This coming Friday the boxing world will turn it's attention to the Ota City General Gymnasium as Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and claim the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to the “Monster” will be defending champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1-1, 13) of the UK in what looks likely to be a bout not only for the title, but also for a place as a seeded fighter in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).
The champion will be making his 7th defense of the WBA title, and is currently enjoying his second reign as a world champion after having previously held the IBF Bantamweight title. As for the challenger he will be looking to claim a world title at Bantamweight having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight and WBO Super Flyweight titles.
Of the two men the pressure is really on Inoue to shine, and build on his reputation as the rising figure head of the Japanese boxing scene. He was tipped for the top from his days in the amateur ranks and rose quickly as a professional. He would win the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout with a decision win over Ryoichi Taguchi and the OPBF title just a bout later as he stopped Jerson Mancio. Whilst those performance caught the eye of many hardcore fans it was his 2014 win over Adrian Hernandez that helped Inoue make his mark on the sport.
Inoue would only defend the Light Flyweight title once before moving up in weight, completely skipping the Flyweight division to decimate Omar Andres Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title, stopping Narvaez in 2 rounds. As the WBO Super Flyweight champion Inoue would defend the title 7 times, scoring notable wins over Warlito Parrenas, David Carmona, Kohei Kono and even made his US debut with a win over Antonio Nieves.
In the ring Inoue is an offensively minded boxer-puncher. He's blessed with frightening power, as 13 stoppages in 15 bouts at the lower weights shows, bewildering speed and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He's flawed, and has been seen to turn off at times in fights, but like many sensational fighters there is an aura about him that screams he's in total control, even when he's on the back foot. In fact Inoue on the back-foot is really under-rated, and he can be just as brutally destructive with his counters and shots on the back foot. Not only that but he is arguably the best body puncher in the sport today, and against taller fighters, like McDonnell, that is a brilliant weapon in Inoue's arsenal.
The champion is a 2-time Bantamweight champion, as mentioned earlier, and at 32 years old is potentially on the slide physically. Despite being on the slide McDonnell is a physical freak for a Bantamweight standing at 5'10" and with a huge 72" wingspan. He's a fighter who has began to show cracks at the weight but was ½ under the limit last time out and has been under, rather than on, the Bantamweight limit in 6 of his last 7 bouts. Not only is he a physical freak in terms of stature but also energy and he has one of the most incredible engines of any fighter in the sport. He seems to get stronger the longer bouts go on, and despite being a slow starter is a real nightmare in the later stages of a fight. That stamina and his size makes him a real problem from range where he can keep up a busy output and handcuff opponents.
McDonnell started his career with out much hype and was 8-2-1 (2) after 11 bouts with losses to the recently deceased Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, who would later go on to defeat Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF Bantamweight title. From then however McDonnell has gone 21-0-0-1 (11) and claimed notable wins against Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja, Tomoki Kameda, twice, and Liborio Solis. He has looked really impressive at times, such as his second win over Kameda, but also rather poor at times, such as in the first Kameda fight and first bout with Liborio Solis. In those bouts he showed he can be out fought, he can be hurt and he can be beat, even if McDonnell picked up the wins in both bouts.
At his very best McDonnell could be a nightmare for any Bantamweight, just due to his size and stamina. He seems to put on his best performances when facing his best opponents and will know that this is bout against a special talent. Sadly for McDonnell he is going up against a special talent, and Inoue, we believe, will know that McDonnell has struggled to make weight, had been inactive and has a long torso to attack. The Inoue body attack is devastating and we think that it will be the key here. Although moving up in weight Inoue is still expected to carry dynamite in his shots, and we suspect we'll see that dynamite in action with the “Monster” taking out the Englishman in 7 or 8 rounds.
Last August we saw the long WBC Bantamweight reign of Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) come to an end. By that point he had held the title for over 2100 days, or close to 6 years. During that time he had gone from obscure Japanese fighter, best known for his thrilling Japanese title fight with Ryosuke Iwasa, to a man listed in many pound-for-pound lists and a man with 12 world title defenses. He was dethroned by Mexican youngster Luis Nery (25-0, 19), who impressed by stopping Yamanaka in 4 rounds in Kyoto. The performance was a coming out event for Nery, though one that would later have a cloud hanging over it due to a failed drugs test by the Mexican.
