November 7th 2019 will long be remembered for giving us one of the best Bantamweight bouts in recent memory, as Japanese star Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19) scored a unanimous decision over Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (42-6, 38) to unify the WBA and IBF Bantamweight titles, along with the Ring Magazine title and win the Bantamweight edition of the WBSS. The bout, later dubbed the "Drama in Saitama" was an instant classic, with everything a bout could want. It has intense respect between the two fighters, it had drama as Inoue suffered the first cut of his career, and was later diagnosed with a broken orbital and a fractured nose, and controversy with Ernie Sharif helping Donaire survive the penultimate round of the bout. The bout, later named the Ring Magazine Fight of the year, was brilliant and helped to enhance the reputations of both men.
This coming Tuesday we get to do it all again, in one of the most anticipated rematches of 2022. This time the bout will not only be for the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine titles, but also the WBC title, with only the WBO title being missed on what would have unified all the Bantamweight belts together, for the first time in the 4 belt era.
Since their first bout we've not seen as much of Inoue as we would have liked, with the Monster's career stalling in part due to the injuries he suffered against Donaire, and in part due to the Pandemic, which made it nearly impossible to stage big bouts in Japan during 2020 and 2021. As a result Inoue has fought just 3 times in that time period and none of the bouts were huge ones against the divisional elite. Instead they were his Las Vegas debut in October 2020 against the capable Jason Moloney, a mandatory against the underwhelming Michael Dasmarinas and a homecoming defense against the brave but massive over-matched Aran Dipaen. There had been plans for a bout against John Riel Casimero, but that was cancelled due to the pandemic and never re-arranged, unfortunately, before Casimero was stripped of the WBO title.
Notably however the inactivity likely served Inoue well, allowing him a lot of time to heal up from the injuries he suffered to Donaire. He wasn't forced to rush back from what is a serious injury, and was instead able to take his time, and when he returned against Jason Moloney almost a year after that clash with Donaire he looked 100% the fighter he had been previously. He seemed very much the Monster we all know and love.
As we all know Inoue, arguably the face of Japanese boxing over the last few years, is indeed the Monster. He's one of the few fighters in the sport who really can do it all. He can play the boxer, the boxer-puncher, the counter-puncher and the pressure fighter, and has the tools in his arsenal to really pick and choose what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He has brutal power, which has carried up from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight and is likely to carry up at least another division, if not two. He has incredible handspeed, impressive footspeed and worryingly for he also has an incredibly quick boxing brain. That boxing brain sees him seeing things before they even look to be there, including counter opportunities and defensive gaps that he can exploit. He's an offensive freak but is also a defensively under-rated fighter, with only Donaire really landing much of note on him since his 2012 debut, and has an incredible jaw, that saw withstand Donaire's much patented left hook.
Aged 39 Nonito Donaire should be retired, he should have his feet up, looking back on a great in ring career and either working with the new generation of fighters or using his brain as an analyst. Or even just walking away from boxing and enjoying one of his many hobbies away from the ring. Instead he's proving that a fighter who looks after themselves can give father time a bit of a fight, and still remain one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport. And when we talk about Donaire he really is dangerous, and has a very misleading KO ratio, of just 58.33%, despite being one of the heaviest handed fighters in the sport on a pound for pound basis. His power is legitimate and as he's gotten older, and lost some speed, he's adapted. He's not the same fighter he was, as a young Donaire was sharp, quick and destructive, but he's altered his in ring style to be deliberate, and has moved from a counter-puncher of sorts, to more of a stalking monster looking to take opponents heads off when he lands.
Donaire, who has won titles from Flyweight to Featherweight, is a first ballot Hall of Famer when he retires, and his resume reads like a who's who of who, of the lower weights from the last 15 years. Wins over Vic Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Hernan Marquez, Fernando Montiel, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Ryan Burnett and Nordine Oubaali are just a handful of his wins. Even since the Inoue fight in 2019 he has scored notable wins stopping the then 17-0 Oubaali in 4 rounds and the then 24-0 Reymart Gaballo, further enhancing his reputation as a modern great.
Early in his career Donaire lived up to the moniker of the "Filipino Flash". He was lightning quick, with great timing, vicious power but some what poor boxing skills. His power and speed allowed him to get away with making mistakes, and bailed him out of bad situations. With his speed gone now a days, he has changed into a fighter who uses his size, and his ridiculously big frame at Bantamweight, along with his incredibly chin, to take when he needs to. He applies intense stalking pressure now a days. It's slow, it's deliberate, but it's hard to deal with given he still has excellent timing and is happy to take a shot to land a shot. The change in style is almost a reinvention of a fighter, and it's one that has seen him have success well beyond the typical age of a Bantamweight, of almost any fighter for that matter. It's a change that has allowed him to have success in the last part of his career, and whilst it won't forever, he will remain a threat to all the top fighters at 118lbs, due to his toughness, power, size and timing.
