who has called for big fights over the last year or two is WBC Bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) who's wish comes true on September 22nd when he faces former WBA “super” champion Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12), a man who was blatantly ducked by Koki Kameda.
For Yamanaka this promises to be one of, if not the, trickiest test of his career but also a chance to beat a fighter well know in the West, and a man who has impressed American fans and media. It may not be the huge unification bout that Yamanaka may have wanted but it's still a significant and tough defense for the monstrously hard hitting southpaw. On paper it's a great match up and in terms of styles it really has the potential to be a thoroughly intriguing bout between two men with very different in-ring abilities.
Yamanaka, for those who haven't seen him, is one of the sports truest punchers. His straight left hand is ridiculously potent and combines lights out power with laser guided accuracy. Aside from the left his arsenal is under-utilised though he does have a sharp jab, when he uses it, a solid hook and spiteful uppercuts. He can hold his own up close though it's at mid-range to long-range that he is incredibly dangerous. Not only is he dangerous but he's also smart and manages to draw mistakes from opponents whilst having his left hand ready to land at any time.
At 32 years old Yamanaka is one of the elder-statesmen of Japanese boxing, along with fellow champions like Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono. Despite his age he hasn't taken a lot of damage and has gone through 8 defense of the WBC title without suffering too much damage. Part of his “youthfulness” has come down to the fact he has stopped 7 of his 9 world class opponents, whilst the other part is his ring craft which has seen him control the distance and timing against most of his opponents. One thing to note however was that recent foe Suriyan Sor Rungvisai did show some issues with how Yamanaka copes with pressure, for his troubles though Suriyan was dropped 3 times.
Whilst Yamanaka is a boxer-puncher Moreno is the more pure boxer-mover. He's a slippery and sharp fighter who rarely stays still, rarely looks to trade and scarcely throws a shot with full venom. Instead of holding his feet and putting his weight behind a shot he'll stay on his toes, move, duck, dive and frustrate opponents with a combination of his movement, hand speed and elusiveness. As well as the trickery in the ring he's also a southpaw, making him even more awkward for opponents.
At his best Moreno was sensational. He went on an excellent 27 fight winning streak between 2003 and 2012 whilst notching notable wins against the likes of Tomas Roas, Volodymyr Sydorenko-twice, Rolly Lunas, Mahyar Monshipour, Nehomar Cermeno-twice and Vic Darchinan. Sadly however those times appear to be behind him and he has lost 2 of his last 4, with a decision loss to Abner Mares at Super Bantamweight and a controversial technical decision loss to Juan Carlos Payano last year. It was the loss to Payano saw Moreno lose the WBA Bantamweight "super" title after 12 successful defenses.
Coming in to this bout we're expecting to see world class skills from both guys though the bout will be decided by who can make the most of their advantages. Will Moreno manage to get in and out with out taking punishment? Or will Yamanaka manage to time the Panamanian challenger? If Yamanaka catching Moreno there is a big chance he will drop the challenger, and possibly even stop Moreno. Another huge question is whether Moreno will be effected by inactivity with the challenger having fought just 6 rounds in the last year and 18 rounds in the past 24 months. For a fighter who depends on reflexes and timing that could well be a huge problem for the challenger.
Although we know this will be a tough ask for Yamanaka we are expecting to see the champion shine, stepping up to the task at hand and making a real statement with a late stoppage before seeking another major bout, either at the end of the year or in early 2016.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.