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.