In their first bout the expectation was that Inoue was going to slay Donaire, stopping him and sending him into retirement. Had that happened it's fair to say Donaire would have been downplayed as being shot, and old. The fact he gave Inoue a tough bout saw both men enhancing their profiles and their positions. For Donaire to then bounce back and blast out Oubaali and prove he was still an elite level Bantamweight further enhanced both men, and coming into the Donaire is older than he was, but is also, arguably, standing in a better position than he was in 2019.
Sadly for Donaire however, we don't see him having the same success he had in the first bout with Inoue. Instead we expect to see Inoue being smarter, sharper and using his brain more. He knows what Donaire's left hook can do, and he also knows Donaire can be hurt to the body, with a liver shot sending Donaire down in their first bout. We suspect that will be the key for Inoue here, as he uses his speed, to target the body of Donaire, landing single shots to to slowly take the wind out of Donaire in the early part of the fight. Single shots from Inoue, who will look to get in and get out, draw Donaire into mistakes and tag the body. In the later rounds those body shots will take a toll, force Donaire to defend his body, before Inoue goes up top with a burst of head shots, forcing a stoppage in the later rounds.
After the bout, win or lose, we expect to see Donaire retire sailing off in to the sunset as a modern legend. Likewise we expect this to be either the final, or penultimate, Bantamweight bout for Inoue who will move up to Super Bantamweight and begin to hunt world titles in his 4th weight class.
Prediction - TKO10 Inoue
This coming Saturday in California we'll see WBC Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27) take on interim champion Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) in a mandatory title fight, and a rare all-Filipino world title bout.
The bout isn't the one anyone wanted to see for Donaire, who had been linked to unification bouts against Naoya Inoue and Johnriel Casimero, but it should be a an interesting one, with the bout serving as a chance for Donaire, aged 39, to continue an incredible late career run as a world champion and for Gaballo to announce himself a legitimate world level fighter.
Of the two men the more well known, by far, is Donaire. He's a true future Hall of Famer and a legitimate legend of the sport. His career has seen him win world titles at Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight, before moving back down the weights and picking up Super Bantamweight and Bantamweight titles a second time. Now aged 39 he is the oldest ever Bantamweight world champion, and he is still a devastating fighter. He gave Naoya Inoue his toughest bout, in 2019, and blasted out Nordine Oubaali this past May for the WBC title, proving that even now, at a very advanced age for a Bantamweight, he is still a world class fighter.
In his younger years Donaire was a very sharp boxer-puncher. He was technically solid, without being spectacular, but had lightning speed, amazing timing and fight changing power. His left hook was as potent a weapon as any fighter had in their arsenal. As he moved up the weights and ages, he slowed down, and whilst his power has always been brutal he's adapted his style, allowing him to age remarkably well in the ring. He's no longer a quick, sharp puncher, but instead he's become the sort of Horror Villain, walking opponents down, hunting them and forcing an error for him to counter. He's now using his size, and he is a huge Bantamweight, and experience rather than speed and is a very, very hard man to beat at 118lbs.
Reymart Gaballo on the other hand is someone looking to make an impact, and make up for a very underwhelming performance last time out, when he took a much debated split decision against Emmanuel Rodriguez. The heavy handed Gaballo has looked really good at times, and for much of his career he has looked like a heavy handed, quick, sharp and exciting fighter. He showed what he could do in his US debut, when he beat Stephon Young for the WBA "interim" world title, though sadly he then went on to score some low key wins, rather than build on that one, and it wasn't until last December that he faced another noteworthy fighter, and took that questionable decision over Rodriguez. That bout saw him look limited, tame, and very much like a fighter trying to change his style, right before the biggest fight of his career. In that win he was more patient than ever, but looked like he had lost himself to a change that he didn't fully believe in or truly commit to.
At his best Gaballo looks explosive, hard hitting, and like a man who loves committing to combinations and flurries, with a good sense of flair and excitement. In fact he has a lot of similarities to John Riel Casimero, albeit a much less proven and less impressive Casimero. Sadly though he really didn't fight his usual fighter against Rodriguez, and the likely reason for that is the fact Rodriguez didn't let him. Instead Rodriguez boxed, used his brain, created range and angles and left Gaballo looking lost and confused and really not doing much at all as a result. That bout left us feeling that he was trying to change who he was, and lost what made him who he was. If that's the same here he's going to be in a lot of trouble, especially given that he's not a fighter with particularly good defense.
Gaballo certainly has the potential to be a major player in the division. He has the power, the speed and the explosiveness to be a real danger man. Sadly though where not sure he has the experience, the seasoning or the polish to be that man at the moment. The Rodriguez fight showed a lot of issues with him, and he was lucky that Rodriguez, whilst a very good boxer, is not a puncher. Sadly for Gaballo, Donaire is a puncher, and Donaire won't try to fiddle his way to a victory. Instead he will time Gaballo, lure Gaballo into a mistake and detonate a thunderous left hook. When he does that Gaballo will feel it. He may withstand some, but sooner or later one will land too clean and will drop him. Donaire might not be the fighter he used to be, but he is still a clinical finisher and we can't see him letting Gaballo off the hook when he has him hurt. Especially knowing that Gaballo has so many defensive flaws.
