One of the modern day Japanese greats is Shinsuke Yamanaka, who had a fantastic career, going 27-2-2 (19) and running up an excellent 12 world title defenses. Dubbed "God's Left" due to the power in his straight left hand Yamanaka was never the most versatile of fighters, but he perfect playing to his strengths, and his 1-2 was genuine dynamite.
During his great career he would score notable wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Romas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Por Chokchai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis though ended his career following controversial back to back losses to Luis Nery.
Unlike many fighters from Japan Yamanaka had a solid following among fight fans from the west, but there was still plenty of things we suspect didn't know about the heavy handed southpaw.
With that in mind we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Shinsuke Yamanaka, in what is our final 10 facts you probably didn't know about... article for 2019! Don't worry however as we will be back in the new year with more of these!
1-When he was 14, and before really picking up the sport, Yamanaka wrote in his junior high school graduation book "WBC世界チャンピオンになる" (WBC sekai chanpion ni naru) which translates as "become a WBC World Champion".
2-Yamanaka began boxing as an orthodox fighter, though converted to southpaw under advice from his high school teacher Maekawa Takemoto. Sadly Mr Takemoto passed away in 2010, before Yamanaka managed to win the WBC Bantamweight title. Added to this is the fact he's not actually right handed, in fact he's somewhat ambidextrous and revealed he would write left handed, but use chopsticks and scissors right handed, and also played baseball right handed.
3-Prior to being caught by the boxing bug Yamanaka played baseball at junior high school. He decided to pursue boxing in 1997 when he watched Joichiro Tatsuyoshi's bout with Sirimongkol Singwancha.
4-As an amateur Yamanaka went 34-13 (10)
5-Following some poor results whilst boxing as an amateur at university Yamanaka considered walking away from the sport, and came very close to retiring, before the fire he had had for the sport in high school re-emerged. Thankfully for Japanese boxing, his decision to turn professional turned out to be a great one, and lead to one of the most remarkable careers of a Japanese fighter in recent years.
6-Through his entire career Yamanaka was a Bantamweight, and there was only 4 times in 31 bouts that he came in above the 118lbs limit, the most he ever weighed in at was 120¼lbs, for his 13th professional bout.
7-Although noted for his power, especially in his left hand, Yamanaka only scored 2 early wins in his first 8 bouts, going 6-0-2 (2) during that early stretch. In his following 23 bouts he scored 17 stoppages, going 21-0-2 (17) during that run including a 9 fight stoppage run.
8-When Yamanaka stopped Jose Nieves in the first round he caused NTV to change their plans of using social media to engage the fans. Originally they had planned to use twitter to increase fan interest, letting fans tweet who they thought had won each round...unfortunately the bout was over before the tweeting really began and before the opening round was even over.
9-With 12 defenses of the WBC Bantamweight title to his name he holds second place for most successive defenses of a world title by a Japanese male fighter. The male record is held by Yoko Gushiken, at 13, whilst Momo Koseki holds the record if you include female fighters, at 17.
10-In 2019, well after his professional retirement, Yamanaka became an Executive Advisor for Japanese company Angfa Ltd, which sells things like shampoo, health food and cosmetics.
Extra Fact - From 2011 to 2016 Yamanaka picked up at least 1 of the awards at the annual Japanese boxing awards. He won the skills award 3 times, the KO award 3 times, the MVP twice and the Fight of the Year during that run.
Over the last few years Teiken's dominance of the Japanese scene has really under threat and as we right this they currently have no world champions at the gym and only a pair of domestic champions. It wasn't that long ago that fighters like Shinsuke Yamanaka, Roman Gonzalez, Jorge Linares, Takashi Miura, and Carlos Cuadras all holding, or in the mix for, world titles. Now their hopes at the top level essentially lie with Ryota Murata, who will know a loss in July ends his career, the beyond their best trio of Gonzalez, Linares and Cuadras, who are all still in the mix, but not the fighters they once were, and Kenichi Ogawa.
Worryingly all of the names so far mentioned are 30 or above, and most of them are seen as being on the slide.
