Although we do now have fights there is a lot of fights still left to cover in our "Fights We wish we had" series. As a result this series will continue in some form, potentially moving from a bi-weekly series into a monthly, or sporadic series. When we started we had a good list of bouts we wanted to cover in mind, and we want to get through some more of those before we stop.
With that said lets have a look at another potential all Asian fighter we could have had, and we'll also explain the big stumbling block of this one, which would have potentially made it even bigger, if the hurdle could have been over-come.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Koki Kameda
Although some of the other fighters we have in this series are more logical ones, and much more competitive ones, we always liked the idea of the then WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka up against the then WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Koki Kameda. We full appreciate this wouldn't have been the best fight, the most competitive of fights or the more exciting, but it would have been one we'd have still absolutely loved.
For this bout to be at it's biggest it would require both men to be holding world titles, and we are accepting Kameda's WBA "regular" belt here. With that in mind we are probably looking at this fight taking place in 2012 or 2013.
Interestingly Kameda won his WBA title in December 2010, to become a 3-weight champion, whilst Yamanaka had to wait 11 months longer to pick up the WBC title. In the window where both were champions Kameda made 6 defenses, including one just weeks after Yamanaka won his title. Yamanaka on the other hand made 5 defenses before Kameda vacated. That's a good, solid window for this fight.
In Shinsuke Yamanaka we have a viciously hard hitting Japanese southpaw who was a natural Bantamweight. He was a boxer-puncher, who loved to work at range, get full extension on his shots and quickly became one of the faces of Japanese boxing with with his explosive power, charming personality and exciting bouts. Although he wasn't regarded as the best in the division early in his reign he did become the top man at Bantamweight, in the eyes of many, before he was dethroned in 2017 by Luis Nery in the first of two controversial fights between the men.
Fighting out of the Teiken stable Yamanaka was able to take wins over a real who's who of the division at the time. That included wins against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. He also had a notable Japanese title reign that included a brilliant win over Ryosuke Iwasa.
Although Yamanaka was the more exciting fighter and the bigger puncher Koki Kameda was, at least early on, the much bigger name. Kameda had won the title to become a 3-weight world champion, adding the title to a collection which had included the WBA Light Flyweight title and the WBC Flyweight title. He wasn't a big name due to his WBA "Bantamweight" title but due to his brash attitude and charisma. Those who watched him were mixed between those wanting him to win, and those wanting him to get the comeuppance for his loud mouth and cockiness. It made him a figure of major interest in Japan and the big star of Osaka.
Style wise Kameda was a quick, speedy fighter but one with a tight guard, swift foot work and lovely hand speed. At times he could get very lazy, he could get handcuffed easily and could sleep walk though contests. When he got going however he was a joy to watch. Sadly at Bantamweight the general pattern of his fights was to be lazy, be defensive and then try turning it on late, when his opponents tired. This was something that resulted in a lot of very close wins during his Bantamweight reign.
How would we see it playing out?
Lets begin with the obvious. The crowd here would be amazing. The pro-Yamanaka fans were some of the best, the pro-Kameda fans were often loud and boisterous. Big all Japanese bouts don't happen a lot and that would have poured fuel on to an already loud and excited fan base. This would have been massive news. It would have taken a long build up, with NTV and TBS both needing to sort a deal that made sense, but when that was done we would have one of the biggest fights in Japanese boxing history.
Unlike many of Kameda's Bantamweight opponents Yamanaka was a huge puncher, with only Hugo Ruiz really matching him there in regards to Kameda opponents, he was also a very skilled boxer, who could fight for 12 rounds when he needed to. We see those two things being big issues for Kameda, who would struggle with the power, tempo and size of Yamanaka. At range Yamanaka would control behind his straight left and his often under-used jab.
That's however not to say Kameda wouldn't be able to do anything. The Osakan is a smart fighter, he wouldn't just stand in front of Yamanaka but would move, have his tight guard up and make Yamanaka chase him. He would also look to land his counter right hook in the battle of southpaws. That shot could be an issue for Yamanaka, due to it's speed and the surprise element, but it would still be a risky shot for Kameda to throw as he would have to get close.
We suspect the low output nature of Kameda, in front of a big power puncher like Yamanaka would not be a great tactic. Whilst Kameda is defensively tight, and has got quick footwork, we see him being target practice at range, countered when he rushes forward and slowly broken down. In the middle rounds, or maybe a little bit later, we see Yamanaka lowering the boom and taking him out, likely beating the fight out of the smaller man rather than cleanly knocking him out.
Would history of been changed?
As with every All-Japanese world title unification bout featured in this series things would indeed have been changed.
Firstly we think that we wouldn't have seen the bout between Koki Kameda and Kohei Kono if this bout had happened. Had Kameda been flattened by Yamanaka there is little chance he would ever have faced another Japanese opponent. Notably Kameda only fought two in his career, the first was Daisuke Naito and the second was Kono. Had Yamanaka taken him out we're confident he'd have avoided a Kono bout.
Secondly Yamanaka would have been an even bigger star than he was, potentially even earlier than he was. Beating Kameda would have given him a massive rub and he'd have seen his profile boosted massively for beating Kameda, both domestically and internationally. This could, although it's not assured, have opened the door to fights in Las Vegas, as he often spoke about. That could, potentially, have included a bout with the then WBO champion Tomoki Kameda, who was fighting in the US in 2014 and 2015. If Kameda wanted revenge for his older brother's loss this would have been a great chance for Yamanaka to make his US debut.
It would also have, potentially, rushed his bout with Anselmo Moreno, rather than making us wait until 2015. It needs to be remembered that Kameda only abandoned the belt when he was ordered to face Moreno in 2014, so to have seen those titles unified before Moreno lost to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 would have been amazing. Had that happened there's a good chance that Payano would never have become a world champion...which could have denied us the iconic KO scored by Naoya Inoue against Payano in the World Boxing Super Series.
Looking deeper down the rabbit hole there is a lot of different ways history could have been changed, but the ones that seem most likely are that Kameda would have ended his career earlier and Yamanaka would have been a bigger star. Anything further than that really does depend on the machinations of the alphabet boys, and how much they would be swayed by the potential sanctioning fees that Yamanaka's bouts would pay
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces