One of the greatest travesties in boxing, is that many of the highly skilled and exciting fighters in the lower weight classes tend to get overlooked in favour of fighters from the more glamourous divisions. These little giants of the ring often produce as much entertainment as a heavyweight slugfest but sometimes they lack the media exposure to crossover to mainstream audiences.
One such fighter is WBC Bantamweight champion Shunsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17 KOs) who will defend his title against Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12 KOs) at the Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo on the 22nd September.
Fighting out of the legendary Teiken Gym, the southpaw Yamanaka has seen his stock as a fighter rise dramatically in recent years. After a slow start to his professional career amassing a record of 5-0-2, 2 KOs, he quickly improved demonstrating his power, toughness and technical ability.
After winning and defending the Japanese Bantamweight title with back-to-back stoppages of tough opponents, Yamanaka challenged Mexican Christian Esquivel for the vacant WBC Bantamweight title in June 2011. The fight was an all-out war, which saw both fighters being dropped before Yamanaka forced a stoppage in the eleventh round.
Since then Yamanaka has defended the WBC Bantamweight title eight times, with six by stoppage, defeating notable opponents such the former two division champion Vic Darchinyan and former Super Flyweight champion Tomas Rojas along the way.
Yamanaka’s next opponent, the Panamanian; Anselmo Moreno is the former two time WBA Bantamweight champion. He first won the WBA Bantamweight title with a unanimous decision over Volodymyr Sydorenko in Germany in May 2008. He defended that title ten times, was elevated to the status of WBA ‘Super,’ World Bantamweight champion, before moving up in weight to unsuccessfully challenge Abner Mares for the WBC Super Bantamweight title. That fight marked the end of a ten year unbeaten streak for Moreno.
In his next fight Moreno regained the WBA Super World Bantamweight belt, successfully defending it once before losing it to Juan Carlos Payano in September 2014 on a technical decision after an accidental clash of heads caused a cut to the eye of Payano.
This will be an intriguing match-up, the light punching Moreno is tough, smart and his ‘herky-jerky,’ unbalanced style may cause problems. Moreno tends to lunge in with punches, which potentially could cause a clash of heads. That said, Moreno does possess good footwork, effective combinations and movement around the ring. Despite losing three times in his career, he has never been stopped.
This will be a highly competitive fight involving two tough, skilled operators, but the champion has to be the favourite to win this one on points.
It is also worth mentioning that although he has never fought outside of Japan, Yamanaka is a hugely popular fighter in his native country, the premier fighter in the Bantamweight division and is rated in the top ten of Ring Magazine’s pound for pound list. It is disappointing that his name is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Jamie McDonnell, Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton or Guillermo Rigondeaux in terms of potential box office fights. Time will tell if the Japanese fighter moves up in weight but it would be exciting to consider how he would match up to the other tiny titans of boxing.