This coming Thursday the two men meet again. For Nery it's a chance to prove that he is the better fighter, and that the drugs were incidental to his winning performance, for Yamanaka it's a chance to avenge his sole defeat and become a 2-time champion. For fans around the world it's an opportunity to see two world class Bantamweights go at it again, live on NTV.
Aged 35 Yamanaka is an old fighter, especially for the lower weights. On the whole he has avoided damaging bouts, but as he's gotten older the damage has accumulated and he's started to show more and more cracks in his chin and his reactions aren't what they once were. In his pre-prime days he was involved in the aforementioned thriller with Iwasa and it wasn't really until his 2014 clash with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai that anyone really ran him close. Sadly following the bout with Suriyan we seemed to have seen a faded Yamanaka, who narrowly over-came Anselmo Moreno in their first bout, was dropped twice by Liborio Solis in 2016 and dropped by Moreno in their second bout.
Although Yamanaka was never a technical wizard he was a solid boxer, with an extremely potent left hand. The power of left led to the nickname “God's Left” and whilst that power is still very devastating there is a feeling that age has really caught up with him. His footwork, which was once his best tool to set up the power shots, is slowing and his defense wasn't ever a strong suit. He may still have one great last performance in the bag, though it may well be that that last hurrah was his stoppage win over Moreno in 2016.
At just 23 the future is amazingly bright for Nery, who has become a big star in his homeland. The Mexican is a flawed but exciting and aggressive fighter. He brings a lot of pressure and is surprisingly quick with his hands, which are double a problem given that he too is a southpaw, and he is a high volume puncher who really loves letting his punches go. Although explosive and physically imposing Nery does have questions over his own chin, and he was dropped last time out by the accurate but relatively light punching Arthur Villanueva. Given his style he makes the most of his youthful energy, though some questions should be asked about his stamina, and he has only done 24 rounds in his last 6 bouts combined with only 1 career bout going beyond 9 rounds.
Although flawed there is a real feeling that Nery has the style to always trouble Yamanaka. Even a prime Yamanaka didn't like incessant pressure, this was shown against Iwasa and more recently against Suriyan and Solis. There is a chance that Nery's chin wouldn't hold up to a perfect left hand from Yamanaka, though with the Mexican being busy, young and quick, he will feel confident of swarming Yamanaka, cramping him of space and working away on the inside. Where Nery perhaps is at a big disadvantage is his natural size, and he does seem like a fighter who struggles to comfortably make 118lbs, with 2 of his recent bouts taking place above the divisional limit. If he's struggling he may just cause himself enough issues to take away the edges he has.
We suspect this bout will be similar to the first. Yamanaka will have some success when he's got the bout at range, making the most of Nery's slower feet, but the Mexican will gradually get closer, and will begin to break down the Japanese veteran, eventually stopping Yamanaka, and retiring him. There is a chance Yamanaka will land a trademark thunderbolt left hand, but that's all he has, a puncher's chance.
Unification bouts are rare in boxing, though thankfully their rareness comes with the feeling that every one of them that we do get is that little bit special. That's arguably the case this coming Saturday as the WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles get unified in Belfast. Going into that bout as champions will be Kazakh brawler Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18) and Northern Irish slickster Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9), with Zhakiyanov entering as the WBA champion and Burnett at the IBF king.
Aged 33, and soon to be 34, the Kazakh is really at the point in his career where a loss could well be the end of his career, at least at the top level. That's ignoring the fact that he has actually only just arrived on the world stage, winning his WBA title last time out in a split decision win over Rau-shee Warren in the US. Had the decision gone against him, there's a good chance that Zhakiyanov would have joined the “who needs him?” club and not been able to get a second shot at a world title.
Amazingly for Zhakiyanov his reign was rather lucky, and in his win he was dropped twice, in the opening round by Warren. A smarter fighter than Warren would have jumped on Zhakiyanov in round 2 and closed the show, but the American took his foot off the gas and let the Kazakh regroup, before he out hustled and out-worked the American to earn the decision. That bout proved that Zhakiyanov can over-come real adversity but also showed his limitations and it was clear that he really was a fighter with only one plan, and that pressure.
Although a pressure fighter at heart Zhakiyanov does have very solid power, as shown back in 2014 with his KO of the Year contender against Karim Guerfi. Sadly though he's slow of foot and his punches are certainly not the most technically correct or the fastest. As a results he can be out boxed.
