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Little Giants Shinsuke Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin Win in the Orient

Matt McGrain

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Browne KO's Chagaev

Shinsuke Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin Win – Two of the best fighters in the Orient – and the world – posted wins in their home countries of Japan and Thailand this week.

The world’s undefeated #1 bantamweight, Shinsuke Yamanaka was pitted against Venezuelan hard man Liborio Solis in Japan on Friday.  Yamanaka, 24-0-2 at bell, defended both that undefeated status and his position as the premier fighter at 118lbs; that said, it seems a long time since his back-and-forth thriller with Malcolm Tunacao, a fight he won by twelfth round stoppage, and after his last contest with the highly ranked veteran Anselmo Moreno, a boring joust which sent the few interested parties in the western media up in arms and yelling robbery, I personally felt he needed to make a statement against Solis.

In fairness, I should say that I scored the Moreno fight a draw personally, and don’t think of a card for Yamanaka unreasonable, but the fight was an awkward exchange of single punches and difficult angles.  Solis seemed a good opponent, then, to bring out the best in Yamanaka.  Aggressive, and armed with a certain intimidating wildness, for all that he isn’t a huge puncher, the Venezuelan seemed the right man to overcome Yamanaka’s “wait-and-see” posturing.  This did not prove the case in the first round with Solis seeming to want a look at his opponent and Yamanaka taking advantage to get his southpaw left started, a punch he hardly landed on Moreno.

In the second, a quickly formed right-hook as Solis stepped in bought Yamanaka a flash knockdown and seemed to place the Japanese in total control; but Solis wore the look of a man determined to go home with, at the very least, a story to tell.  Pressure, and an untidy, winging attack brought Solis a flash of his own in the opening seconds of the third, a direct right hand putting a disorganized Yamanaka on the seat of his trunks.  Yamanaka was unhurt, but Solis didn’t seem to care, and he came firing out of the neutral corner, bashing and lashing Yamanaka across the ring. The world’s #1 bantamweight seemed unsure how to handle this tornado of ineffective yet dangerous punching and by turns gave ground, held, and hit Solis back.  By the end of the round he seemed to have regained control, only to be flashed for a second occasion by another Solis right; clearly embarrassed he was up at 1 having surrendered his lead on the cards.

Yamanaka remained aggressive in the fourth, which impressed me.  By the end of the seventh the fight had been established as something more akin to what we had expected to see from the beginning; a consummate Yamanaka performance defined by elegant footwork and fine punch-selection.  Solis had his moments, as in the sixth, during which he landed a hard punch and followed it up by scything his way through a non-existent field of corn, but showed little to trouble Yamanaka in earnest.

Solis arguably took the eighth on aggression but perhaps worn by Yamanaka’s wonderful left to the body, he visited the canvas again in the ninth round.  A beautifully timed and unusually short right-hand dropped the Venezuelan for a short count.  Finding himself once more well behind on the cards, that Solis made the effort through the tenth, eleventh and twelfth to keep bringing the fight to Yamanaka was impressive; he may even have won the tenth.  He left with little to show for it, however, dropping the decision 117-107 on all cards; a wide but not unreasonable margin of victory.

The day before in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, the world’s #2 strawweight Wanheng Menayothin was in action against the Japanese, Go Odaira (12-4-3 going in).  Menayothin, 40-0 at bell, was a prohibitive favorite with a relative novice in the other corner, but there were signs that Odaira might provide reasonable, if not stiff competition.  He gave the highly ranked and perennial fight-of-the-year contender Katsunari Takayama all he could handle for seven rounds before succumbing at the end of 2014, and returned to winning ways with a knockout win of the Japanese national title at the weight in 2015.  Menayothin, I think, will only lose to a fighter of prestigious power, of which there are none at 105lbs currently, or a fighter of prestigious speed, although it must be pointed out that a combination of world-class jab and functional quickness has allowed the Thai to out-box many faster opponents.

