By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda
Unbeaten WBC bantam champ Shinsuke Yamanaka (17-0-2, 12 KOs), 118, Japan, impressively kept his belt by a beautiful demolition of ex-WBC 115-pound ruler Tomas Rojas (39-14-1-1NC, 26 KOs), 117.5, Mexico, at 0:36 of the seventh round on Saturday in Sendai, Japan.
The Japanese southpaw registered his second defense since he acquired the vacant throne (relinquished by Nonito Donaire) by halting Mexican Christian Esquivel in eleven give-and-take rounds in November of the previous year. Yamanaka scored his initial defense by outlegging and outpunching fearsome ex-champ Vic Darchinyan en route to a unanimous decision to his credit this April.
The taller and lanky Mexican Rojas is a Hilario Zapata stylist by making good use of his physical flexibility in smartly averting his opponent’s attack and quickly retaliating with looping punches from all angles. Rojas previously held the WBC super-fly throne on two occasions, having beaten a couple of Japanese rivals—Kohei Kono and Nobuo Nashiro—to show his awkwardness to a great extent here.
In an encounter of southpaws Yamanaka maintained the pressure to the taller Mexican hombre from the outset. Rojas was such a difficult target to catch up with that Yamanaka patiently tried to come close to the busy-punching speedster who kept throwing more jabs and light
combinations than the champ despite low precision.
It was Yamanaka’s right jabs thrown midway in the second that caught Rojas rightly at the optic, which became visibly swollen as the contest progressed. The Japanese champ, two years his junior at 30, was in command thanks to his better effectiveness—if not to the volume of punches—in the first two rounds.
Rojas, however, dominated the third with a whirlwind attack upstairs and downstairs that often started from southpaw jabs to the midsection. Yamanaka covered himself up and prudently waited for an opening to land his vaunted straight left. The fourth was a bit hard to score, as Rojas apparently threw more punches, while Yamanaka threw a few but a little more effective blows to the moving target.
After the fourth, the open scoring system indicated: 39-37 twice for Yamanaka and 38-38. It showed the fast-punching battle was still closely contested up to that point.
The fifth witnessed the aggressive champ connect with a solid left-right combo that shook up the lanky ex-champ, who obviously began to pay his serious respects to his punching power since. Yamanaka, in round six, landed a strong left that almost stunned the shaky target, who gamely fought back with roundhouse rallies. The champ had the upper hand, stalking the moving and still scrappy opponent who started retreating to keep the distance from the hard-puncher.
An end abruptly visited early in the seventh round. Yamanaka landed a vicious left followed by a right uppercut to the face with precision. Rojas, without moving away, retaliated with a right hook, when a devastating left cross exploded with full power and perfect timing. Down he went.
Rojas abruptly fell with his face first to the canvas. It was very obvious he wouldn’t go on due to such heavy damage. The Mexican was flat on the deck and a stretcher was once prepared to carry the loser from the squared circle, but Rojas barely managed to raise himself up and went out of the ring by himself with the crowd’s praise to his gameness and good heart.
Yamanaka said, “I believe this knockout will encourage many victims caused by the disaster last year. I’ll fight on against strong and name challengers.” It seems great he thus impressively defeated the well-reputed ex-champs in succession—Darchinyan and Rojas.
It was in 1960 that we saw the very first world bantamweight title bout here in Japan, when Jose Becerra barely kept his undisputed belt by a hairline debatable decision over Orient champ Kenji Yonekura over fifteen hard-fought rounds before some tens of thousands people at the Korakuen Baseball Stadium. Though we had seen our first world titlist in Yoshio Shirai in the flyweight category, we then thought it might be hard for a Japanese boxer to acquire a bantamweight belt. It was then said that the gap between the flyweight and bantamweight classes are too great to overcome, as we then had internationally outstanding boxers only in the 112-pound division (the lightest weight category at that time) such as Sadao Yaoita (who inflicted the first defeat to previously unbeaten Pascual Perez in a non-title bout in 1959) and Yonekura (who outgrew the 112-pound category after his unsuccessful crack at Perez in the previous year). Some fifty years have flown for us to witness such titlists in the 118-pound class as Fighting Harada, Takuya Muguruma, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, Hideki Todaka, Hozumi Hasegawa and Yamanaka. The jubilant victor Yamanaka, a late bloomer, may become a good champion since he can truly punch.
The official tallies before the trick happening were as follows: Max de Luca (US) and Junbae Lim (Korea) both 59-55, and Duane Ford 58-56—all in favor of the unbeaten Yamanaka. The referee was Michael Griffin (Canada).
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Major Lee Wonbok