Whilst Zahkiyanov is a pressure fighter Burnett is a pure boxer, and a very talented, slick one at that. He can box on the front foot, or the back foot, and although he's not the most aggressive or exciting of fighters he is one of those natural talents who looks so composed and at ease in the ring that boxing looks second nature to him. He moves wonderfully around the ring and controls distance brilliantly, especially on the back foot where his boxing brain really does shine. Although he can fight on the front foot he does look a lot more effective on the back foot.
Burnett has long been championed as a star for British boxing and at times has shown incredible skills. Whilst those skills are impressive he has also shown a lot of frustrating traits. He's note more than 2 years removed from his last stoppage and his lack of killer instinct has been really annoying, especially given that he has dropped a number of fighters but never gone for the kill, instead racking up unnecessary rounds and potentially boring fans, when he should be using those skills to shine.
Whilst Burnett is incredibly frustrating for fans he's also a nightmare to face, and stylistically Zhankiyanov is made to order. The pressure of the Kazakh will allow Burnett to tee-off on him and make him look stupid. There is a chance that Zhakiyanov will have some moments but the reality is that the movement of Burnett will simply be too much for him, and the sharp shots will take their toll. It's up to Burnett as to whether he'll want to up the pace and seek a stoppage late,but it's hard to see anything but a win for the Northern Irishman.
This coming Tuesday we'll see a mouth watering WBC Bantamweight world title fight, as long reigning champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19) [山中慎介] faces off with unbeaten mandatory challenger Luis Nery (23-0, 17), in a bout that really is brilliant on paper and is viewed by many as a 50-50 contest.
The Japanese world champion has been the WBC Bantamweight king since November 2011, making him the longest reigning current world champion, and in that time he has racked up 12 title defenses. Unlike many long term champions he hasn't been racking them up against weak opponents, instead defending his belt against the likes of Vic Darchninyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. That's not to say there hasn't been some poor challengers, such as Carlos Carlson and Diego Ricardo Santillan, but for the most part his reign has come against top tier competition.
The Konana born champion is aged 34, so getting on a bit, but has got a style that doesn't depend on youth and age. Instead it's a simple style with his whole game plan being based on landing his straight left hand, which has seen off a number of opponents. Although he “only” has a 66% KO rate he has stopped 9 of his last 13 and is regarded as one of the biggest punchers in the sport, on a pound for pound basis. As we all know, power is the last thing a fighter loses.
Although not the quickest, or hardest working, Yamanaka controls the ring well, and often takes on the role of a counter puncher, looking to land his left hand on an aggressive foe. It is however too easy to say Yamanaka is a 1-trick pony as he can brawl, he can come forward and he has got a nice jab, and right hook, when he decides to use them.
Whilst there is little new to say about Yamanaka's style which hasn't been said before, he has got a special reason to be particularly determined here. A win against Nery will see Yamanaka record his 13th world title defense, tying a long standing Japanese record for most defenses. That record was set back in the 1970's and 1980's when Yoko Gushiken made 13 defenses of the WBA Light Flyweight title, and it's clear that tying that record will be a huge achievement for Yamanaka. It's also worth noting that if he's the champion in 2018 there could be a potential bout against Naoya Inoue in the pipeline, if the Monster moves up as expected.
Aged 22 this bout is a potential coming out party for the challenger, who is known by hardcore fans and has been bubbling just under the surface for a few years now, with some dubbing him the 2016 Prospect of the Year. Whilst only 22 it's worth noting that he's a 5 year veteran who debuted back in May 2012 and began making some real noise in 2014, with wins over Victor Mendez and Carlos Fontes. Since then he he has gone 8-0 (7) scoring wins over a number of Filipino's like Jether Oliva, John Mark Apolinario, Richie Mepranum and Raymond Tabugon. Notably the one win that really stands out is a stoppage of David Sanchez, last year, but it is worth noting that Sanchez had been stopped just 2 fights earlier.
In the ring Nery is an ultra aggressive fighter. He brings the pressure, lets his hands go from the opening round and looks to take out opponents from the early stages. He can look wild and reckless at at times, but is clearly dangerous with both hands, and loves to look for the right hook. It's worth noting that the has been dropped before, with Tabugon doing it in the first round of their bout last December. It's an exciting and fan friendly style that he has, but one that really has worked so well because he's been facing naturally smaller men, who will back off.