This could be exciting early, but we only see it ending one way. An early win for Donaire.
Prediction - TKO4 Donaire
One thing that was undeniable about the boxing scene in 2020, was that it was a year that messed up the calendar, significantly, and saw so many bouts being cancelled or postponed. Due to the effects of Covid19 a lot of major names in the sport either didn't fight at all in 2020, or fought just once, as their careers stagnated for a year. Thankfully it appears that 2021 will be the year that things get back to normal, at least in the last few months of the year.
Two men that were massively affected by the Covid19 pandemic were WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12) and his mandatory challenger Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26), who had a planned bout cancelled when Oubaali tested positive for Covid19. Donaire himself would also test positive for the virus, though it appears his positive test was likely a false positive, as he got a negative response in a confirmatory test that he and his team paid for.
With neither man fighting last year, and with Oubaali having a planned March defense cancelled as well, neither man has actually fought since November 2019, when they both featured on the same card over in in Japan. That card saw Donaire lose to Naoya Inoue, in the WBSS Bantamweight final, and Oubaali beat Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue to retain the WBC title. Following those bouts in Japan, and the cancellation of an eliminator featuring Luis Nery who failed to make weight, Donaire was made the mandatory challenger to Oubaali, in what looked like a great bout for early 2020. Before the pandemic left it's mark on the sport's calendar.
Despite the long lay off for both men, and the issues of 2020, we'll get to see the two men clash this coming weekend in arguable the best Bantamweight bout currently on the schedule, and one of the most interesting bouts the division has seen in well over a year. It's a bout neither man can afford to lose, and a bout that sets the winner up for a potential unification bout, possible with Naoya Inoue or Johnriel Casimero.
So with that back story out of the way how do we see this bout? And what can we say about the two men involved?
The defending champion, Oubaali, is a 34 year old southpaw who was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2014. He started his career well and picked up notable wins over Hiram Irak Diaz, Julio Cesar Miranda, Alejandro Hernandez and Mark Anthony Geraldo in his first on his way to a world title fight. When he finally got his world title shot he beat Rau'shee Warren for the then vacant WBC title, which he has now defended twice, stopping Arthur Villanueva and scoring the aforementioned win over Takuma Inoue in 2019. For a man with just 17 bouts his resume is genuinely solid, not spectacular but really solid. Sadly however for a man who is now in his mid 30's, in a division where most fighters are consider on the slide at the age of 30, his careers underwhelming, and it's clear he will need to not just win here, but rack up other wins to live up to his full potential.
In the ring Oubaali is a solid technician. A really good technical boxer, with under-rated power, a surprising physicality, very good speed, sharp punches and good work rate. He is, however, small at the weight, has questionable stamina, and there are perhaps some questions about his durability. To date he's yet to face an actual world class puncher, and he was hurt against Inoue in the later rounds, as Takuma surprisingly made the very competitive late on, despite what the scorecards for that bout suggest.
When it comes to Nonito Donaire it's fair to say there it little that hasn't already been said about the Filipino legend and future Hall of Famer. He is a legitimate legend and there is no denying that. Aged 38 Donaire has been there, done that and got the T-shirt. He made his professional debut way back in February 2001, when his first world title in 2007, when he upset Vic Darchinyan, and became one of the few major stars of the lower weight classes. He managed to win world titles at Flyweight, Bantamweight, Super Bantamweight and Featherweight, while scoring notable wins over a who's who, of who. He has beaten Darchinyan, Moruti Mthalane, Raul Martinez, Rafael Concepcion, Hernan Marquez, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Fernando Montiel, Omar Andres Narvaez, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, Jeffrey Mathebula, Toshiaki Nishioka, Jorge Arce, Simpiwe Vetyeka and Ryan Burnett. Despite picking up losses along the way he has one of the best resumes in the sport today. A truly brilliant resume.
In the ring Donaire has changed his style over the years, but some things have remained the same. Over the years he has tried boxing southpaw, and was once very light on his feet, but as he's aged he's become less reliant on his speed, with his legs and footwork both slowing, in fact he's almost a flat-footed fighter. Instead of relying on speed he's relied on his physicality, size, power and strength, and he's a huge Bantamweight. Last year he dwarfed Inoue in their bout and will tower over Oubaali here. He's strong, tough, with a dynamite left hook, a really impressive chin, thunderous jab, good technical skills and excellent timing. Given he's now 38 it's hard to know what he's got left in the tank, but given his performance last time out, against Inoue, there is a feeling he may well have one more big performance left before he calls time on his career.
It's hard to know what both men will be bringing to the ring here. Both have been out of the ring for more than 18 months, both old are for Bantamweights and whilst Oubaali is younger it'll be interesting to see how he looks following his legitimate bout with Covid19.
At their best it would be almost impossible to favour Oubaali. Even now it's hard to pick the Moroccan born French fighter, who's key advantages are being younger than Donaire and being quicker. We suspect he lacks the fire power to get Donaire's attention, he'll be the much smaller man, he'll have to work incredibly hard to get in and get without eating Donaire's stiff jab and potent left hooks. Especially if he tires again as he did against Takuma Inoue. If a tired Oubaali, perhaps even an Oubaali feeling the effects of his 2020 illness, show up, this could be a very, very tough night for him.