It would be easy to suggest the Teiken gym is now longer a leading gym in Japan. The likes of the Watanabe Gym and the Ohashi Gym seem to have over-taken it in recent years, and the gym hasn't replaced their faded stars. That however would be partially wrong. The gym isn't done as a top gym, what has happened however is that their transitional stage to the next generation of top fighters, has been delayed some what.
What we mean by that is that instead of having ready made replacements for their faded stars the gym really missed out on a generation of talent. They failed to secure the youngsters who were part of the current generation of stars. The likes of Naoya Inoue and Kenshiro and Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kosei Tanaka took other options, and didn't ink deals with the Teiken gym. Sometimes the reason was obvious, such as location or gym owner, and other times it wasn't, but what is clear is that the top Japanese fighters of today saw other avenues, and went their own way.
That left Teiken needing to chase the next wave of fighters, and that's exactly what they've done, signing 3 top Japanese amateurs in the last 18 or so months, and developing some lesser talents as well. They have essentially had to play catch up with the rival gyms since Yamanaka retired, and they have done so in a manner that could end up having them back on top of the Japanese scene in the coming years.
Before we look at their top prospects it's worth looking at both of their current national champions. They are Super Featherweight Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) and Welterweight Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12). Interestingly neither of these were amateur standouts, Sueyoshi managed to go 21-8 in the amateurs before competing in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, losing to Masayuki Ito. Nagano on the other hand won the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Both have developed from Rookies to national champions, and that leads us to one of the top Teiken prospects, one who doesn't have a strong amateur backing but has excited fans.
Super Flyweight hopeful Hayate Kaji (12-0, 9), like Sueyoshi and Nagano, came through the Rookie of the Year. In fact Kaji won the Super Flyweight competition on the same day that Nagano won the Welterweight competition, in 2015, winning the final in just his 4th professional bout. Sadly since that Rookie triumph Kaji hasn't shone like many suspected, and despite maintaining his unbeaten record the 21 year old has shown signs of ill discipline, and disappointing performances, especially his 2017 clash with Jun Blazo. Those poor performances, added to blow outs against some horribly over-matched competition, has seen Kaji essentially put on the back burner, with his team clearly focused on getting him experience before getting him a title fight. That's a risky approach for the youngster, who needs to be tested, but he is a big hope for the gym, with an exciting style and vicious power, and time well and truly on his side.
Whilst Kaji is clearly a prospect to keep an eye on the more interesting thing about the Teiken gym is a trio of former amateur standouts, who are just beginning their professional careers but all 3 are marked, already, for something huge.
They are Mikito Nakano (2-0, 2), Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1) and Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1) who only 5 pro fights between but can already be regarded as 3 of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing, and at the time of writing all 3 are 23 years old.
The oldest of the 3, by a few months, is Nakano a southpaw competing in the Featherweight division. He ran up a tremendous 68-9 (48) record in the amateur ranks before turning professional last year and debuting in October. Despite being a fantastic talent his first two bouts were little more than show cases against Thai novices however we now know that his third bout, scheduled for July 6th, will come against Filipino Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3).
Yurong is a really test for Nakano, and he showed a lot of desire and hunger in his January loss to Xiang Li. If Yurong can show that same hunger here he could give Nakano real issues and ask very serious questions of the Teiken man. If Nakano slices through him we can already mark Nakano as someone who should be mixing for titles by the end of 2020.
On the same card as Nakano's bout with Yurong we'll see Lee have his second bout. Like Nakano Lee is a southpaw, and had a stellar amateur career, running up a reported 102-10 amateur record. He fights at 140lbs, a division which Japan hasn't had much international success at in recent years, and looks like a real natural. On his debut he hardly broke sweat, beating a Thai novice inside a round, but looked like every punch he threw was crisp, natural and sharp. He's someone with a lot of potential, strong amateur background, and a rather rare backstory, with North Korean blood in his veins. As an amateur he competed for North Korea in international competitions and clear has the ability to make a mark well above domestic level.
At the moment Lee's opponent for his July 6th bout hasn't been announced, though the bout will be scheduled for 6 rounds and we'd expected a limited opponent, before a stiffer test at the end of the year.
