For several years the Bantamweight division has had two rulers. One was Panamanian slickster Anselmo Moreno, a tricky pure boxer. The other Japanese destructive and unbeaten Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16). The two two couldn't be much more different with Moreno using movement, sharp jabs and rapier straights as well as tricky and jerky movements whilst Yamanaka often neglects the jab to set up rocket launcher left hands that have earned him the nickname "God of Left".
At the end of September one of those men was dethroned as Moreno lost a controversial, and very difficult to watch, technical decision to Juan Carlos Payano, an unbeaten fighter from the Dominican Republic. That bout may have seen Payano win the title but at the end of the day it's actual affect was leaving us with just 1 proven and dominant champion, WBC holder Yamanaka. Had Payano iced Moreno in a 1-sided show case on Fox Sports 1, as the bout was intended to be shown on, then we'd be talking about Payano as a potential threat but that bout being unaired in the US, or online, has left more mystery and intrigue than anything else.
In middle of October we will see Yamanaka back in action as he looks for the 7th defense of his belt in a little under 3 years and attempts to over-come mandatory challenger Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (37-5-1, 16), a former WBC Super Flyweight champion who is known for both his reign at 115lbs and his close bout with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam way back in 2010, a bout that saw many fans of the lower weights first take note of the Thai.
For Yamanaka this is his most interesting fight since his hard fought contest with Malcolm Tunacao back in April 2013. It's the first time since that bout that the champion is facing a former world title holder and a man with proven world class ability and toughness as well as a proven history of given world class southpaws, such as Wonjongkam, a tough time. Despite those facts it does need saying that Yamanaka is a freak of nature. His movement is criminally under-rated, his timing is sensational and his counters, especially the left straight, is deadly.
Watching Yamanaka can, at times, be frustrating with the Japanese fighter often looking like a purely 1-handed fighter. His jab is massively under-used, his inside work is good but again under-used and if you can neutralise that thunder-bolt right you can sometimes take him out of his gameplan. Despite looking like a 1-handed fighter however we've seen Yamanaka fight enough to know he has all the tools in his locker and his work on the inside can be just as devastating as his shots at range. It's just a shame he doesn't use them all unless truly needed, as was the case against Ryosuke Iwasa in a very memorable Japanese title fight back in 2011.
As for Suriyan the Thai is a very tough guy who has shown an ability to go in hard with fighters like Nobuo Nashiro, who he defended his title against, and Wongjongkam. Saying that however he was, surprisingly, dropped twice by Yota Sato, indicating that whilst Suriyan is tough there may be questions as to how tough and how well he would handle a clear shot from a fully fledged Bantamweight. Saying that however the Sato fight was Suriyan's final bout at Super Flyweight and it is possible that he was suffering with issues from making the weight limit.
Whilst the challenger is just 25 years old he is also an experienced competitor. He has a number of notable wins including decisions over Tepparith Kokietgym, Takashi Kunishige, Tomas Rojas and Nashiro. He also has experience of fighting on the road though like many Thai's his record outside of Thailand isn't great, in fact he is 0-3-1 outside of his home including an early career loss in South Korea to Jin-Man Jeon. It also need noting that he lacks a real standout win as a Bantamweight with his best Bantamweight win being a stoppage over the previously unbeaten Filipino Daryl Basadre in 2013. As well as a lack of notable Bantamweight wins he has also shown a relative lack of power, despite scoring 9 stoppages in the last 2 years or so. Those stoppages have come at such a low level that they have made Suriyan look like a bigger puncher than he is and in reality even those 9 stoppages have taken 17 bouts to accumulate.
Although Suriyan is a talented boxer with a tight defense and good over-all skills it's hard to see what he really brings to threaten Yamanaka with. He doesn't have the power to make Yamanaka think twice about taking a risk and he also lacks the size to get inside and make the Japanese fighter really work for his win. The tight defense will force Yamanaka to do something to create an opening though we suspect that Japanese fight could box off the back foot very comfortably to take a wide decision if he can be bothered to get his jab into action. If Yamanaka does let his jab go then this could easily be a white wash with out the champion really breaking sweat.
Whilst the champion could take an easy decision we actually suspect is that Yamanaka will hunt a stoppage, it's in his mentality and he appears to want to break Yoko Gushiken's 7 fight national record for most successive title defense by stoppage. If this is what Yamanaka goes for we suspect to see him soften up the challenger in the early and middle rounds before going for the kill in the latter half of the fight, it's there that we will find out how tough Suriyan really is.
On paper we like this bout, in reality however Yamanaka is just too far too good for almost everyone else in the division. Suriyan would give almost everyone in the division a tough bout but not the "God of Left".
(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.