Luis Nery vs. Shinsuke Yamanaka II: Is resolution at hand?
Last August, diehard fans of the Sweet Science turned their attention toward a match-up in Kyoto, Japan, where WBC/THE RING Magazine bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka was scheduled to take on exciting mandatory challenger Luis Nery.
The era of the longest-reigning champion in boxing came to an end that night after Nery punched the Japanese fighter into submission in the fourth heat. Yamanaka, 27-1-2 (19), passed the torch to a talented athlete of the next generation and even considered retirement after the fight.
Still we will see a rematch between the two this coming Thursday in Tokyo.
The reason behind it is far from something the sport can be proud of.
On August 23, eight days after the fight, the WBC announced that Nery, 25-0 (19), had tested positive for Zilpaterol, a banned substance similar to Clenbuterol and often used to increase the size of cattle. Yamanaka quickly made sure he would not say goodbye to the sport, in the case he got an immediate rematch with his successor.
The WBC started a long investigation process to find the right solution to the problem. Mauricio Sulaiman, head of the Mexican-based sanctioning body, and Nery’s countryman, stated he was “convinced there was no doping.”
After the B-sample returned positive in late September, THE RING stripped the Mexican boxer of his title and reinstated Yamanaka as its champion.
The dirty aftermath of Yamanaka-Nery is a shame on boxing that shadowed the significance of the bout. It was an excellent match-up between the best bantamweight fighter of this era and the arguably the most exciting young challenger of the same division.
Yamanaka, who captured the vacant WBC belt in November of 2011, targeted his 13th defense and, with a win over Nery, he would have tied Yoko Gushiken’s record for the most consecutive title defenses for a Japanese ruler.
However it was obvious to most insiders that the then-22-year-old Nery had a solid shot against the veteran Yamanaka, based on the challenger’s all-inclusive offense mixed with good rhythm and dynamite in both hands.
Yamanaka, in his own right, was always regarded as an action fighter and came into the fight with an eye-catching statistic of producing 28 knockdowns over his 13-bout championship reign while he himself visited the canvas four times during the same period. Meanwhile Nery had a tendency of falling in love with his own aggression in previous fights, making him vulnerable to counter-attacks.
These details made the get-go, can’t-miss action for all of those who love boxing’s sub-featherweight divisions.
The hard-punching, undefeated pugilists started cautiously on that late summer night in Kyoto. Yamanaka tried to settle his distance with his jabs, while throwing occasional straight lefts from his southpaw stance. The challenger took his time to figure out his more accomplished opponent and barely found his target with his own straight punches.
Spectators got a glance of the lethal power of Yamanaka and Nery in round two. First the champion buckled his counterpart’s legs with a short left. The Mexican returned the favor in the closing seconds with a left hook to the head.
Nery started to be more of himself with his aggression in the second half of round three. In the following heat, the challenger landed a shocking right hook, opened up while pushing his wounded opponent into the ropes, ultimately letting Yamanaka’s second enter the squared circle to save his charge from further punishment at 2:29 of the round.
Yamanaka was a different fighter once he was helped back to his corner following the stoppage. Though the Tokyo native fought until the end and never collapsed from his young challenger’s relentless attacks, it was clear to everyone that it was more than just a defeat. Yamanaka looked old and tired while sitting on his stool.
It’s pretty obvious that Yamanaka would have retired had no PED issue arisen after the fight. He was on the verge of calling it a day when VADA made the announcement.
The Japanese pugilist enjoys the sympathy of fans around the globe for his respected run that came to a bittersweet end. However fans would love to see justice after the nonsense that happened since that first tango.
That however does not mean THE RING champion has a better chance to turn it all around on Thursday. Truth is he is a 35-year-old athlete with a heavy number of miles on his odometer, compared to his 23-year-old counterpart who has probably yet to reach his peak.
That said, the rematch is a far cry from their first encounter, in terms of anticipation. Yamanaka has not gotten any younger and he is entering this fight on the heels of his first career defeat at the hands of a young gun in Nery.
The Mexican, on the other hand, could fly back to The “Land of the Rising Sun” with confidence in two important things he learned in their first fight. First he has enough dynamite in his punches to take out the veteran great and, second, his whiskers can be solid enough to withstand the storms of his Japanese counterpart.
It seems we can’t ask for too much in the rematch in that Tokyo ring on Thursday. All we can hope for is a fair fight with negative doping tests in its aftermath. It isn’t too much to ask for.
You can reach Tamas Pradarics at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TomiPradarics.