Although unbeaten one could ask “what good Bantamweights has Nery beaten?” And the truth is that he hasn't yet beaten a world class Bantamweight. That's not to say he can't, but he is stepping up massively here, and taking on his best foe by far. He could really shine and swarm Yamanaka, showing too much fire for the old dog, but he could just as easily be out classed by the man regarded by many as the best at the weight.
What we're expecting, though again we could be hugely wrong, is for Nery to be his aggressive self in what will be his first bout outside of Mexico. He will be able to have early success with his forward march, but will find Yamanaka's ring craft to be something totally new. The pressure won't be able to pin Yamanaka against the ropes, and instead the champion will time him with counter left hands. There is a good chance Yamanaka will get old over night, but it's hard to imagine that happening here against a fighter like Nery, who just seems to be trying to jump too far, too fast after having faced the competition he has for the last 5 years.
December 16th 2015 will go down as a major date in the careers of Filipino Marlon Tapales (29-2, 12) and Japan's Shohei Omori (18-1, 13). It was a day that saw Tapales drop Omori 3 times in the open round before securing a second round TKO to secure himself a world title fight, and also inflict Omori's first, and so far only loss.
Coming in to that bout Omori was seen as the new rising star of Japan, the next in the long line of great Japanese Bantamweights, such as Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka. Tapales was seen as a hidden gem of the Philippines, but was expected to be the next victim of the fast rising Omori. Instead of it being Omori's stepping stone to world level it ended up being Tapales' coming out party and his chance to shine.
Following the win over Omori we've only seen Tapales fight once, stopping Pungluang Sor Singyu last July for the WBO title in a really sensational bout. Tapales was down twice in round 5, and looked a spent force at the end of the round, before he dropped Pungluang in round 6 and ended up securing an 11th round TKO in a remarkable comeback. Sadly that bout means that Tapales has has fought just 11 rounds in the last 12 months, and only 13 rounds in the last 24 months! That level of inactivity is pretty hard to excuse for such a talented fighter.
Although Tapales has been inactive it's not all been his fought. He was supposed to be in action last December, though saw that bout cancelled when Takuma Inoue suffered an injury forcing the cancellation of a bout the two had agreed. That bout aside though, he really needs to wonder why his team haven't kept him a little busier than he has been in recent times.
In the ring Tapales looks like a very short Bantamweight, and at just 5'4” he is certainly a shorter fighter than many of the top guys, but the crafty southpaw is a rugged and highly skilled fighter with under-rated power, a steely determination, an impressive work rate, impressive timing and excellent counter-punching. Impressive he has only lost once since 2009, and that was a razor thin loss to David Sanchez in Mexico. During that same time he has scored wins over Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura, Omori and Pungluang. He has also been a key sparring partner in the past for Shinsuke Yamanaka and had a lot of ring time with the WBC champion, gaining valuable experience and skills from “God's Left”.
Having looked at Tapales' activity since facing Omori it's only fair to start this by looking at Omori's recent activity. Since his loss he has gone 3-0 (3) stopping Espinos Sabu, Edgar Jimenez and Rocky Fuentes, in a combined 10 rounds. Whilst he has fewer completed rounds than Tapales he has remained regularly activity with a bout every 4 months since his loss. It should also be noted that, like Tapales, he has seen a top level bout cancelled, with a contest against IBF champion Lee Haskins' being called off due to an injury to Haskins. Going back just over 24 months we have seen Omori fight 6 times, and score notable wins over Kentaro Masuda, Hirofumi Mukai and Fuentes.
At his best Omori is a heavy handed southpaw boxer-puncher. He showed his power against Kentaro Masuda in April 2015, in what was his break out win, but then seemed to fall in love with his power and neglect his boxing ability. That wasn't too much of an issue against Mukai but was a massive problem against Tapales, who countered him with ease and had a field day with Omori's recklessness. Since that loss however Omori has learned lessons and is now boxing more often, using his jab and making the most of his long and rangy frame. Whilst his 5'8” frame does give him serious advantages over many in the division the question is how much he will use it, and whether he will make it count for much here.
Prior to his loss to Tapales we really did think Omori was on his way to becoming a Japanese boxing star. Now the question is just how good is he really? Is her a chinny fighter who had been matched well on his rise before being beaten by Tapales, or was he merely caught cold and never recovered before being stopped. Few can question his heart, but his technique and durability both have serious question marks, and his ability to turn a fight around can also be questioned.