That's not to say Oubaali can't win. He could out work and out fiddle Donaire early on, then see out the 12 rounds fighting on the retreat. We can see that happening, but we're not expecting it. Instead we see Oubaali starting well, but tiring through the fight and then being stopped late as the power, size, and strength of Donaire wears him down.
Predictionm - TKO10 Donaire.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 7th, at the Saitama Super Arena, the undefeated Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali clash for the unified WBC Bantamweight World championship.
Takuma Inoue (13-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of Japanese phenom Naoya Inoue. He took up boxing at a very young age, after watching his sibling compete. During his amateur days, he won several tournaments, including the National Sports Festival in 2011, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event. Takuma also placed second the following year, losing only to future 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka. His record stood at 52-5.
Showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer.
The Japanese rising star’s sound skills and technique brought him victory once again over another worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (38-7). After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-3), in just his fourth bout.
Takuma would fight Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) in 2015, to capture the vacant OPBF title and also to make 2 successful defenses. He then met Filipino standout Froilan Saludar (31-3) at the Sky Arena in Japan, where despite getting dropped early in the first, he returned the favor in the later rounds.
Missing an entire year due to a hand injury, Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. Since then, he has defeated Kentaro Masuda (27-9), Waldo Sabu (13-14) and John Yap (30-14).
Finally, on December of last year, Takuma fought Tasana Salapat (52-1) for the interim WBC Bantamweight World title. Undefeated at the time and with 37 KOs under his belt, the Thai knockout artist couldn’t figure out a way to take his opponent out this time. The Japanese fighter used his speed and put together some excellent combinations to dominate the match, even hurting Salapat on a few occasions in the later rounds, after landing some crisp right hooks and straights. When the final bell rang, Takuma was the clear and decisive winner. He now has the chance to become the unified WBC champion, in his home country, but his next fight won’t be an easy one.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0) spent almost a decade competing in amateur boxing, gaining experience and honing his craft. He participated in 2 Olympics (2008 & 2012) and also won bronze at the World & European Union championships.
The Frenchman finally turned pro in 2014, winning 10 bouts in the span of 2 years, 7 of them via (T)KO. He then squared off with Julio Cesar Miranda (42-14), on December of 2016, for the WBA Intercontinental title. Oubaali overwhelmed the former World champion with a plethora of punches, scoring 3 knockdowns in the process.
Half a year later, he fought former interim WBO titlist Alejandro Hernandez (31-13), with the WBC Silver crown on the line. Oubaali was in complete control throughout the entire time. He dropped Hernandez thrice, once in the 1st after landing 3 back to back straight lefts, then in the 3rd with a thunderous right hook and again in the 8th. The referee finally stopped the contest in the 10th due to a nasty cut over Alejandro’s left eye.
After delivering a stunning knockout over Mark Anthony Geraldo (38-9) and easily dispatching world title challenger Luis Melendez (47-13) in just 2 rounds, Oubaali eventually earned a shot at the big one.
This past January, he took the former WBA (Super) champion Rau'shee Warren (16-3) the distance, to claim the vacant WBC Bantamweight World title for his own. It was an even fight at the beginning. Oubaali started taking over as we reached round 7, throwing more punches than his opponent, as well as the more significant ones. That was the first time in 3 years that a fight of his had gone to the judges’ scorecards. His inaugural title defense was a one sided affair against Arthur Villanueva (32-4), whom he knocked down 2 times, before retiring on his stool. The Frenchman will now travel to Japan in order to unify the WBC titles.
Both men’s pro careers began with only a few months difference from each other, and in that relatively short time, they already have become champions. It’s easy to spot the similarities as well as the differences between the two. They both share a successful amateur background, but undoubtedly, Oubaali has had the better run. Experience is definitely on his side, with approximately 15 years into the sport. On the other hand though, Takuma is way younger than him, a decade younger to be exact, which makes him the fresher and faster athlete. Both have been in the ring with accomplished opponents, although the level of competition might be slightly higher in Oubaali’s case. Moreover, Takuma, even though he’s a crafty fighter, he lacks the knockout power his brother possesses, whereas Oubaali has a 75% KO ratio and is known for scoring multiple knockdowns in his matches, preferably with the left, which has put away most of his former rivals. To sum this up, for all of his impressive performances in the past, Inoue has never faced a boxer, the caliber of Oubaali. He’s outmatched and outgunned. But that has been pretty much the story of his entire career. So can Takuma survive the “French invasion”? We are about to find out.
The WBC world title picture at Bantamweight is a series mess with the body having one of their more confusing title pictures, with a world champion, and interim champion and a silver champion. The title scene really is a mess due to issues caused in 2018 by Mexican fighter Luis Nery, who failed a drug test and subsequently failed to make weight. Despite his issues Nery is actually the #1 ranked and current Silver champion.
