Closet Classics don't need to be old, and today we bring you a bout that was essentially an instant classic from Japan, pitting two of the best Bantamweights of the last decade against each other in a bout that provided everything we could possibly want in a bout. This is from almost 6 years ago and was just brilliant in every which way. It featured two of the best fighters in the division, a boxer-puncher against a pure boxer, high level skills from both, back and forth action and was left with the controversy needed to give us a rematch a year later, in what was another brilliant bout.
Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) Vs Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12) I
The Bantamweight division has long been closely linked to Japan thanks to a long line of Japanese greats at the weight. The likes of Fighting Harada, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Hozumi Hasegawa have carried the division for Japan. In the 2010's it was the turn of Shinsuke Yamanaka, the hard hitting "God's Left" who was carrying the mantle.
Yamanaka had won the title in 2011 and had reeled off 8 defenses before facing off with Anselmo Moreno. The Japanese puncher had created a reputation as a dynamite puncher, and wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas Malcolm Tunacao and Suriyan Por Chokchai had allowed Yamanaka to prove his ability. Sadly however a failure to secure a big bout in the US, or a unification bout was hanging over his head. Due to an inability to get a unification bout Yamanaka's team went on the hunt for the top opponent he could get, which was Moreno.
Moreno was a brilliant Panamanian fighter who had made 12 defenses of the WBA "regular" and WBA "super" titles respectively. He was a tricky, awkward, smart and intelligent fighter who really didn't get the respect he deserved until it was far, far too late. He like many fighters from outside of the more financially rewarding boxing countries, was very much a fighter who fell victim to the WBA's multiple title system. He had lost his WBA "super" title by technical decision to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 and failed to secure a rematch. He then accepted the call to face Yamanaka in September 2015.
This was a highly anticipated clash and was one all fans of the lower weights were anticipating. And it delivered with a brilliant match up of styles, skills, drama and high level action, with a chess match feel.
From the off both men were respectful, each looking to get a read on the otherm and trying to see what the other man had to offer without taking too many risks themselves. It was Moreno who seemed to take the opening round, using his jab more effectively than Yamanaka who looked slower than the challenger. Despite being a technical battle of jabs, this saw neither man running. Both were stood in front of each other, looking to draw a mistake to counter. It was excellent, high level chess until near the end of the round when Moreno opened up and seemed to secure the round.
Yamanaka seemed to find his groove a little bit more in round 2, but again it was a battle of southpaw jabs as the two men stood in range daring the other to make a mistake. It may have been mostly jabs, but it was a high tempo battle of jabs with both starting to just open up their arsenal slightly. This was seen more in rounds 3 and 4, when both began to let hard left hands go and the bout moved into second phase.
Sadly for Moreno he was losing on the open scoring as we went into round 5 and he tried to change that around, particularly in round 6, when he began to back up the local fighter. It was clear the open scoring was encouraging the challenger to press forward, and take the fight to the champion, who began to forget about his jab. The change in aggression from Moreno saw him begin to frustrate the Japanese champion in rounds 7 and 8 and it seemed the tide was turning in favour of the Panamanian, who was equal on to of the cards after 8 rounds.
With 4 rounds left we'll leave the bout to you enjoy without any more spoilers.
It was a chess match early, it then grew into something special, momentum shifting through out, there was always a sense of drama, like a single shot could change the bout, and this was two high level boxers matching each other perfectly well at times.
In many ways however the bout was overshadowed, just a year later, by the rematch between the men, which was a lot more explosive, intense and immediately gratifying. This bout on the other hand was cerebral, high level, and much more one for the purist than their second. Both are fantastic fights, but very, very different.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features