Report by Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Unbeaten WBC bantam champ, hard-hitting Japanese southpaw Shinsuke Yamanaka (18-0, 13 KOs), 118, beautifully kept his title as he finally caught ex-WBC flyweight ruler Malcolm Tunacao (32-3-3, 20 KOs), 117.5, a Japan-based Filipino lefty, and dropped him for the third time to have the referee halt the affair at 1:57 of the twelfth and final round on Monday in Tokyo, Japan.
Yamanaka, making his third defense, quickly decked Tunacao with a sharp short southpaw left and dropped him again with quick follow-up combinations midway in round three. After the fourth, the open scoring system announced that the champ was widely leading on points: 40-35, 39-36 and 38-36. But it—ironically—didn’t become an easy fight for the champ.
Tunacao, five years his senior at 35, showed an amazing comeback from the bad knockdowns, and regained his speed and rhythm to befuddle the champ. The Filipino, however, sustained a cut at the eyelid, which gradually became worsened as the contest progressed.
After the eighth, the champ was still in command: 77-74 twice and 77-73.
Tunacao showed his best in the ninth, when he unleashed smashing southpaw right hooks and maintained the pressure on the cool champ. It was Yamanaka that displayed a fine retaliation and clearly dominated the eleventh session.
We thought it would go the distance due to Tunacao’s resilience and retaliation after the dramatic third canto with a couple of visits to the deck. The final stanza, however, was waiting for another drama. Yamanaka exploded a left-right-left combination that penetrated the Filipino’s guard and sent him sprawling to the canvas near the corner. The heavily damaged challenger barely pulled himself up but apparently had no mental and physical energy to go on. Referee Michael Griffin (Canada) then made a well-timed and well-received halt to the total war.
Prior to the trick happening, the tallies were as follows: Gale Van Hoy (US) 106-102, Duane Ford (US) 105-102 and Jaebong Kim (Korea) 106-103, all in favor of the unbeaten titlist.
Yamanaka thus registered three successful defenses all against such ex-world champs as Vic Darchinyan (W12), Tomas Rojas (TKO7) and Tunacao. Now that Japan recently affiliated with the WBO and the IBF, Yamanaka said, “I wish to fight another champ in a unification bout to prove my strength.”
The crestfallen loser Tunacao gloomily said, “It’s my pride that I could fight such a strong champ as Yamanaka, but I showed my very best.” Should he have won this game, Tunacao would have acquired the belt after twelve years from his first coronation in 2001. We admire his long career and high motivation to win the belt with his best effort.
In the final round there sometimes happened unexpected incidents. Muhammad Ali was surprisingly decked with a sweeping left hook of Smokin’ Joe Frazier in their first encounter, and Julio Cesar Chavez was awarded a TKO victory over Meldrick Taylor with just two seconds remaining. But we, in Japan, witnessed such an impressive stoppage in the last round this long night. We were very much satisfied with the hard-fought tripleheader as if we ate three Big Macs at once.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Mauricio Sulaiman (Mexico).