Dramatic fights are why we all watch boxing, and that's exactly what fans who tuned into NTV today got as we were treat to an intriguing WBC Bantamweight title fight between Shinsuke Yamanaka (25-0-2, 17) [山中 慎介] and Venezuelan challenger Liborio Solis (23-4-1, 10).
Solis, fighting in Japan for the third time, had talked the big talk before the fight. He had spoken about Yamanaka having a glass jaw and about how he was going to stop the champion, who was seeking his 10th defense of the title.
The talk of Solis wasn't backed up in the opening round as the visitor showed a lot of respect for Yamanaka and threw very little. The best punches of the round were both left hands from the champion and in all honesty the round wasn't a great opener. The pace however did pick up and in the opening stages of round Solis was down, although it looked like a slip-come-push the referee ruled it a legitimate knockdown. It secured Yamanaka a 10-8 round but seemed to fire up solis who let rip with some solid right hands and got into Yamanaka's face.
Although the “knockdown” in round 2 was a messy one there no doubting either of the knockdowns in round 3, with them both being scored by Solis who found a home for his powerful right hand. The first knockdown was a hard one with Yamanaka put onto the seat of his pants and when he recovered Solis smelled blood, forcing the second knockdown soon afterwards. It was a nightmare round for Yamanaka and one that gave credence to Solis's “glass jaw” comments. It has also secured the challenger a 10-7 round and evened up the cards.
Sadly for the challenger he was was unable to replicate his success in round 4 with a recovered Yamanaka showing respect to his rival and not choosing to slug it out. Instead Yamanaka boxed and move, finding opportunities to let his shots go and get out of range before the counters came back at him. It was a much needed comeback round and one that left him 37-36 up on all 3 of the cards, which were announced after the round.
Yamanaka's tactic of using speed and movement continued to be success in round 5 with Solis often throwing shots at the air from outside of range, whilst Yamanaka was connecting with consistent left hands. It wasn't until round 6 that Solis could mount any series assault, but even that was blunted by Yamanaka who countered well and did enough, especially late in the round, to claim it.
Although Yamanaka had waited late to win round 6 he started round 7 with bad intentions and cracked the challenger in the mid-section with a number of very solid left hands. It seemed to lead to the challenger slowing down with his dangerous right hands looking much less potent than they had in round 3. He was still looking to land them, but they were far less frequent than they had been earlier in the bout.
Solis, know he was slipping further behind, came out for round 8 swinging and he quickly looked to land bombs. They were however misfired and rarely came close to the champion who landed the best punch of the round then thwarted many of Solis' attacks by clinching. It seemed as if the fight was starting to wane on a bit, with both men showing a lot of respect to the other and neither really letting combinations go. Sadly for Solis inactivity wasn't an option and the open scoring had him 77-72 behind after 8 rounds.
The 9th saw another dubious call in favour of Yamanaka who was adjudged to have dropped Solis, though it hardly seemed a knockdown and another messy bundling over of the Venezuelan. The knockdown seem to get in cruise control somewhat and the round was a poor one with a lot of holding. It seemed the champion knew the bout was safe on the cards and he didn't need to take any risks, especially given the scare in round 3.
Despite the relatively dull 9th round Yamanaka did come out firing in round 10 and the pace suddenly warmed up with both landing solid bombs on each other. It was the best round for a while with Solis landing several hard right hands whilst Yamanaka's left hand was, as ever, consistently landing. The round seemed to set the stage for a couple of great championship rounds, though the reality was that those final two rounds intrigued more than excited, with the most memorable moment of round 11 being when the two men almost spilled through the ropes.
In round 12 it seemed that Yamanaka was looking for a finish, and opened up a very nasty cut on Solis's nose, but the challenger didn't seem to care about the cut and the two finished the round slugging it out. Solis knew he'd need a knockout, in fact he knew that after round 9, and his failure to get it essentially sealed his fate.
After the final bell the fighters embraced though both knew who the winner was, with the cards all reading 117-107 to Yamanaka.
There is now talk about Yamanaka unifying with IBF champion Lee Haskins, though we suspect he'll actually return to the ring in Summer for a rematch with either Suriyan Sor Rungvisai or Anselmo Moreno, in what will be a mandatory title defense for the hard hitting southpaw.
Whilst looking back the third round was a major scare for the champion the fact he had had to dig deep early on and recovered in the way he did was impressive and he deserves full credit for that. For Solis his effort, especially early, was commendable but in the end he did look like a man relying on landing a big right hand, with out setting it up properly. Had the challenger shown more nous there is a good chance this would have been much close than the cards suggest.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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