This time around we're expecting to see a very cautious Omori start slowly, box behind his jab and try to keep Tapales at range. If he can do that then he could make life difficult for the champion, who really is the much smaller man. As long as Omori can use his range and movement he stands more than a chance of avenging his defeat. On the other hand one mistake from Omori could result in him being countered by Tapales, and unravelling, as he did last time out. If we're being honest we see Omori needing to be on point for 12 rounds to win here, whilst Tapales knows that he has the power to hurt Omori and the ability to land that power. At some point during a 12 round fight you have to think Tapales will land clean, and although he's the smaller man he is a damn good boxer, and will eventually stop Omori.
The bout is an intriguing one in many ways, and is one we're really exciting by, and one where we favour the champion to score a repeat win.
On March 2nd Japanese icon Shinsuke Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18) will return to the ring in search of his 12th world title defense, as he takes on in form Mexican challenger Carlos Carlson (22-1, 13). For Yamanaka a win would see him move to second in the list of Japanese fighters with successive title defense, just a defense behind the 13 defense record of Yoko Gushiken, whilst a win for Carlson would put him on the boxing map as a potential star of the Mexican fight scene.
Yamanaka has been the champion since November 2011, when he beat Christian Esquivel for the then vacant title. Since then he has become one of the stars of Japanese boxing and his 5 year reign at the top is the longest active reign of any male world champion. That reign hasn't just been long but it's also been a distinguished one with defenses against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno, twice, and Liborio Solis.
Aged 34 Yamanaka is one of the elder statesmen of Japanese boxing, yet is regarded as one of the truly elite level fighters from the country. In the ring he can be a bit predictable, lining up his vicious left hands which are his most potent weapon. Although a very left hand dominant fighter Yamanaka has got under-rated skills and can rely on them when needed, as he did against Solis, and can also win a war, as he did in his second bout with Moreno.
Although still a top fighter, and probably the best Bantamweight on the planet, Yamanaka has shown flaws in recent bouts. He has been dropped in his last two bouts, was fortunate to over-come Moreno in their first meeting and was given real fits by Suriyan. Despite those flaws Yamanaka has always found a way to come out on top at world level, and has won his last 21 fights, with 16 stoppages in those contests.
Whilst Yamanaka is widely regarded as the best Bantamweight on the planet much less is known about Carlson, despite the fact he too is on a long winning run, winning his last 22 bouts following a loss on his debut. Notably that loss was fought well above the Bantamweight limit, and in fact many of Carlson's early career bouts were fought in and around the Super Bantamweight division. During his 22 fight winning run Carlos has fought in both the US and in Mexico.
Whilst Carlson has fought internationally the competition that he has faced has been dire. The most notable names he has faced have been the likes of Javier Gallo, Jose Cen Torres,Miguel Tamayao and Giovanni Caro. Worryingly he has also been dropped in some of his bouts so far, and by much lesser punchers than Yamanaka.
Sadly footage of Carlson is relatively limited, though he has appeared on TV before. One of those televised fights saw him take on Aaron Olivares. The bout showed that Carlos is offensively wild and although he can seemingly punch his defense is poor, his shots are wide, his feet cross and there was little in terms of world class ability on show. He has improved since that bout, but he's still a relatively open fighter and was dropped by Carlos Melo only a few fights back.
Whilst it's hard to read too much into Carlson's ability from the footage out there he has been down against limited opponents often enough to suggest he won't be able to withstand Yamanaka's power. With that in mind we're expecting to see a relatively easy stoppage win for the Japanese fighter who will likely return later in the year seeking to tie Gushiken's Japanese record, and maybe even break it before the end of 2017.
The Bantamweight division has been on of the sports most over-looked divisions in recent years, despite having had world champions all over the planet. The long reigning Shinsuke Yamanaka has proven to be the top guy in the division, with notable wins over a who's who of contenders like Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis, but Yamanaka aside the division seems to lack in star power. The other champions in the division, like Marlon Tapales and Lee Haskins, are very good fighters but they lack the fan base to create a huge buzz at home, despite both having been in some sensational fight. Despite being an over-looked division it does give us some interesting match ups, one of which is set to take place his coming Friday in Ohio.
The bout in question sees WBA “super” champion Rau'shee Warren (14-1-0-1, 4) defending his title against Kazakh puncher Zhanat Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18) in a speed Vs power bout.
Warren, a former 3-time US Olympian, won the title last year with a razor thin win over Juanm Carlos Payano and will be looking to make his first defense and solidify his standing as a world class fighter.