Rather than going into detail about Nery, and his various issues, it's worth noting that him and Takuma Inoue, the interim champion, are both vying for a future world title fight, likely later in the year. They do however have to wait, and next up for the main title will be the first defense of unbeaten French champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11), who takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18) on July 6th. The bout isn't the most interesting, given the talent in the division and the long line of WBC challengers, but it's a notable bout headlining an MTK card in Kazakhstan, and certainly deserves some real attention.
The unbeaten champion, a French fighter with Morocan heritage, was an outstanding amateur competing at 2 Olympics and 3 world amateur championships. Although his best result was "only" a bronze medal, at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago, he was clearly talented and that showed in his consistency and success in the World Series Boxing, where he fought for the Paris United Franchise. That experience in the amateurs and WSB saw Oubaali turn professional with some pretty lofty expectations 2014 and since then the southpaw has impressed picking up minor titles before claiming the WBC belt last year.
As a fighter Oubaali is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher with excellent skills and solid punching power. He turned professional in 2014 and was kept busy early on in his career against mostly limited opponents, but in 2016 he stopped both Iran Diaz, who later went the distance with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Julio Cesar Miranda, a former world champion from Mexico. Those wins put him on the map before he added stoppages against very tough Mexican veteran Alejandro Hernandez, skilled Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo and tough Colombian Luis Melendez. Most recently he defeated Rau'shee Warren, over 12 rounds, for the WBC title back in January. Notably that bout in January is his only contest in the last 12 months. With a number of good wins he is really one of the top, and most under-rated, Bantamweights out there, with a resume comparable to better recognised fighters at the weight, like Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Ryan Burnett, and would have been a good addition to the WBSS.
The Filipino challenger was once regarded as a bright hope, though has sadly failed to live up to the expectations on his shoulders. He began his career with 28 straight wins whilst working his way up the world rankings. In 2015 he would then face McJoe Arroyo in a bout for the IBF Super Flyweight title, losing a technical decision in what was a truly stinking bout. He was much more competitive than the score cards suggested, though in reality neither man did much of anything in a truly disappointing match up that never clicked. Since then Villanueva has gone 5-2-1 (4), and not looked particularly good, even in his wins.
At his best he was a methodical fighter, a thinking mans fighter, with good timing, patience and counter punching. He was a chess player in the ring, but unfortunately his skills haven't shown themselves at the top level, and losses to not only Arroyo but also Zolani Tete and Luis Nery, who he dropped before being stopped by, have shown he's a level beneath world class. He's a very capable fighter, but no world beater, and unfortunately fighters will need to be world beaters to beat Oubaali.
We're expecting Villanueva to put up a good effort early on, though as the fight goes on Oubaali's class, clean punching and accuracy will be the difference and by the middle rounds Villanueva will be getting broken down, before being stopped in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - Oubaali TKO9
Last August we saw the long WBC Bantamweight reign of Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19) come to an end. By that point he had held the title for over 2100 days, or close to 6 years. During that time he had gone from obscure Japanese fighter, best known for his thrilling Japanese title fight with Ryosuke Iwasa, to a man listed in many pound-for-pound lists and a man with 12 world title defenses. He was dethroned by Mexican youngster Luis Nery (25-0, 19), who impressed by stopping Yamanaka in 4 rounds in Kyoto. The performance was a coming out event for Nery, though one that would later have a cloud hanging over it due to a failed drugs test by the Mexican.
This coming Thursday the two men meet again. For Nery it's a chance to prove that he is the better fighter, and that the drugs were incidental to his winning performance, for Yamanaka it's a chance to avenge his sole defeat and become a 2-time champion. For fans around the world it's an opportunity to see two world class Bantamweights go at it again, live on NTV.
Aged 35 Yamanaka is an old fighter, especially for the lower weights. On the whole he has avoided damaging bouts, but as he's gotten older the damage has accumulated and he's started to show more and more cracks in his chin and his reactions aren't what they once were. In his pre-prime days he was involved in the aforementioned thriller with Iwasa and it wasn't really until his 2014 clash with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai that anyone really ran him close. Sadly following the bout with Suriyan we seemed to have seen a faded Yamanaka, who narrowly over-came Anselmo Moreno in their first bout, was dropped twice by Liborio Solis in 2016 and dropped by Moreno in their second bout.
Although Yamanaka was never a technical wizard he was a solid boxer, with an extremely potent left hand. The power of left led to the nickname “God's Left” and whilst that power is still very devastating there is a feeling that age has really caught up with him. His footwork, which was once his best tool to set up the power shots, is slowing and his defense wasn't ever a strong suit. He may still have one great last performance in the bag, though it may well be that that last hurrah was his stoppage win over Moreno in 2016.
