Luis Nery Demolishes Long-Reigning Bantamweight Champ Yamanaka

The last few weeks have produced two big upsets involving fighters from the Orient. On July 28, Chinese superstar Zou Shiming was stopped in the 11th round by unheralded Sho Kimura. On Tuesday, Aug. 15, long-reigning world bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka suffered a brutal fourth round stoppage at the hands of Mexico’s Luis “Pantera” Nery at Kyoto’s Shimazu Arena.

The 34-year-old Yamanaka was making the 13th defense of his WBC 118-pound title that he won in 2011 from Mexico’s Christian Esquivel. Heading into the contest, the previously undefeated (27-0-2) Yamanaka was rated one of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters. The Ring magazine had him #10 as did the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. On BoxRec’s pound-for-pound list, Yamanaka clocked in at #7.

Tijuana’s Nery was making his first start outside his home country but wasn’t intimidated by the hostile environment. Shorter and stockier than the champion, he pressed the action from the get-go. In the fourth frame, a massive overhand right shook Yamanaka to his boots. Nery then pinned the defending champion against the ropes, unleashing a barrage of punches. Yamanaka’s corner stopped the fight just as Canadian referee Michael Griffin was poised to wave it off. Griffin probably could have stopped the fight a few punches sooner. Yamanaka was in tears when he left the ring.

It was a case of youth being served with the bearded 22-year-old Nery advancing his record to 24-0 with his 18th stoppage. His win now gives Mexico four reigning champions. The others are Gilberto Ramirez (WBO, 168 pounds), Oscar Valdez (WBO, 126 pounds), and Rey Vargas (WBC, 122 pounds), all of whom, like Nery, are currently undefeated. The list grows larger if one includes U.S. fighters with roots in Mexico such as Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, and Jessie Magdaleno.

Luis Nery was a mystery fighter, but not to veteran boxing writer Cliff Rold. “He’s offensive minded, but controlled, slippery on the inside and calm under fire,” says Rold. “As much as his early power has impressed, the slowly developing defensive skill is what really stands out. This might be a young man with a high ceiling.”

With Nery unseating Yamanaka, Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez (17-0) will move into the top slot on the WBC’s top 10 list at 118 pounds.

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