In the ring Warren really is a speed king with speed to burn in both his hands and his feet. He's not a puncher but he certainly hits harder than his record suggests, with knockdowns against a number of fighters that have seen the final bell with him. Whilst many of those knockdowns will be down to his speed, rather than power, he certainly can hurt fighters.
Not only is Warren fast but he's also a very highly skilled fighter, as any 3-time Olympian would be. He might not have shone at the Olympics, losing in his first bout at all 3 Games, but he did accomplish a lot of other things in the unpaid ranks, including winning a gold at the 2007 and a bronze at the 2005 World Amateur Championships. He isn't just skilled but has also began to show his adaptive ability and has transitioned from his amateur style to a professional style, though it did take a while for him to do that whilst saw him struggle in the early part of his career.
Zhakiyanov is a much more “agricultural” fighter. He's a big, strong, tough and powerful Bantamweight who has scored some brilliant knockouts during his career, with his 5th round KO against Karim Guerfi being a frightening shot. That KO came during a long run of stoppages from the Kazakh, who stopped 12 foes in row from May 2011 to May 2015. Despite that impressive stat there was little in terms of quality in there, with Guerfi being the best of the names.
That KO run of the Kazakh came to an end last year, when he claimed a split decision win over Yonfrez Parejo for the interim title in Monaco, and Zhakiyanov certainly didn't shine there, in fact he didn't shine at all in 2016 with his only other bout being a less than great win over Hector Roland Gusman, a bout in which he was dropped. It was a year in which Zhakiyanov's lack of speed and predictability saw him really exposed as little more than a limited puncher.
With his power Zhakiyanov always has a chance, if he catches a fighter clean he can put their lights out. Landing clean is however a big ask, especially against a fighter like Warren who is illusive, smart and fast. We suspect the speed and skills of Warren will be the difference here with Zhakiyanov being unable to land his home run punch, which he would need to connect with here to have any chance at all. With Zhakiyanov being as clumsy as he is we wouldn't be that shocked to see a hungry Warren make a statement and actually see off a tiring Zhakiyanov in the later rounds.
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.
The next world title fight to take place in Asia is one of the most over-looked Bantamweight title bouts in a while and sees the attention of the division turn to Thailand where a local champion makes his first mandatory defense, against a criminally under-rated contender.
The champion in question is the very experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35) who will be making the second defense of the WBO Bantamweight title as he goes up against the talented and over-looked Marlon Tapales (28-2, 11) of the Philippines. Between them the men are just 50 years old but have 85 bouts and 80 wins combined!
The 26 year old champion, enjoying his second title reign, is one of the few Thai's who has got a “padded” record but shown he can hang with world class fighters. His first loss was a close one on the road in 2009, to future world title challenger Stephane Jamoye, his second was another close one on the road to Paulus Ambunda whilst his most recent was a KO loss in the US to Tomoki Kameda, his most notable bout so far. In all of those losses he proved he was a handful and had Kameda worried before the Japanese star landed one of the best body punches landed in recent years.
Whilst those losses have all been set backs he has scored notable wins over AJ Banal, in the Philippines and Ryo Akaho, to begin each of his title reigns, and also scored a recent win over Filipino Jetro Pabustan, in what was a really messy bout plagued by headclashes. Other somewhat decent wins include victories over Monico Lurente and Eden Sonsona, credible oriental level wins.
In the ring the champion is a smiling ball of aggressive energy. At 5'4” he's a tiny Bantamweight but uses his lack of height well to make a difficult target, he comes forward and he tried to break down opponents with intense pressure and accurate punching. He may not be as skilled as countrymen like Wanheng Menayothin or as powerful as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but he's still a real nightmare and the sort of fighter who can give most Bantamweights on the planet a really nasty time in the ring.
Aged 24 the challenger will be getting his first crack at a world title but is regarded by some hardcore fans as one of the better fighters not to have won a world title. Although relatively unknown by the wider boxing fan base he already holds wins over the likes of Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura and Shohei Omori. He was also really unlucky when he fought to a majority decision loss to David Sanchez in his most recent loss.
Tapales has been beaten twice. Once was the aforementioned defeat to Sanchez whilst the other was a 6th round TKO loss to Brix Ray back in 2009. That loss to Ray was an upset and will be a black mark on his record, however that loss came more than 7 years ago and Tapales is a far different fighter today to what he was back then, as a teenager.