At just 23 the future is amazingly bright for Nery, who has become a big star in his homeland. The Mexican is a flawed but exciting and aggressive fighter. He brings a lot of pressure and is surprisingly quick with his hands, which are double a problem given that he too is a southpaw, and he is a high volume puncher who really loves letting his punches go. Although explosive and physically imposing Nery does have questions over his own chin, and he was dropped last time out by the accurate but relatively light punching Arthur Villanueva. Given his style he makes the most of his youthful energy, though some questions should be asked about his stamina, and he has only done 24 rounds in his last 6 bouts combined with only 1 career bout going beyond 9 rounds.
Although flawed there is a real feeling that Nery has the style to always trouble Yamanaka. Even a prime Yamanaka didn't like incessant pressure, this was shown against Iwasa and more recently against Suriyan and Solis. There is a chance that Nery's chin wouldn't hold up to a perfect left hand from Yamanaka, though with the Mexican being busy, young and quick, he will feel confident of swarming Yamanaka, cramping him of space and working away on the inside. Where Nery perhaps is at a big disadvantage is his natural size, and he does seem like a fighter who struggles to comfortably make 118lbs, with 2 of his recent bouts taking place above the divisional limit. If he's struggling he may just cause himself enough issues to take away the edges he has.
We suspect this bout will be similar to the first. Yamanaka will have some success when he's got the bout at range, making the most of Nery's slower feet, but the Mexican will gradually get closer, and will begin to break down the Japanese veteran, eventually stopping Yamanaka, and retiring him. There is a chance Yamanaka will land a trademark thunderbolt left hand, but that's all he has, a puncher's chance.
This coming Tuesday we'll see a mouth watering WBC Bantamweight world title fight, as long reigning champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19) [山中慎介] faces off with unbeaten mandatory challenger Luis Nery (23-0, 17), in a bout that really is brilliant on paper and is viewed by many as a 50-50 contest.
The Japanese world champion has been the WBC Bantamweight king since November 2011, making him the longest reigning current world champion, and in that time he has racked up 12 title defenses. Unlike many long term champions he hasn't been racking them up against weak opponents, instead defending his belt against the likes of Vic Darchninyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. That's not to say there hasn't been some poor challengers, such as Carlos Carlson and Diego Ricardo Santillan, but for the most part his reign has come against top tier competition.
The Konana born champion is aged 34, so getting on a bit, but has got a style that doesn't depend on youth and age. Instead it's a simple style with his whole game plan being based on landing his straight left hand, which has seen off a number of opponents. Although he “only” has a 66% KO rate he has stopped 9 of his last 13 and is regarded as one of the biggest punchers in the sport, on a pound for pound basis. As we all know, power is the last thing a fighter loses.
Although not the quickest, or hardest working, Yamanaka controls the ring well, and often takes on the role of a counter puncher, looking to land his left hand on an aggressive foe. It is however too easy to say Yamanaka is a 1-trick pony as he can brawl, he can come forward and he has got a nice jab, and right hook, when he decides to use them.
Whilst there is little new to say about Yamanaka's style which hasn't been said before, he has got a special reason to be particularly determined here. A win against Nery will see Yamanaka record his 13th world title defense, tying a long standing Japanese record for most defenses. That record was set back in the 1970's and 1980's when Yoko Gushiken made 13 defenses of the WBA Light Flyweight title, and it's clear that tying that record will be a huge achievement for Yamanaka. It's also worth noting that if he's the champion in 2018 there could be a potential bout against Naoya Inoue in the pipeline, if the Monster moves up as expected.
Aged 22 this bout is a potential coming out party for the challenger, who is known by hardcore fans and has been bubbling just under the surface for a few years now, with some dubbing him the 2016 Prospect of the Year. Whilst only 22 it's worth noting that he's a 5 year veteran who debuted back in May 2012 and began making some real noise in 2014, with wins over Victor Mendez and Carlos Fontes. Since then he he has gone 8-0 (7) scoring wins over a number of Filipino's like Jether Oliva, John Mark Apolinario, Richie Mepranum and Raymond Tabugon. Notably the one win that really stands out is a stoppage of David Sanchez, last year, but it is worth noting that Sanchez had been stopped just 2 fights earlier.
In the ring Nery is an ultra aggressive fighter. He brings the pressure, lets his hands go from the opening round and looks to take out opponents from the early stages. He can look wild and reckless at at times, but is clearly dangerous with both hands, and loves to look for the right hook. It's worth noting that the has been dropped before, with Tabugon doing it in the first round of their bout last December. It's an exciting and fan friendly style that he has, but one that really has worked so well because he's been facing naturally smaller men, who will back off.
Although unbeaten one could ask “what good Bantamweights has Nery beaten?” And the truth is that he hasn't yet beaten a world class Bantamweight. That's not to say he can't, but he is stepping up massively here, and taking on his best foe by far. He could really shine and swarm Yamanaka, showing too much fire for the old dog, but he could just as easily be out classed by the man regarded by many as the best at the weight.
What we're expecting, though again we could be hugely wrong, is for Nery to be his aggressive self in what will be his first bout outside of Mexico. He will be able to have early success with his forward march, but will find Yamanaka's ring craft to be something totally new. The pressure won't be able to pin Yamanaka against the ropes, and instead the champion will time him with counter left hands. There is a good chance Yamanaka will get old over night, but it's hard to imagine that happening here against a fighter like Nery, who just seems to be trying to jump too far, too fast after having faced the competition he has for the last 5 years.
