In boxing it's hard to think of a persona non-gratis, but that certainly seems to describe former WBC Bantamweight champion Luis Nery (26-0, 20) in regards to Japan. Last year he defeated Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19) [山中慎介] to claim the WBC Bantamweight title, but would fail a drugs tests. A rematch was planned for the title, though yesterday Nery came in massively over-weight and even with a 2 hour grace period still couldn't make the Bantamweight limit causing him to be stripped of the title on the scales.
Despite failing to make weight the rematch went ahead today, and unfortunately for Yamanaka he was stopped again. This time in 2 rounds in what looks likely to be his final bout.
The Japanese fighter looked good, for the first minute, as he landed several body shots but as soon as Nery landed anything it seemed like Yamanaka was troubled, his punch resistance seemingly gone. A jab sent Yamanaka's knees to jelly and he was dropped, though it was incorrectly ruled a slip. Not long after that he was down, and it ruled a knockdown.
Yamanaka saw out the first round but Nery smelled blood. Yamanaka was down again very early in round 2. When he got up his looked all wrong with his balance gone. He was down again moments later, before a third knockdown of the round saw the referee stop the bout.
Given how easily he went down, and his age, this is almost certainly it for Yamanaka who had a great career before the first bout with Nery. He managed to record 12 defense and will go down as one of Japan's greatest world champions. Sadly though his career will be finished with back to back losses, both in tainted bouts.
For Nery it's hard to know what's next. His failed drug's test and inability to make weight has seriously tainted his two best wins. He's a very good fighter, but we really don't know how good he actually is. Had he not failed a drugs test or failed to make weight he would likely be regarded as one of the top Bantamweights on the planet. Now however he looks like someone who can't score a world class win cleanly. He looks like a fighter who needs unfair advantages and will likely have that sort of reputation going forward. He may well struggle to get big fights after the weight fiasco and will almost certainly have to be fighting at 122lbs, if not 126lbs going forward, where his natural size will be less effective.
It's a real shame to see Yamanaka bow out on back-to-back losses to someone who has essentially cheated in both fights but it's really time he walked away and spent time with his kids, his family and looked for future ventures, including potentially become a gym owner or a trainer.
It's worth noting that the title will remain vacant, and could well be on the line for a bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana and Emmanuel Rodriguez, who had previously been ordered to fight in an eliminator.
Over the last 12 months or so we have seen the long established guard of Japan fall, piece by piece, with fighters like former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama, former WBC Super Featherweight champion Takashi Miura, former 2-time WBA Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono and former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi all lose in major bouts, and the two Takashi have since announced their retirement. The one member of the old guard left standing was Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) [山中慎介],a long term WBC Bantamweight champion who had racked up 12 defenses and had ruled the roost for around 7 years, proving to be the king of the division. Today however he became the latest veteran champion of Japan to be beaten by a younger, fresher fighter, as he was stopped in 4 rounds unbeaten Mexican Luis Nery (24-0, 18).
The Japanese champion, known as "God's Left" was looking to tie the long standing Japanese record of 13 world title defenses, a record set back in the early 1980's by Yoko Gushiken. It was a big ask at the age of 34, but with Yamanaka's reign having been so long it was hard to see past him, especially with Nery having never really faced a top flight Bantamweight prior to this bout.
The opening round went almost perfectly for Yamanaka, who controlled the tempo well with his jab, movement and occassional straight. It was as if Nery was was in awe of his opponent, and only launched one of attack of any note during the opening round. The second round was similar, though their was more from Nery who was beginning to show signs of warming to the task, but did get forced to eat some solid left hands.
Nery continued to warm to the task, and in round 3 he began to hold his own in a close round. His moments of success from the first two rounds had been multiplied and he was beginning to show what he was capable of. The early respect was slowly going and he was beginning to move through the gears.
Whilst Nery was building up his steam no one expected him to go from 3rd gear to 5th to begin round 4, but he really came out swinging and rocked Yamanaka very early in the round. He knew Yamanaka was hurt and swarmed him like a hungry lion trying to take out it's prey. Yamanaka seemed to see off the first wave of the attack, but was rocked again soon afterwards, and this time he wasn't able to get away, with Nery refusing to stop throwing until the bout was stopped, with Yamanaka's team coming in to save him. Some how he had stayed on his feet what felt like a 90 second pounding, but he did look out of it and and in tears as the bout was stopped.
The arena fell silent except for the Mexican's team, who now have a potential lower-weight mega star on their hands. The fans were in shock at one of their hero's being dethroned, though they did show respect soon afterwards, applauding the new champion, and chanting their hero out of the arena soon afterwards.
Whilst Japanese boxing has seen a lot of it's veterans coming up short, it's clear that the sport it's self is still red hot in Japan and that we've almost seen the new generation of fighters over-take the old generation, with only Kazuto Ioka bridging the likes of Yamanaka, Hozumi Hasegawa, Uchiyama and Yaegashi, whilst other sensational talents have come through, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, with others, like Hinata Maruta, are just beginning to move into the international title scene. This might be the end of Yamanaka, but it's certainly not the end of Japanese boxing, or even the Teiken gym, who have fighters like Hayate Kaji and Shuya Masaki breaking through the ranks, and looking fantastic doing so.
If, as we suspect, this will be Yamanaka's final outing, we want to thank him for helping establish the old era of Japanese boxing, and wish Nery the best luck as a champion. And we expect we'll see him back in Japan sooner, rather than later.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.