On August 12th Yamanaka again tries to prove that he is a class above the rest of the division as he takes on Puerto Rican challenger Jose Nieves (22-2-3, 11).
Although Nieves is a bit of unknown amongst boxing fans he is ranked #2 by the WBO and#7 by the WBC. These rankings are helped somewhat by his recent run of 5 fights unbeaten as he's defeated Cuauhtemoc Vargas, twice, Alejandro Delgado, Glenn Porras and Danny Flores. These victories have seen him also claiming WBO Latino and Inter-Continental titles.
Aged 32 Nieves has been a professional since 2001 and started his career with an excellent run of 18 fights unbeaten (16-0-2) before suffering a loss to Victor Fonseca in 2008. Prior to the loss to Fonseca Nieves had looked like a very promising fighter and had actually beaten Tomas Rojas just 2 fights earlier.
Unfortunately for Nieves the fact that Fonseca had dropped him 3 had left many questioning his durability and just 3 fights later he was stopped by Chris Avalos in 4 rounds. This loss seemed like to end any dreams of Nieves ever becoming a world title challenger, just 6 fights later however he's managed to earn his chance to become a world champion.
Whilst Nieves's Win-Loss record looks solid it's a bit of a worry that his best victories are over Tomas Rojas and Cuauhtemoc Vargas. It's an ever bigger worry when you consider Rojas twice dropped Nieves whilst Vargas twice ran him incredibly close (with plenty of neutral observers feeling that Vargas should have won both bouts).
The biggest worry if you're a Nieves supporter however isn't his record but is his durability. Having been dropped by Rojas, Fonseca, Avalos and Danny Flores he really doesn't seem like the sort of fighter who should be up against a hard hitting fighter.
Well schooled and able to fight on the inside or the outside Yamanaka is tricky customer to face. He's able to assume control a fight behind his jab if he wishes or hold his own in a brawl if needed, as he did with Ryosuke Iwasa. When he's confident however Yamanaka is a devastating puncher, especially with his venomous left, that left Tomas Rojas out cold less than a year ago.
Although Yamanaka's record isn't that of a monster puncher with just a 65% stoppage rate he has impressively stopped 11 of his last 12 opponents with only Vic Darchinyan seeing out the distance. Those 11 stoppages have included victories over Iwasa and Rojas as mentioned above but also victories over Malcolm Tunacao and Christian Esquivel two genuinely world class fighters.
If called up on Yamanaka can box or fight though from the footage of Nieves it looks likely that Yamanaka will be able to set the pace he wants. Nieves doesn't really do anything spectacularly and if Yamanaka wants this over quickly it's quite likely it will be.
The likely outcome is that Yamanaka takes a few rounds to work out Nieves, see if he does have an extra gear hat he's hidden away, then opens up with his his devastating left hand and probably forces a stoppage of Nieves in the middle rounds, quite possibly after dropping the Puerto Rican 2 or 3 times.