When Shinsuke Yamanaka began boxing in high school, all he wanted to do was become a world champion. He accomplished that, but never thought his reign would last this long.
Yamanaka, the WBC bantamweight champ, will face young challenger Luis Nery on Aug. 15 at Shimadzu Arena Kyoto, his Teiken Gym announced on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old last defended his title with a seventh-round TKO of Carlos Carlson in Tokyo in March. That was Yamanaka’s 12th successful title defense, the second longest streak ever by a Japanese champion.
Yamanaka will tie former WBA light flyweight champ Yoko Gushiken in the record books if he defeats the 22-year-old Mexican.
“The only goal I had was to become a world champion,” Yamanaka said at the gym. “Other things like the Japanese record, consecutive title defense, all that was beyond my imagination. So I’ve achieved more than I had ever imagined, and I feel extremely proud of what I’ve done.”
But Yamanaka will have to overcome a tough opponent in Nery in order to achieve the feat. Like Yamanaka (27-0-2, 19 KOs), the southpaw-style boxer has not taken an “L” and boasts a 23-0 (17 KOs) record.
Teiken president Tsuyoshi Hamada said the gym prepared a competitive challenge for Yamanaka, giving him WBC’s No. 1-ranked boxer in the weight class, out of respect for Gushiken.
“(Nery) is probably going to be the strongest challenger Yamanaka’s ever faced,” Hamada said. “It’s going to be a tough fight for Yamanaka.”
Yamanaka thinks Nery has good defensive skills and powerful punches, but believes there will be chances to land his signature left hand, which is dubbed “God’s Left,” on his opponent if he stays on top of his game.
“I don’t have an image that I will not be able to land my left against him,” said Yamanaka, a Shiga Prefecture native. “Nery is skillful, but I think I can land my left. The important thing is to use my feet to not get hit with his punches and look for opportunities to land my blows.”
Gushiken, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015, is supportive of Yamanaka’s quest for the record.
“Records are meant to be broken,” Gushiken said through a video message to Yamanaka. “There have been so many fighters that could’ve broken (my record) like (former WBC bantamweight champ Joichiro) Tatsuyoshi and (former WBC bantamweight champ Hozumi) Hasegawa. But having watched how Yamanaka has been fighting, I don’t have a doubt that he’ll do it. I want him to do it for the sake of the sport.”