Nevertheless, I was hopeful, if not expectant, that Odaira might surprise us with a testing, if not a winning performance.  This hope was dispelled by the first round which, in keeping with Menayothin’s style, was one of fistic curiosity.  He likes to look at his opponents in the first round, applying gentle pressure in order to take a measure of their artillery.  This is what I mean when I say power is key to solving Menayothin; if you can’t make him respect you, at a minimum, he is going to come for you.  Normally this happens in the second – against Odaira, he didn’t even wait his customary three minutes and was catching his man with sickening regularity with a drilled right hand normally heralded by the establishment of his jab.

Shinsuke Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin Win

This did nothing to discourage Menayothin’s stalking pressure which is normally underpinned by great discipline; disciplined defense, disciplined punch selection and disciplined, functional footwork that is surprisingly adept at bringing him into range against taller, longer opponents.  Here, he abandoned that discipline to an extent, abandoning the jab in favor of the right and it undermined his offense.  Odaira was able to slip and duck and run from trouble all the while firing back with his inelegant but persistent punches.

Odaira was boxing in a pattern, however, allowing himself to be moved back to the ropes and corners before sliding and ducking his way out of danger.  In the third, Menayothin half-feinted all the way inside, committing to nothing, before throwing a right hand punch across himself as Odaira tried to escape to his own right.  The blow landed with the type of crispness that often brings a reaction and this one tumbled Odaira to the canvas like a sprinter hemorrhaging out of the blocks, all motion and stumble.  Up at three, the Japanese appeared more rattled than legitimately hurt.  Menayothin remained steady – disciplined – with his pursuit, preferring single shots, every one of which was cheered lustily by the partisan Thai crowd.

The two played cat and mouse in a depressingly one-sided fourth round before Menayothin dropped the boom in the fifth.  Odaira had a little surge at the opening of the round but Menayothin remained absolutely consistent and in the end, pretty much just bludgeoned his opponent to the canvas.  If the first knockdown held a certain flour-down-the-chute elegance, the second was sheer brute, the inevitable begun by a left-hook and ended by a series of thudding right hands that saw the referee wave the contest off without a count.

This was not vintage Menayothin, although he got the job done more quickly than fellow strawweight Takayama and with only the occasional loss of that steel-trap discipline.  Menayothin, surely, is ready for better things and with the strawweight division relatively stacked at the moment, the time, surely, is ripe.  Divisional #1 Hekkie Budler and he would stage an excellent fight, I suspect, countryman CP Freshmart would make for an intriguing all-Thai dust-up and Takayama, too, would make a fine opponent could he or Menayothin be tempted into leaving home in pursuit of what would be one of the most fascinating clashes of style imaginable in boxing right now.

Yamanaka, meanwhile, did what was expected of him and returned to the world of thrills and spills that, at least for me, defined him prior to the Moreno fight.  I make #4 bantamweight Jamie McDonnell, out of Doncaster, England, his most interesting potential opponent although the two men’s respective power-bases and straps make this meeting unlikely.  Skilled southpaw Juan Carlos Payano, of the Dominican Republic would be another fascinating match, as would an all-Japanese affair between Yamanaka and superstar Naoya Inoue, who lurks below at 115lbs.

Both Yamanaka and Menayothin have options, but neither man has boxed outside his home country; aged 33 and 30 respectively, it’s probably time to take those options.

 

Check out a results video for this fight at The Boxing Channel

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U.K. Boxing Update: Gorman, Bowen, Edwards, Quigley, and More

Arne K. Lang

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For the second time in the last three months, Great Britain’s top promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren went head-to-head with dueling fight cards in England. When this last happened, back on Dec. 22, Warren had the stronger card from top to bottom, but Hearn’s show had the more compelling main event, namely the rematch between Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora. Today the roles were somewhat reversed. Hearn’s show had the stronger undercard, but the fighter attracting the most eyeballs, undefeated heavyweight Nathan Gorman, is promoted by Warren.