On March 2nd Japanese icon Shinsuke Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18) will return to the ring in search of his 12th world title defense, as he takes on in form Mexican challenger Carlos Carlson (22-1, 13). For Yamanaka a win would see him move to second in the list of Japanese fighters with successive title defense, just a defense behind the 13 defense record of Yoko Gushiken, whilst a win for Carlson would put him on the boxing map as a potential star of the Mexican fight scene.
Yamanaka has been the champion since November 2011, when he beat Christian Esquivel for the then vacant title. Since then he has become one of the stars of Japanese boxing and his 5 year reign at the top is the longest active reign of any male world champion. That reign hasn't just been long but it's also been a distinguished one with defenses against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno, twice, and Liborio Solis.
Aged 34 Yamanaka is one of the elder statesmen of Japanese boxing, yet is regarded as one of the truly elite level fighters from the country. In the ring he can be a bit predictable, lining up his vicious left hands which are his most potent weapon. Although a very left hand dominant fighter Yamanaka has got under-rated skills and can rely on them when needed, as he did against Solis, and can also win a war, as he did in his second bout with Moreno.
Although still a top fighter, and probably the best Bantamweight on the planet, Yamanaka has shown flaws in recent bouts. He has been dropped in his last two bouts, was fortunate to over-come Moreno in their first meeting and was given real fits by Suriyan. Despite those flaws Yamanaka has always found a way to come out on top at world level, and has won his last 21 fights, with 16 stoppages in those contests.
Whilst Yamanaka is widely regarded as the best Bantamweight on the planet much less is known about Carlson, despite the fact he too is on a long winning run, winning his last 22 bouts following a loss on his debut. Notably that loss was fought well above the Bantamweight limit, and in fact many of Carlson's early career bouts were fought in and around the Super Bantamweight division. During his 22 fight winning run Carlos has fought in both the US and in Mexico.
Whilst Carlson has fought internationally the competition that he has faced has been dire. The most notable names he has faced have been the likes of Javier Gallo, Jose Cen Torres,Miguel Tamayao and Giovanni Caro. Worryingly he has also been dropped in some of his bouts so far, and by much lesser punchers than Yamanaka.
Sadly footage of Carlson is relatively limited, though he has appeared on TV before. One of those televised fights saw him take on Aaron Olivares. The bout showed that Carlos is offensively wild and although he can seemingly punch his defense is poor, his shots are wide, his feet cross and there was little in terms of world class ability on show. He has improved since that bout, but he's still a relatively open fighter and was dropped by Carlos Melo only a few fights back.
Whilst it's hard to read too much into Carlson's ability from the footage out there he has been down against limited opponents often enough to suggest he won't be able to withstand Yamanaka's power. With that in mind we're expecting to see a relatively easy stoppage win for the Japanese fighter who will likely return later in the year seeking to tie Gushiken's Japanese record, and maybe even break it before the end of 2017.
Last September we saw a huge, and highly controversial, Bantamweight fight in Japan as Shinsuke Yamanaka (25-0-2, 17) retained his WBC title with a split decision win over Panama's Anselmo Moreno (36-4-1, 12). The bout, a mandatory defence for Yamanaka, saw many suggest Yamanaka had gotten a gift and soon lead to Moreno getting a world title eliminator for a rematch. The Panamanian won the eliminator, defeating Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, and put us where we are today.
In their first bout Yamanaka really struggled to land clean on Moreno. His much vaunted power was neutralised and he was made to look slow and old, like a man struggling to give 100% of himself at the weight. Since then he has fought once, over-coming Liborio Solis in a a bout that saw both men being dropped, twice. For Moreno he's also fought just once since the first bout, scoring the aforementioned win over Suriyan.
At his best Yamanaka was a destructive fighter with a vicious left hand, under-rated skills, and a good boxing mind. He wasn't the quickest or the most defensively sound but he was a big puncher who could take a shot and set them up. As he's gotten older however he's fallen in love with the power, and has become predictable with everyone knowing he's always looking to land the dynamite left hand.
At his best Yamanaka was a real sensation and his resume is incredibly impressive with wins against the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Moreno and Solis. The last 3 of those wins however have made Yamanaka look more and more human and not like the force he once was.
At the age of 33 Yamanaka is old for a Bantamweight and he has been making the weight since 2006. It's fair to say the the weight is becoming harder and harder for him to make and at 5'7” he is a big Bantamweight. The age and struggles with weight have likely been plaguing Yamanaka in recent bouts, but he has continued to fight at the weight, a choice that has perhaps cost him in terms of performance.
Whilst Yamanaka is a true puncher the way we'd describe Moreno is as a pure boxer. He's tricky, he's smart and he's technically excellent with a lovely array of punches, intelligent movement, excellent defense and an amazing ability to read distance. In many ways he's an old school fighter with old school skills, and uses those skills, and his freakishly long arms, to neutralise opponents and get his own shots off.
