By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Anything can happen in the ring. Overweight ex-champ Luis “Pantera” Nery (26-0, 20 KOs), 121 (three pounds over the limit), Mexico, so quickly chalked up a TKO victory over former champ Shinsuke Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19 KOs), 117.5, dropping him four times at 1:03 of the second round on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. Yamanaka’s fragility was much below expectation as he hit the deck with Nery’s opening combinations in the first round although he started well with stinging southpaw jabs. Nery, in round two, swarmed over the damaged ex-champ and had him on the deck three more times in the fatal second session. Thus, the WBC 118-pound belt became vacant.
The referee was Michael Griffin (Canada). All the judges tallied the first round 10-8 in Nery’s favor: Alan Krebs, Kevin Scott and David Sutherland (all from the US).
All the spectators, as well as all television watchers here in Japan, had a bad impression on this fight. It wasn’t due to nationalistic feeling because of Yamanaka’s defeat but due to Luis Nery’s insult to the very greatly anticipated event with his overweight fiasco as well as his doping scandal.
Regardless of Yamanaka’s win or loss, people had expected to watch a fair and square contest by the highly regarded bantams. Nery tarnished very high expectations for this sensational rematch that the public paid great attention to.
Nery scaled in 123 pounds (five pounds over the bantam limit) at his first trip to the scale. Two hours later, he was still 121, three pounds over, and therefore was stripped of the belt. People concerned—both parties and the WBC supervisor Duane Ford—agreed that Nery should be less than 128 pounds at noon of the fight day. The Mexican barely kept this promise, weighing at 127 pounds. The Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) makes it a rule to examine the contestants’ weight just before the fight in the arena, and Nery scaled 60.1 kilogram (132.4 pounds). Nery was more than 14 pounds over the bantam limit at 8 PM when the title bout started.
Nery proved simply fresher and more powerful than Yamanaka throughout the short affair. In the opening round, Yamanaka positively threw southpaw jabs and occasionally unleashed straight lefts to the Mexican lefty. At the end of the first session, Nery landed a light jab, which had Yamanaka lose his equilibrium and almost hit the deck with the glove, though the third man saw it a slip.
When the ref ordered them to resume fighting, Yamanaka apparently looked hurt with shaky legs. Very quickly did Nery turn loose and his combination followed by an overhand left dropped the Japanese ex-champ on the deck. Shinsuke, twelve years his senior at 35, barely regained his feet to go on to have a narrow escape by the bell.
The second round witnessed Pantera try to finish the game while Yamanaka was still dazed and damaged. The powerful Mexican landed a countering left cross over the shoulder of the taller Yamanaka, who hit the deck again—the first visit in the second. Just soon after they resumed fighting, Nery’s solid jab floored the ex-champ Shinsuke. The Japanese lefty regained his feet, but it’s a matter of time as he looked really hurt by Nery’s onslaught. The Mexican lefty then connected with a solid southpaw right hook and flattened him on the deck. The ref then waved it off to have a well-timed stoppage.
It was true Nery was faster, stronger and more powerful than Yamanaka. More than twenty Mexican people including Jorge Travieso Arce rushed into the ring to celebrate Nery’s victory. The crestfallen loser Yamanaka stayed on the stool and looked still dazed after a quick defeat.
Yamanaka, in the dressing room, declared to call it quits. Having defended his WBC belt on twelve occasions Shinsuke will be remembered as a great champion. He said, “Nery was just stronger than me. His punches were effective. He’s a good boxer, but we cannot respect him as an athlete because of his failure to make weight.”
The triumphant Nery said, “I’m happy to be still unbeaten. I’ll regain the belt soon. I expected Yamanaka to come and fight much harder from the start, but he didn’t, so I went forward and could win like this.”
It reminded this reporter of the rematch of dethroned great champion Eder Jofre and newly crowned Fighting Harada here in 1966. Past his peak, Jofre wasn’t what he used to be. The Brazilian had tasted his career-first defeat at the hand of Harada a year ago, and arrived here in Tokyo at almost the limit of 118 pounds (as he had a tough time making weight last time). Upon his arrival, Jofre looked physically smaller and more fading than in their first encounter.
In the rematch Jofre, 30, started well in order to regain his belt, but the younger Harada positively responded to his opening attack with much busier combinations to the Golden Bantam upstairs and downstairs. Finally Harada, 23, emerged victorious again by a unanimous decision (71-68, 71-69, 69-68) over the previously invincible champion Jofre after fifteen hard-fought rounds. Even a great champion becomes old after a long reign, losing some luster in his assets.
Though Yamanaka hangs up gloves for good, his career was so illustrious that he scored nine wins inside the distance in his title-winning fight and twelve defenses. His southpaw left hand was called “God’s Left” loved and respected by our aficionados. At his pro debut it was only twenty friends that bought tickets from Yamanaka to see him fight, but his fan club, in twelve years thereafter, consists of 1,500 members, who were in attendance out of 8,500 spectators at the Ryogoku Sumo Arena. Farewell to the southpaw arm.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.