In the ring Tapalese is a careful fighter with a good guard and subtle footwork however it's his timing that appears to be his greatest quality and the shots he caught Omori with last year were perfect timed lumps of dynamite. He may not have a reputation as a puncher but he certainly possess some solid bang in his left hand, a good energy in the ring and under-rated skills with some lovely speed thrown in as a bonus. There are flaws in his defense but there's enough in there to be a potential handful for anyone in the division. Interestingly he's also going to be one of the very few Bantamweights smaller than Pungluang.
In the ring we're expecting Pungluang to look to bring the pressure and then for Tapale to respond, looking catch him with counters and make the most of his danger left hook. Pungluang is tough though and given the advantage in Thailand he'll be strongly favoured to claim a decision. For Tapales to win he will likely need a KO, something he can get, but we suspect he won't here and instead Pungluang will retain by a decision in a thrilling bout that sees home advantage pay dividends for the Thai.
The Bantamweight division promised a lot for Japan last year but delivered little more than disappointment with a number of losses for fighters who were favoured, including Ryo Akaho, against Pungluang Sor Singyu in a WBO title fight, Tomoki Kameda, twice against Jamie McDonnell, and Shohei Omori, who came up short against Marlon Tapales in a world title eliminator.
Even when Japanese fighters won they were disappointing with the all conquering Shinsuke Yamanaka (24-0-2, 17) also failing to shine, defending his title twice. The first of those defenses was an expected and simple win over the horribly over-matched Diego Ricardo Santillan whilst the second of those defenses saw the Japanese puncher come up very fortunate against Anselmo Moreno.
On March 4th Yamanaka returns to the ring and hopes to return to his dominating best as he hunts a 10th defense of the WBC Bantamweight title, and faces off against Venezuelan warrior Liborio Solis (23-3-1, 10), a man who is well known to Japanese fans.
For Solis the bout will see him attempt to become a 2-weight world champion and look to record his third win in Japan, where he actually holds a 100% record with both previous wins being big ones. Not only is the challenger trying to keep his perfect Japanese record but also extend a 14 fight winning run.
The champion is widely regarded as the top Bantamweight and his reign as the WBC champion has been impressive, though relatively over-looked. He has yet to fight outside of Japan but has scored notable wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Anselmo Moreno. Although some of those bouts were close he did the important thing of pulling out the victory and has got himself a solid looking resume. Not only has he scored some solid wins but he has done so whilst becoming a star in Japan and being able to draw a sizeable TV audience.
In the ring Yamanaka is well schooled, but not an elite level boxer. He has a very good variety of punches in his arsenal but often neglects many of his punches whilst looking to land his thunderbolt left hand. That left hand has got fight ending power, but recent he has looked overly predictable as he attempts to land it. That predictability has made life easier for recent opponents and whilst he has scored 14 stoppages in his last 17 he has gone the distance in 2 of his last 3.
Whilst the champion is regarded as a genuinely elite world level fighter the challenger is much more over-looked, despite having been a former WBA Super Flyweight champion and holding a number of notable wins on record. Those wins include a decision in Panama over Rafael Concepcion, who famously gave Nonito Donaire fits and a decision in Mexico against Jose Salgado, as well as a huge win in Japan over current world champion Kohei Kono and a controversial victory over Daiki Kameda.
To many fight fans in the East it was Solis's win over Kono that really solidified Solis as a world class talent, and it was a hell of a fight with both men being dropped and both going to war with Solis taking a majority decision over the popular Watanabe gym fighter. Whilst that win really made Solis, in many ways his win over Kameda was the beginning of the end for the Kameda clan and saw Solis missing weight for a Super Flyweight unification bout. Since then he has fought as high as Featherweight and last time out scored a win over Jonathan Baat.
In the ring the 33 year old Venezuelan Solis is a tough, busy action fighter. Technically he's not the biggest or most technically capable but he comes to fight and will continually bring pressure with a high work rate and look to turn everything in to a war. It's a style similar in some ways to Suriyan, who gave Yamanaka hell in 2014.
Given the styles of the two men we're expecting something really exciting here with Solis bringing the pressure and Yamanaka boxing on the backfoot, lining up the left hands in an attempt to take Solis out. The fight should be a high paced and all action affair with Solis bringing the fight but it's hard to see him having the power to hurt Yamanaka. The bout, we suspect, will look similar to Yamanaka's bout with Suriyan with Yamanaka doing enough to claim the win, but certainly not looking at his best.
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.