Nakano and Lee are both fighting on the same card leaving Iwata as the odd one out, however he will actually be in the ring on July 12th, as part of the under-card for Ryota Murata rematch with Rob Brant. Iwata made his professional debut in the US last year, after running up a 59-12 (16) amateur record, and then made his Japanese debut earlier this year against Rookie of the Year winner Daiki Kameyama. Unlike the other two he does spend plenty of time in the west and clearly is happy to fight on international soil early in his career, despite the fact he's a Light Flyweight and the best competition there is in Asia right now. On paper the's the least experienced in terms of amateur bouts, but his win over Kameyama is the best that the trio have and he seems the ost likley to be fast tracked.
We've not yet been told who Iwata will be debuting against but we're expecting it to be an international opponent, hopefully some one who will ask Iwata something new, and allow the speedy youngster to show more of what he can do.
Whilst the Teiken gym hasn't got any world champions, it appears they have 3, or 4 if we include Kaji, top prospects and the foundation is there for the next wave of Teiken success. It might be a few years away, and we may see Watanabe and Ohashi move further ahead in that time, but Teiken is not dead, it's merely transitioning to the next generation of fighters, and they are very exciting.
One more thing to add is the fact Teiken will be scouting the 2020 Olympics and will be expecting to pick up several of the top prospects from those games, so the next wave of Teiken fighters won't just be Kaji, Nakano, Lee and Iwata, but also some of the fighters who may well medal at Tokyo games. The gym has the money, the connections and the know how to secure big signatures, and we're really excited to see where those Olympians end up at the end of next year, along with those top amateurs who fail to qualify for the games. They are likely to have promoters, including Teiken, trying to get their signatures, and strengthen the stables for the future.
Teiken isn't dead, it's just a sleeping giant.
(All Images courtesy of Teiken.com)
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Although August was exciting there a lack of big name action. That changes however in September when we get a host of world level bouts with other rising contenders in action across a number of weights.
Masanobu Nakazawa Vs Masayoshi Kotake (Japanese)
The month kicks off with title action in Japan as the once beaten Masanobu Nakazawa (17-1-1, 7) battles Masayoshi Kotake (9-9-2, 5) in a bout for the Japanese interim Light Welterweight title. This bout has come about due to an injury to Hiroki Okada and we're expecting a good one here. On paper it's easy to side with Nakazawa though he's taking a huge step up in class to face the much more proven Kotake in what really looks likely to be a very competitive match up.
Tomoki Kameda Vs Jamie McDonnell II (WBA)
One of the best bouts this year saw Japan's Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffer his first loss in a brilliantly competitive 12 round bout with Englishman Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12). Now the men will do it again with McDonnell hoping to prove his win wasn't a fluke and Kameda looking to avenge his sole defeat. Up for grabs isn't just personal gratification but also the WBA Bantamweight title and the claim of being the #2 fighter in the division.
Jonathan Taconing Vs Jomar Fajardo (OPBF)
Some bouts are guaranteed to give excitement and action. Any bout that features Jonathan Taconing (21-2-1, 18) is likely to be worth a watch. Taconing will be defending his OPBF Light Flyweight title against compatriot, and fellow slugger, Jomar Fajardo (14-8-2, 7) in a bout that could be the sleeper bout of the month. Stylistically this one promises to be really exciting, though we do suspect that Taconing will be too big, too strong and too powerful for the gutsy Fajardo.
Shohei Omori Vs Hirofumi Mukai (Japan)
Fast rising Japanese Bantamweight Shohei Omori (14-0, 9) impressed us all when he won the Japanese Bantamweight title earlier this year. He makes his first defense of that title as he takes on former 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (11-3-2, 1) in what looks like a solid, though unspectacular, defense for the man dubbed “Demon of Left”. Whilst the bout isn't a great one it does see Omori up against his most accomplished southpaw opponent
Kota Tokunaga Vs Yuhei Suzuki (Japan)
On the same card as Omori's Bantamweight title fight his stablemate Kota Tokunaga (15-2, 10) will make the first defense of the Japanese Lightweight title. In the opposite corner is heavy handed challenger Yuhei Suzuki (16-4, 12). This one promises to be explosive with both guys able to through heavy leather, though neither has shown a real ability to cope with being tagged hard meaning that this could be over at any moment.
