More Sports / Boxing

‘God’s Left’ readies for title defense

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Shinsuke Yamanaka has an intriguing nickname, “God’s Left,” given to him because of the devastating blows he delivers with his left hand, which everyone, including upcoming opponent Carlos Carlson, surely recognizes as his signature weapon.

But the unbeaten WBC bantamweight champion’s left might be even better and fiercer than in his previous bouts. He intends to finish the Mexican with it on March 2 at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sporting mecca that usually hosts sumo.

“I feel as good with my conditioning as I did for my past few fights, and we’ve worked out our game plan against my opponent this time,” Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18 KOs) said at his Thursday workout, which was open to the media, at Tokyo’s Teiken Gym. “Now I only need to drop my weight a little more, but I’ve tuned up well.”

The 34-year-old confidently said he’s become more accurate with his left and has also focused on avoiding blows from the right, which opponents were able to land in his last few bouts.

“We’ve been working on how I’d land my left more precisely,” Yamanaka said. “I’ve repeatedly landed my left on my sparring partners. And it’s also my theme to not get a right from my opponent, but I’ve been able to react to it well. So I think all these things will help me put up a good performance in the actual fight.”

Yamanaka won with a stunning KO in a rematch against former WBA bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno in his 11th straight title defense last September. The victory drew him closer to Yoko Gushiken’s record 13 successful title defenses by a Japanese boxer.

Fans and media are making a fuss about his chances of tying or surpassing the former WBA light flyweight champion, but Yamanaka isn’t dwelling on it too much.

His trainer Shin Yamato spoke for him, saying the boxer had always focused on having a one-fight-at-a-time mentality, and trying to accumulate experience and build confidence with every fight.

That said, Yamato added that the veteran southpaw still has room to grow and expand his techniques going forward.

“Yamanaka’s always worked on developing his left that could hit his opponent hard and knock him out,” Yamato said. “He’s worked on his right, too. But he can get better with his left as well.”

Carlson (22-1-0, 13 KOs), whose sole loss came in his pro debut bout, arrived in Japan on Wednesday. Asked about the 26-year-old reportedly telling reporters that he could take on Yamanaka right away, the Shiga Prefecture native agreed with him, saying, “I can do it right now, too, and I feel that good about myself.

“But I know he’s not gotten beaten since his first fight and is on a roll. I’ll especially have to be careful early in the fight. But I’m ready to fight toe-to-toe with him when the moment comes.”