By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Unbeaten Mexican southpaw Luis Nery (24-0, 18 KOs), 118, surprisingly captured the WBC bantamweight belt when he swarmed over previously unbeaten champ Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19 KOs), 118, battered him to the punch and halted him with the towel thrown in from his corner at 2:29 of the fourth round on Tuesday in Kyoto, Japan. Yamanaka, a southpaw upright stylist, failed to score his thirteenth defense, which would have tied the Japanese mark of Yoko Gushiken’s as many defenses registered 37 years ago.
It’s a shocking defeat for a great many adherents in Kyoto city, where he had stayed in high school days and started to learn how to box—along with his younger alumni such as 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata and former world challenger Shohei Omori.
Prior to the quick stoppage Nery was leading on points: Oren Shellenberger (US), David Sutherland (US) both 29-28 for Nery, Joel Scobie (Canada) 29-28 for Yamanaka. The referee was Mike Griffin (Canada).
Reigning since November 2011, Yamanaka faced his thirteenth challenger (including Anselmo Moreno twice) and started well with stinging right jabs to the shorter Mexican. Nery, twelve years his junior at 22, once connected with fast combinations, but Yamanaka was dominant with constant jabs in the first round. The taller champ by two inches looked sharp in throwing fast jabs and quick right-left combinations, though barely averted by Nery.
The second round saw Nery twice land a big left cross to the face of the defending champ who still kept jabbing well. It’s Nery’s round as he seemed to have judged his proper distance and timing to cope with the formidable champ, although he had been expected to start fireworks more aggressively from the outset.
The Mexican southpaw, in round three, displayed roundhouse left hooks over the shoulder of the champ, who kept his cool and retaliated with a left-right-left combo to the onrushing rival. Apparently did Nery win the round with solid and fast combinations to the bewildered face of the long-reigning titlist.
The fatal fourth witnessed Yamanaka’s swan song, as Nery turned so loose that he kept stalking him with a flurry of punches from pillar to post. It’s Nery’s looping left that often caught the champ with precision and power to hurt him. Luis pinned Shinsuke to the ropes with incessant combos with great velocity, and had him at bay before shouting spectators. Then a towel came fluttering into the ring to save the seemingly damaged champ from further punishment. Yamanaka’s reign was over. The new champion was born to be raised on the shoulder of his handlers.
Some 6,500 spectators were in attendance at Shimazu Arena (previously called Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium) with estimated 3,200 people coming from Yamanaka’s native Shiga Prefecture, adjacent to Kyoto, where postage stamps of Shinsuke’s picture have been printed and sold locally. He is such a local favorite loved with his humble personality as well as his unbeaten credentials. He was truly expected by not only local but nationwide fans to tie Gushiken’s mark of thirteen defenses.
It’s Gushiken that served as television commentator, who praised Yamanaka’s good start in the initial round. Yoko shouted when Shinsuke got nailed to the ropes under Nery’s barrage of punches, “Clinch, clinch!” Yamanaka, however, gamely attempted to fight back against Nery’s furious attack with his guard open, which caused the unexpected absorption of Nery’s non-stop combinations in the fatal frame.
The victor and newly crowned Luis Nery jubilantly said, “Yamanaka was the strongest opponent that I’ve ever faced, but I could read and see his punches coming from the third. I’d be a formidable champion like Manny Pacquiao. And want to retire undefeated.”
Gushiken, formerly WBA junior flyweight champ, registered thirteen defenses at the age of twenty-four during his reign for four years and five months to his credit, while Yamanaka seized the WBC belt late when twenty-nine and took five years and a half to score twelve defenses. Shinsuke recently hit the deck but bounced back to score valuable victories over Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis.
Yamanaka’s warrior road may be coming to end, but there will be a possibility that he will go on and face Nery again to regain his belt. The ex-champ said on the next day, “Please give me a little more time to make my ultimate decision.” We’ll wait for it.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Duane Ford (US).
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