Shin Ono Vs Kenichi Horikawa (Japan)
Former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-6-2, 2) looks to claim his first domestic title as he faced veteran pro Kenichi Horikawa (29-13-1, 6). For Horikawa this will be a 4th Japanese title fight and although he's come up short in first 3 shots he'll be determined to make the most of this one. With both fighters being in their 30's this could be a case of now or never, especially with the fast rising Ken Shiro waiting in the wings for the winner.
Xiong Zhao Zhong Vs Crison Omayao (OPBF)
China's only man to claim a world title, Xiong Zhao Zhong (25-6-1, 14) will look for one of his most notable wins as he takes on Filipino fighter Crison Omayao (17-9-3, 5) in a bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title. On paper this looks like a mismatch but Omayao has got a spotty record due to facing some of the most talented little men on the planet, including Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. This really should be the Chinese highlight of the month.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Anselmo Moreno (WBC)
The Asian wide highlight of the month, and one of the world wide bouts of the month, will see WBC Bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) defending his belt against former WBA “super” champion Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12). For some this bout is to decide the facto #1 Bantamweight on the planet, for others how it's just a bout to savior and features one of the most talented pure boxers in the sport battle against one of the sports most natural punchers. This really is something very special.
Less than a week after the Yamanaka/Moreno bout we get another of the month's highlights as we get a real huge bumper show in Osaka.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Roberto Domingo Sosa (WBA)
The main event will see Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) defending his WBA Flyweight title against Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14). This will be Ioka's first defense of the title, that he won against Juan Carlos Reveco earlier this year, and if he comes through this, as is expected, he will be facing Reveco in a bout penciled in for December 31st. A lot riding on this one for the 26 year Japanese youngster.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Ryuji Hara (IBF)
Another world title bout on the same card will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) defending his title Ryuji Hara (19-1, 11) in what looks to be a genuinely mouth watering match up. For Takayama this will be the second defence of his title whilst Hara fights in his first world title fight, having previously been the Japanese and OPBF champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Hayato Kimura (Japan)
On the same card the Ioka bout will be three other title bouts. One of those will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) defending his belt against Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15). This doesn't look great on paper but it's a good test for Ishida who will be hoping to move on to world level in his upcoming bouts. Alstough a big favour there are some questions marks about the champions stamina which will hopefully be tested again here.
Kei Takenaka Vs Krikanok Islandmuaythai (OPBF-Female)
A lower title fight on this card will see Kei Takenaka (9-0, 3) defending her OPBF female Light Flyweight title against Thai visitor Krikanok Islandmuaythai (4-4-1, 2). This is a weaker bout than the other two major fights on this card but it's expected to be one of Takenaka's final bouts before stepping up to world level.
Eun Hye Lee Vs Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (WBC-Female)
The final world title bout comes towards the end of the month as South Korean fighter Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) battle Thai visitor Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. This bout has been rescheduled twice following various issues and is finally looking like it's all sorted, finally.
Yukinori Oguni Vs Taiki Minamoto
The final notable action of the month takes place at the end of the month where Japanese fans get a couple of national title fights. The most interesting of those will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4) defending his belt against the heavy handed Taiki Minamoto (10-4, 9). This will be Oguni's second defense and if he comes through he'll be expected to face a rematch against Yasutaka Ishimoto.
Suyon Takayama Vs Ryoji Tanaka
The other title fight at the end of the month will see Suyon Takayama (22-1, 7) defending the Japanese Welterweight title against Ryoji Tanaka (8-4-1, 2). This is a weak looking match up, if we're being honest, but the significance of the bout is worth noting and if Takayama keeps defending his title we may, one day, see him take part in a more interesting match up than his recent ones.
(All Images courtesy of boxmob.jp
Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0, 8) is a fighter who widely splits opinion. If you listen to HBO, Ring Magazine or even Bob Arum you'd assume that Rigondeaux was as boring as listening to paint dry.
If you listen to fans of "the sweet science" however, Rigondeaux is generally seen as a supremely gifted fighter who has the ability to make good fighters look ordinary and ordinary fighters look garbage.