Leicester / Queensberry (Frank Warren) Promotion

In a predictably desultory affair, Nathan Gorman (16-0, 11 KOs) outpointed Kevin Johnson (34-13-1). This being a 10-rounder, the referee was the sole arbiter and he gave every round to Gorman, a distant cousin of Tyson Fury.

Kevin Johnson, a pro since 2003, took Vitali Klitschko the distance in 2009 and Tyson Fury the distance in 2012 and more recently went the full route with Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrogivic, but he won scarcely a round in those fights and in recent years has degenerated from a journeyman into a trial horse. He came into the fight 20 pounds heavier than in his last start 13 weeks ago and fought to survive, allowing Gorman to initiate what action there was.

Frank Warren can’t be blamed for promoting this snoozer. Johnson was a late replacement for Fabio Maldonado, a Brazilian who, although something of a mystery, was expected to provide Gorman with a sterner test. But Maldonado reneged after getting a better offer and will now fight Oleksandr Teslenko in Toronto next week.

The 22-year-old Gorman, who carried 253 pounds on his six-foot-three frame, is very light on his feet and some expect him to out-box his harder punching countryman Daniel Dubois when they eventually meet.

In the featured bout, Sam Bowen, a Leicestershire man, retained his British 130-pound title with a ninth round stoppage of Scotland’s Jordan McCorry. Bowen improved to 15-0 with his 10th stoppage.

London / Copper Box / Matchroom (Eddie Hearn) Promotion

In the main event of Hearn’s card, baby-faced Charlie Edwards (pictured on the left) put on a clinic in the first defense of the WBC world flyweight title he won with an upset of Cristofer Rosales. Edwards (15-1, 6 KOs) won every round over determined but outclassed Angel Moreno (19-3-2), a 35-year-old Spaniard and former sparring partner. Edwards scored a flash knockdown with a counter right hand in round six. All three judges had it 120-107.

Irish middleweight Jason Quigley, who signed with Golden Boy coming out of the amateur ranks and had fought exclusively in the United States, improved to 16-0 (12) with a second round stoppage of Mathias Eklund (10-2-2). Eklund was on his feet, but the ref thought it wise to keep the overmatched Finn from taking more punishment after Quigley blistered him with a series of unanswered punches. Quigley’s dream fight would be a match in Ireland with stablemate Canelo Alvarez.

Joshua Buatsi, an emerging star in the light heavyweight division, chopped down Liam Conroy to win the vacant BBBofC 175-pound title. Buatsi had taken out his last three opponents in the opening round but Conroy, who came into the match riding a nine-fight winning streak, lasted into the third. Buatsi, a Londoner born in Ghana and a bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics, improved to 10-0 (8). Conroy, who was on the deck twice, fell to 16-4-1.

Conroy’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirms that Buatsi’s next fight is likely to take place at Madison Square Garden on June 1 underneath Joshua-Miller.

In a cruiserweight fight with British and Commonwealth titles at stake, Lawrence Okolie improved to 12-0 (9) with a fourth round stoppage of Wadi Camacho (21-8). Okolie knocked Camacho to his knees with a hard combination and finished him off with a big right hand.

The most inexperienced British boxer to ever compete in the Olympics, the rangy six-foot-five Okolie has sparred with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury and will almost assuredly compete as a heavyweight when he grows into his body.

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Meet Tom Schwarz, Tyson Fury’s Next Opponent

Arne K. Lang

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Fury vs Schwarz

Someone can’t keep a secret.

Top Rank honcho Bob Arum said he would not reveal Tyson Fury’s next opponent until tomorrow (Saturday, March 23) when he would “unseal the envelope” during the ESPN telecast of his show from the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, CA. But, as the saying goes, the cat is out of the bag. Multiple sources, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael, are reporting that Fury will fight Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas on June 15, likely at the MGM Grand although other Las Vegas venues are in the running.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. By choosing Schwarz over a rematch with Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury’s reputation in the court of public opinion has taken a big tumble. “Tyson Fury fight with bum Tom Schwarz makes mockery of Gypsy King’s big claims and is bad news for fans,” reads the headline in the online edition of the infamous (but widely read) London Sun. “It’s yet another blow for boxing fans; the paying public is being shortchanged due to a current TV bidding war,” reads the article by the un-bylined author.