Aged 30 Moreno is still in his prime and his resume is exceptional, with victories over the likes of Tomas Rojas, Volodymyr Sydorenko, Rolly Lunas, Mahyar Monshipour, Nehomar Cermeno, Lorenzo Parra, Vic Darchinyan and Suriyan. It may be noted that he has lost his last two bouts but both were in questionable circumstances and there is little doubting his claim to be one of the truly elite Bantamweights.
With 4 losses to his record the ignorant fan may well see him as a poor fighters but one of those losses was early in his career, one was to Abner Mares at a weight that Moreno looked poor at, and the other two were the questionable defeats, to Yamanaka and Juan Carlos Payano. He's far from a fighter coming to the end of his career and although he hasn't always looked fantastic he usually raises the bar when he's fighting a top opponent, like Yamanaka.
Whilst Yamanaka will be a confident fighter coming in to this fight. It is worth noting however that Panamanian fighters appears to have the number of Japanese fighters this year and we've already seen Jezreel Corrales stop Takashi Uchiyama and Luis Concepcion over-come Kohei Kono in Japan. A win for Moreno would complete a remarkable year for Panamanian fighters in Japan and would continue a great rivalry between the two countries, who have had a rivalry dating back decades.
We suspect that Moreno will come out on top here, with Yamanaka's poor recent performances coming to haunt him against a very skilled fighter. Yamanaka has a chance, a puncher always does, but we suspect he'll struggle again to land on the brilliant visitor, losing a clear cut decision.
The Bantamweight division promised a lot for Japan last year but delivered little more than disappointment with a number of losses for fighters who were favoured, including Ryo Akaho, against Pungluang Sor Singyu in a WBO title fight, Tomoki Kameda, twice against Jamie McDonnell, and Shohei Omori, who came up short against Marlon Tapales in a world title eliminator.
Even when Japanese fighters won they were disappointing with the all conquering Shinsuke Yamanaka (24-0-2, 17) also failing to shine, defending his title twice. The first of those defenses was an expected and simple win over the horribly over-matched Diego Ricardo Santillan whilst the second of those defenses saw the Japanese puncher come up very fortunate against Anselmo Moreno.
On March 4th Yamanaka returns to the ring and hopes to return to his dominating best as he hunts a 10th defense of the WBC Bantamweight title, and faces off against Venezuelan warrior Liborio Solis (23-3-1, 10), a man who is well known to Japanese fans.
For Solis the bout will see him attempt to become a 2-weight world champion and look to record his third win in Japan, where he actually holds a 100% record with both previous wins being big ones. Not only is the challenger trying to keep his perfect Japanese record but also extend a 14 fight winning run.
The champion is widely regarded as the top Bantamweight and his reign as the WBC champion has been impressive, though relatively over-looked. He has yet to fight outside of Japan but has scored notable wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Anselmo Moreno. Although some of those bouts were close he did the important thing of pulling out the victory and has got himself a solid looking resume. Not only has he scored some solid wins but he has done so whilst becoming a star in Japan and being able to draw a sizeable TV audience.
In the ring Yamanaka is well schooled, but not an elite level boxer. He has a very good variety of punches in his arsenal but often neglects many of his punches whilst looking to land his thunderbolt left hand. That left hand has got fight ending power, but recent he has looked overly predictable as he attempts to land it. That predictability has made life easier for recent opponents and whilst he has scored 14 stoppages in his last 17 he has gone the distance in 2 of his last 3.
Whilst the champion is regarded as a genuinely elite world level fighter the challenger is much more over-looked, despite having been a former WBA Super Flyweight champion and holding a number of notable wins on record. Those wins include a decision in Panama over Rafael Concepcion, who famously gave Nonito Donaire fits and a decision in Mexico against Jose Salgado, as well as a huge win in Japan over current world champion Kohei Kono and a controversial victory over Daiki Kameda.
To many fight fans in the East it was Solis's win over Kono that really solidified Solis as a world class talent, and it was a hell of a fight with both men being dropped and both going to war with Solis taking a majority decision over the popular Watanabe gym fighter. Whilst that win really made Solis, in many ways his win over Kameda was the beginning of the end for the Kameda clan and saw Solis missing weight for a Super Flyweight unification bout. Since then he has fought as high as Featherweight and last time out scored a win over Jonathan Baat.
In the ring the 33 year old Venezuelan Solis is a tough, busy action fighter. Technically he's not the biggest or most technically capable but he comes to fight and will continually bring pressure with a high work rate and look to turn everything in to a war. It's a style similar in some ways to Suriyan, who gave Yamanaka hell in 2014.
Given the styles of the two men we're expecting something really exciting here with Solis bringing the pressure and Yamanaka boxing on the backfoot, lining up the left hands in an attempt to take Solis out. The fight should be a high paced and all action affair with Solis bringing the fight but it's hard to see him having the power to hurt Yamanaka. The bout, we suspect, will look similar to Yamanaka's bout with Suriyan with Yamanaka doing enough to claim the win, but certainly not looking at his best.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.