End of an era: Luis Nery punches the champion out of Shinsuke Yamanaka
This report is courtesy of special guest contributor Tamas Pradarics.
While most boxing fans are solely concentrating on Saturday’s huge undisputed junior welterweight championship affair between Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo, they held a highly important, under-the-radar title bout in Kyoto, Japan earlier on Tuesday. THE RING Magazine/WBC bantamweight king Shinsuke Yamanaka stepped into the ring against mandatory challenger Luis Nery.
Yamanaka, 27-1-2 (19), entered the bout as the current longest reigning champion in boxing. The Japanese fighter won his WBC 118-pound title in November 2011. The only current beltholder who captured his recognition before him is IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. However, the Kazakhstani puncher won only a marginal version of a WBA belt in 2010 and had to wait until Daniel Geale vacated his ”super” title in November 2012 to get recognized as a full champion.
During his near-six years at the top, Yamanaka took control of his division. In his best days, it was difficult to catch him before he caught one in the midst of the tango. However, his last performances showed clear signs of his age. He got dropped twice in the same round against Liborio Solis in March 2016, en route to a lopsided decision victory. Yamanaka was also on the floor against Anselmo Moreno, last September, and was hurt against Carlos Carlson, last March.
That made his matchup with Nery, 24-0 (18), interesting. While Yamanaka was becoming more vulnerable, the entertaining Mexican challenger showed such an overwhelming offense in his previous affairs that high-stakes drama seemed to be inevitable, come Tuesday’s main event at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto.
Yamanaka started cautiously and tried establishing distance with his trademark jabs and straight left hands. Nery patiently followed the champ and waited for his moment to throw some counterattacks.
In round two, the tactical affair continued until Yamanaka landed a strong straight left hand that hurt Nery. The Mexican, however, recovered in a split-second and returned the favor in the form of an overhand left in the closing seconds of the frame.
Round three brought in a more active champion, who found his rhythm to attack his still-patient counterpart.
Nery, however, came out strong in round four and hurt Yamanaka with a right hook midway through the heat. The natural volume-punching version of the Mexican arose and Luis never let his more accomplished foe regain his equilibrium. Nery kept going and belted Shinsuke until the towel – and, ultimately, one of the cornermen – of the Japanese team catapulted into the ring to save the now-former champion.
Yamanaka never tried to hold or run. He stood and traded like an old-school champion – someone he always was – and tried to bomb his way back into the fight. It was a sad but equally brave ending of a highly successful run at bantamweight by Yamanaka.
It’s a run that shows pretty impressive numbers. Through his journey as champion, Yamanaka defended his championship 12 times. A win over Nery would have made him equal the all-time Japanese record of consecutive title defenses held by Yoko Gushiken.
Yamanaka beat a who’s who of former world champions over the years including Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan So Rungvisai and Liborio Solis. He also had a pair of important bouts with fellow bantamweight great Anselmo Moreno. After Shinsuke barely won the first one, in September of 2015, he stopped his Panamanian foe in a knockdown-filled war in their rematch, one year later. Thanks to his wins over Moreno, Yamanaka cemented his position as the best 118-pounder of his generation, while his name also appeared on various pound-for-pound lists.
Now that Shinsuke lost his championship to Nery, it is uncertain what the his next move will be. He is going to turn 35 in October. He seemed old, tired and lonely sitting on the stool in his corner, while Nery was awarded the WBC belt by organization officials in the center of that Kyoto ring.