Shinsuke Yamanaka Rematches Anselmo Moreno This Weekend

Shinsuke Yamanaka Rematches Anselmo Moreno – Japan continues to deliver big fights for the hardcore boxing fan as Shinsuke Yamanaka (25-0-2), out of Tokyo, Japan, rematches the veteran Anselmo Moreno (36-4-1), out of San Miguelito, Panama, this Friday in Osaka, Japan, with the former’s bantamweight strap on the line.  A rematch of their September 2015 clash finds both men ranked once more as they were at the time of that fight, Moreno at #4, and Yamanaka (pictured) the seemingly perennial divisional #1.

Moreno, it seems, has been around forever.  He won his first bantamweight trinket way back in 2008 and has ranked in the top five at the poundage every year since that time.  Labelling him experienced is an understatement.  Yamanaka meanwhile has been ranked in the division only since 2012, but has been the number one from April 2013 (TBRB) after his thrilling twelve round stoppage of Malcolm Tunacao.  The man he usurped?  Anselmo Moreno.

Suffice to say that these two men had a date pencilled in for some time before they finally met last year in a desperately close fight scored by split decision to the undefeated Yamanaka.  That victory saw Yamanaka begin to creep onto pound-for-pound lists and although his place is far from cemented – TBRB has him just outside the ten, Ring Magazine just inside – a second victory over Moreno would go a long way to making his inclusion indisputable.

Dependent upon how he performs.

Yamanaka was far from his fluid best against Moreno the first time around and in the wake of that fight his incredible battle with Tunacao seemed a long time ago, but the fun began once again this March in Kyoto against Venezuelan tough Liborio Solis.  An intimidating wild-man, Solis found himself exchanging knockdowns with the elite Yamanaka in the second and third and his winging, uncouth pressure left the Japanese looking uncertain.  The cream rose though, and elegant footwork and fine punch selection overcame unfocused aggression, as it almost always does.  Yamanaka dominated the second half of the fight to deliver a wide and deserved points victory.

Moreno meanwhile had picked himself up and scraped off the disappointment of that narrow loss to Yamanaka with a decision over the excellent super-flyweight Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (aka Suriyan Kaiakanha).  In many ways, this contest mirrored that of Yamanaka-Solis.  Rungvisai is an aggressive and unorthodox pressure fighter, perhaps not as wild as Solis but just as insistent on combat.

The early rounds of their fight were a hoot.  Moreno won the first with a skiffing jab and some serious body punches; early in the second, Rungvisai was warned for pulling down on the back of the head, a warning he didn’t much care for.  Nor did he care for the beltline punishment Moreno inflicted upon him in the immediate aftermath of that warning; in fact he turned his back on Moreno to complain to the referee at which point Moreno happily blasted him to the canvas.  In the third, the two clashed heads as the Thai tried to enforce his plan to fight Moreno right on his chest.  You could have probably counted to three before Rungvisai felt the apparent effects, at which point he threw himself, and then around on, the canvas.  Ruled accidental, the match thereafter fell in to a pattern of Rungvisai applying pressure and Moreno staging a rather artful fighting retreat, albeit while taking the occasional lump from his insistent if eccentric foe.  At one point Rungvisai pushed Moreno firmly between the bottom two ropes and then collapsed forcibly on top of him.

The result was the same as that which Yamanaka earned over Solis, a wide points decision.  Fascinatingly, it is almost exactly the result that Yamanaka himself posted over Rungvisai back in 2014.  Rungvisai provided the same awkward intensity against Yamanaka and it probably bought him more rounds than it did against Moreno, but it was also a fight in which the Thai visited the canvas, on not just one but three separate occasions. The margins of victory were close to identical.  This is yet another illustration as to how evenly matched Moreno and Yamanaka are.

Solis and Rungvisai would themselves stage a wild and woolly fight, but I think Rungvisai would triumph; so Moreno looked marginally better in beating the better fighter in their most recent contests.  What does this bode for Yamanaka-Moreno II?

Moreno is a complex and interesting fighter, capable of producing wonderful displays of combination punching and achingly dull jousts that fizzle out into nothing.  The same can be said of Yamanaka.  The Japanese likes to look at his man early, measure his guns and then test the deployment of his own artillery.  This was his approach in this all southpaw match the first time around, with Moreno setting out his jab and Yamanaka waiting.  This favored Yamanaka as the faster fighter and I thought he took a handy lead out of the fourth but Moreno, as stated, is an experienced fighter at just thirty-one and he evened things up after six just by gauging and throwing a little more than the Japanese.  Yamanaka began to look for punches in pairs in the middle rounds, but had terrible trouble landing the second.  Moreno is awkward defensively, but his solution to Yamanaka’s offense was to hang to his right which didn’t foster his own attack.  The ninth was a good round for the Panamanian but Yamanaka staged a wonderful rally to take the tenth through twelfth on my card for a draw and to sneak over the line for the win in the opinion of the judges.  It was a very impressive finish.

Two things should be clear to Moreno.  First, he is going to struggle to get the decision with his favored style out in Japan.  This is not to suggest that the Japanese fight fraternity is corrupt; just the opposite, in fact.  But Yamanaka is the strapholder and he is boxing at home and the crowd can certainly come in to play in a fight where, as was the case in the first fight, many of the rounds are close.  Second, he has seen that unorthodox pressure can throw Yamanaka off his stride.  Moreno is not a technician in the traditional sense and is as much spoiler as scientist.  He tended to win the rounds in which he was measuring and out-punching Yamanaka.  Third, his opponent is going to finish strong.

Yamanaka, for his part, has learned that when he lets his hands go he tends to be too fluid and quick for Moreno, who is still able to make him miss, and often, but who is then unable to return fire in a meaningful way; much of his success though was born of chancing the riskier southpaw left.

I certainly won’t lie to TSS readers and insist this is going to be a classic because it isn’t.  The first fight just didn’t have enough promise for me to make that guess with a straight face.  That said, Moreno should look to bring a bit more pressure in an attempt to upset both Yamanaka’s balance and the proverbial apple-cart.  Yamanaka, meanwhile, needs to chance his trailing hand more often and attack more freely, and he needs to do it earlier than he did in the last fight or he’ll find himself once again in desperate need of the closing rounds, or a stoppage.

So this could very well birth a high-class clash interspersed with some rough and untidy sections which is once again decided on a knife’s edge.  I suspect the winner will be the man who learned more in their first contest.  Will Moreno find awkward ways with which to offset the slicker Yamanaka’s speed and balance, or will Yamanaka engage the left-hand earlier and box more aggressively in the opening rounds?  What will happen should both men make these adjustments, and others?

Yamanaka is unbeaten and worthy of the pound-for-pound recognition that is slowly coming his way, but there is really nothing to separate him from Moreno apart from the result in Japan this weekend.  Because there are so many intangibles in this fight, from each man’s ability to adjust, to the sway the crowd may hold with the judges, to the proclivities of those judges, to Yamanaka’s mentality early in the fight and Moreno’s engine late, a prediction in the normal sense is extremely difficult.  I’ll go for Yamanaka to reproduce the result we saw last year but anything could happen.  That alone is probably reason enough to watch.  If anyone needs another it’s that Yamanaka is almost universally regarded as one of the best fifteen fighters currently boxing.  That is worth keeping in mind, however distant the shore he calls home.

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