Bob Arum and his comrades at ESPN are facing a lot of damage control. We’ll give them a booster shot by saying that Tom Schwarz, a 24-year-old German who customarily carries 240 pounds on a six-foot-five-and-a-half frame, isn’t too shabby.

Here’s the negatives; let’s get them out of the way.

Although undefeated in 24 fights with 16 knockouts, Schwarz has defeated no one of note. The folks at BoxRec are so unimpressed with his strength of schedule that they rate him 41st among heavyweights which, for reference purposes, is 35 slots below Anthony Joshua’s next opponent Jarrell Miller and 31 places below Deontay Wilder’s next opponent, Dominic Breazeale.

Schwarz has had the home field advantage in most of his fights. He’s fought only twice outside Germany and he didn’t venture very far. Six of his fights, including his match with Kristijan Krstacic earlier this month, were in Magdeburg, his hometown.

But there are some plusses that a PR man can seize upon. Although records in professional boxing are notoriously deceiving, it seems relevant that Schwarz’s last six opponents are a combined 84-5-1. He hasn’t fought a real tomato can since October of 2014 when he met Tomas Mrazek, a fellow whose current record shows only 10 wins in 86 fights.

Schwarz’s fight with Krstacic can be found on YouTube. One can’t learn much from it as Krystacic, a 38-year-old Croatian, was outweighed by 31 pounds, but one could see that Schwarz has good fundamentals. He landed some good body shots in the opening round and then clubbed his man into submission in the next stanza, scoring three knockdowns.

German heavyweights, in the main, have performed poorly on American soil although it’s worth noting that many ringsiders thought Axel Schulz deserved the nod when he fought George Foreman at the MGM Grand in April of 1995. Foreman won a majority decision and then relinquished his IBF belt rather than give Schulz a rematch.

If Tom Schwarz is looking for inspiration, he should summon the 1936 ghost of Max Schmeling who was a big underdog when he knocked out the seemingly indestructible Joe Louis. That was a non-title fight, by the way, as will be true of Schwarz’s fight with Tyson Fury unless one of the four major sanctioning bodies creates a hole for it by declaring their title vacant. And as for that possibility, don’t bet against it.

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A Night of Upsets on the Golden Boy Card in Hollywood

David A. Avila

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upsets

HOLLYWOOD-A night of upsets awaited those driving to Hollywood in the angry storm on Thursday night. No one survived unscathed in the film and music capital of the world.

Mercito Gesta (32-3-2) tasted defeat against Juan Antonio Rodriguez (30-7, 26 KOs) by technical knockout in their lightweight clash that was the main event at the Avalon Theater. The likeable Filipino southpaw was world ranked in the top position by one organization.

Few expected Rodriguez to battle Gesta on even terms, especially with his multiple losses, but those who had seen him perform before knew he could punch and knew he could take a punch.

It was a battle of chins and a battle between southpaws.

Rodriguez absorbed heavy blows from Gesta and at times seemed ready to surrender. But somehow he would return fire and the heavy blows continued to rain from both lefthanders.

Gesta had the speed advantage but was unable to use it effectively. For eight rounds the two blasted each other with impunity but never reckless.

Finally, in the ninth round, as Gesta decided to hit and move, Rodriguez timed one of the blows coming in and delivered an overhand left cross that staggered the former world title challenger. Rodriguez immediately sensed the moment was ripe and unloaded strategic blows on Gesta who was out-punched 20 to 2 in the last 15 seconds. Referee Zachary Young stopped the fight at 2:55 of the ninth round.

A shaky Gesta walked back to his corner.

“He was there all the time so I went to the body,” said Rodriguez. “He just stopped punching.”

The classy Gesta was generous even in defeat.

