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Challenger Carlson, champion Yamanaka express confidence ahead of WBC bantamweight title bout

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Mexican challenger Carlos Carlson declared that he would take Shinsuke Yamanaka’s WBC bantamweight title belt when they square off at Ryogoku Kokugikan on Thursday evening.

The Japanese champion did not overreact in response to the challenger’s bold statement, calmly saying that the emerald green-colored belt would return to the shelf at his home.

“This is a huge opportunity for me,” Carlson, who is getting his first world championship shot, said through an interpreter at Tuesday’s signing ceremony for the bout at a Tokyo hotel. “I’m grateful to be able to have a fight in this wonderful country. My condition is good and I’m ready to fight. This is going to be a battle between Mexico and Japan.”

The 26-year-old is currently ranked sixth in the division in the WBC.

“I want to show that I’m a brave fighter and have got (heavy) blows, and I’m taking the title back home,” said Carlson, who holds the North American Boxing Federation title. “I’m not here for nothing. I’m going to be taking the title back to Tijuana.”

Yamanaka, meanwhile, will be trying to defend his title for the 12th time. A victory against Carlson would break a tie with Takashi Uchiyama and leave Yamanaka in sole possession of second place behind former WBA light flyweight champion Yoko Gushiken on the all-time list for the longest consecutive world title defenses by a Japanese boxer.

he Shiga Prefecture native, who floored former WBA bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno with a jaw-dropping KO win last September, said he’s always had some issues about his performance at every bout he’s fought. But he added that he wants to put up a near-perfect fight and shatter Carlson’s hopes by winning in dominant fashion.

“I’ve always been aiming to have a flawless fight,” said Yamanaka, who has reigned the division since Nov. 6, 2011, when he defeated Christian Esquivel for the vacant title. “It’s my goal to keep pounding my opponent and not get hit. I think I’ve gotten closer to the goal.

“It seems Carlson is highly motivated, but the belt is going back to my home in Nakano Ward.”

Having defended his belt as many times as he has, Yamanaka, 34, is proficient in knowing how to reach his physical peak on fight night, and this time is no exception.

Tsuyoshi Hamada, the former WBC super lightweight champion who currently serves as the president of Yamanaka’s Teiken Gym, said he hasn’t have to give Yamanaka any advice about his conditioning.

“(Yamanaka) is ready for the fight conditioning-wise. He’s in top condition,” Hamada said. “He’s now up for defending his title for the 12th time and he’s really mastered how to pace himself. And he will certainly be at his peak on the day of the fight, which happens the day after tomorrow.”

But Yamanaka, dubbed “God’s Left” because of his phenomenal finishing blow, acknowledged the outcome of Thursday’s fight and how he performs in it willmatter the most to his fans and supporters, many of whom will be in attendance at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the sacred sumo venue.

“People get excited for sumo at Ryogoku recently,” said Yamanaka, who in February was selected by the Japan Boxing Commission as the fighter of the year for 2016. “But hopefully, I can excite people even more with my bout.”