Sure he may not have the most exciting bouts fight after fight but one thing about Rigondeaux we can all agree on is that he's a special boxer. Not necessary a great fighter but clearly the top Super Bantamweight on the planet right now.
Unfortunately despite being the clear #1 at 122lbs it seems unlikely that HBO will willingly cover his next bout. With that in mind we started to wonder, what is next for the main who beat "The Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20)?
Our conclusion was that "El Jackal" would be best off looking to the East for his next fight, as a number of top Super Bantamweights ply their trade over there, in fact there is so many match ups that Ringondeaux could be looking at if he traveled to either Macau or Japan that his career for the next few years could be as busy as he wanted it to be.
The most logical option, if Rigondeaux does look for a fight in the Orient, would be against former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15).
Hasegawa would almost certainly love a chance to claim a third divisional title, he has the ability to draw a crowd and is still, despite losses in recent years, seen as one of the top Japanese fighters.
In terms of the fight it's self Hasegawa would not only bring some TV money and a crowd but also speed, in fact he may be the only fighter at 122lbs who can match Rigondeaux for pure hand speed. His style should actually suit Rigondeaux's counter punching and whilst we could get a chess match it would certainly be a high speed and exciting one with both men having questionable chins.
Incidentally a Hasegawa victory over Rigondeaux would see him fulfilling one of his future goals in becoming a unified champion.
If a fight with Hasegawa couldn't be made for whatever reason there is a trio of Teiken fighters who would all likely be willing to fill a slot with the Cuban.
Firstly you have former WBA champion Akifumi Shimoda (27-3-2, 12), who's highly ranked by both the WBA and WBO. Shimoda certainly wouldn't be given much of a chance by the boxing public but he is known by US fans and could well serve as a supposed "stay busy fight" for the Cuban.
Secondly you have Yasutaka Ishimoto (22-6, 5), pictured, who has been on a recent Bob Arum promoted Macau show, where he scored a notable upset defeating former world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Ishimoto is ranked highly by the WBO and whilst he's unlikely to put up a great challenge he's a fighter who knows that a win would open up major paydays.
The final Teiken option would be Shinsuke Yamanaka (19-0-2, 14), the current WBC Bantamweight champion. Of course Yamanaka would have to move up a division for the bout but Rigondeaux himself is a small Super Bantamweight. Although this is the least likely of the "Teiken Trio" it would certainly be a fight that would have fans across the globe very interested, arguably more so than the Hasegawa bout mentioned above.
Aside from the 4 men mentioned above there is other options, in fact there is really huge selection of options.
One possibility would be Shingo Wake (14-4-2, 7), the current OPBF champion. Of course Wake has a bout with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal lined up for October, though after that a Rigondeaux bout would likely be his dream contest for early 2014.
In terms of mass attention, perhaps the only fight in Japan that would be bigger than a Yamanaka/Rigondeaux contest would be Rigondeaux against Koki Kameda (31-1, 17). Unfortunately this is likely to be a total no-no for Kameda who has been selective with opponents and would need to step up both a weight class and an opposition class. Saying that though the attention this bout would get, with Kameda looking for a fourth divisional title would be massive.
Of course it's not just Japan that has options and in fact Indonesia has a very, very interesting option, as long as Rigondeaux himself is willing to move up a division.
A bout between Rigondeaux and Chris John (48-0-3, 22) in Jakarta or even Singapore, at Featherweight would be massive.Sure this is a highly unlikely bout but there would be major interest from fans across the globe wondering if Rigodeaux could compete at 126lbs and wondering if Chris John can genuinely beat a world level fighter.
Unfortunately this bout really does have a number of stumbling blocks. Not only would money be an issue, or venue but also the dreaded "Golden Boy/Top Rank" rivalry which has already denied up a number of bouts.
One thing is for certain, despite what Bob Arum and HBO seem to think, there are fights out there for Rigondeaux that can draw a real interest and there are options out there. Hopefully it's not long before Arum realises he can send Rigondeaux out to Macau or Singapore and try to capitalise on the busy Asian scene.
If Rigondeaux's next fight isn't in the East, it's fair to say Arum has missed a trick.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).