“It was a good fight,” said Gesta who is trained by Freddie Roach. “The guy was tough. He fought hard. No excuses from me…I’m a fighter, and I love challenges.”

Undefeated Welterweights

Las Vegas fighter Blair Cobb (10-0-1, 6 KOs) won the battle of undefeated welterweights by unanimous decision after eight bloody rounds with local hero Ferdinand Kerobyan (11-1, 6 KOs). The win gave Cobb (pictured) the Junior NABA title.

Kerobyan, a North Hollywood native, brought hundreds of fans to the historic Avalon Theater and cheers went up when he first arrived to the boxing ring.

Cobb, who fights out of Las Vegas but is originally from Philadelphia, arrived with his small contingent including former world champion Clarence “Bones” Adams in his corner and used his reach and speed to deliver some heavy blows early in the fight. During one of the exchanges in the first round a gash emerged above the right eye of Kerobyan. From that point on it was an uphill battle for the Armenian-American fighter. But he never quit.

After eight back and forth rounds the judges scored the fight 77-75 twice and 79-73 for Cobb.

“I give him a lot of credit for hanging in there. He was very tough, but I showed I was the superior fighter,” said Cobb. “He was a phenomenal fighter. I expected the fight to be easy.”

Featherweights

A featherweight clash between Manuel “Tito” Avila (23-1-1) and Mexico’s Jose Gonzalez (23-7-1) ended in a split draw after eight rounds of clinching. It was Northern California’s Avila’s second fight since losing to Jojo Diaz last year in Las Vegas. The bullish rushes by Gonzalez especially with his head seemed to bother Avila. After eight rounds all three judges saw it differently 77-75 for Avila, 77-75 for Gonzalez and 76-76 a split draw.

Other Bouts

You can never tell by someone’s physique who’s going to win. Muscular heavyweight James “The Beast” Wilson (7-0-1, 6 KOs) met blown up doughboy Miguel Cubos (13-20-1, 10 KOs) in what looked to be a mismatch. Even to Wilson it must have seem like easy pickings, but when he unloaded his barrage of heavy blows and could not land a damaging blow in the first round it became apparent the flabby Mexican foe from San Luis Potosi could apparently box. And he did it very well.

Wilson was determined to get the knockout especially after Cubos began taunting him with raised arms after landing his own blows. But it became apparent it was not going to happen and Wilson’s corner must have warned him not to blow his gas tank. From the third round on it was a strategic battle of wits and big blows that missed. And each time Cubos would raise his both arms a la Manny Pacquiao. The crowd cheered every time.

After six back and forth rounds of action from the two physically different heavyweights the judges scored it a majority draw with tallies of 58-56 for Wilson and two others 57-57 even.

Super lightweight David Mijares (7-0, 3 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Antonio Sanchez (6-6-2, 3 KOs) after six rounds. Mijares was the more technically adept fighter and used his southpaw stance effectively against Sanchez. The Puerto Rican fighter had his moments especially with the right cross down the pipe. Neither fighter was ever hurt and Mijares won by scores 60-54 three times.

Oscar Acevedo (5-0) defeated tough Daniel Bastien (6-6-2) by decision after four rounds in a lightweight contest. Acevedo used his jabs and sharp combinations to keep the always aggressive Bastien from over running him. Both traded evenly especially in the last two rounds with Acevedo losing ground to Bastien. But not enough to convince the judges. The scores were 40-38, and 39-37 twice for Acevedo.

In a fight featuring a huge height disparity Chicago’s Chris Ousley (10-0, 9 KOs) took care of business against the much smaller Jorge Munguia(13-15, 5 KOs) in the first round by knockout in a super middleweight match. The first stiff jab by Ousley rocked Munguia who tried to hide behind a peek-a-boo defense to no avail. Ousley tore that defense apart with ease. A three-punch combination capped by a right uppercut sent the Honduran fighter to one knee. He beat the count but was battered by Ousley until referee Zachary Young ended it at 1:54 of the first round.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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