The ex-world champ faced a harsh reality.
Shinsuke Yamanaka fell to a disgraced Luis Nery in a second-round technical knockout loss at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan on Thursday night.
Nery failed to make weight prior to their scheduled WBC bantamweight title match, but he beat Yamanaka for the second straight time, retaining his unbeaten record (26-0, 20 knockouts).
On Wednesday, the Mexican fighter failed to reduce his weight to the division’s 118-pound (53.5 kg) limit, meaning he was stripped of his title before the fight.
The match ended faster than the majority of the audience probably expected.
Nery, who handed his foe his first professional loss in their first match last August, attacked the 35-year-old from the opening round and knocked Yamanaka down with a jab with about 30 seconds left in it.
Nery, 23, was even more ferocious in the next round. He quickly floored Yamanaka with a left hook about 20 seconds into it, and 20 seconds later, he knocked the local hero down again with a right jab.
Yamanaka (27-2-2, 19 KOs) was clearly damaged but stood up both times. But he could not survive the third knockdown, when Nery landed a right. Referee Michael Griffin stopped the fight with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining in the round.
“I’ve trained so hard for this fight,” Nery, who was booed heavily by the Japanese fans as he walked up to the ring, said through an interpreter after the bout. “I thought that Yamanaka would come harder, but I saw fear in him maybe because he recalled the fact that he lost (to me) in a KO. So I kept throwing punches without hesitation.”
The southpaw Yamanaka, who rose to stardom by piling up KO victories with his signature blow nicknamed “God’s Left,” said that he started the fight in a fine fashion. But like in their first bout, he was unable to dodge Nery’s fierce offense.
Yamanaka’s eyes were moist throughout his post-fight interview in his dressing room but he displayed a mild smile.
The Shiga Prefecture native said that he did everything he could possibly do in his training for the match and has no regrets. But he felt sorry for the fans that the bout ended so quickly.
“It’s me that wants to say ‘Thank you’ to them, not them that want to say so to me,” Yamanaka said of the fans who filled the sacred sumo venue. “For my debut fight, only 20 bought the tickets from me. But for today, thousands of fans came here to Ryogoku and desperately rooted for me. I was so pleased about it and I felt good.”
When asked if Nery’s punches felt heavier than in the previous match because he failed to make weight, Yamanaka did not deny it.
Yet Yamanaka said that Nery was simply “stronger” than him, adding that the Mexican “has a flexible body” and “is a good fighter.”
But he stated that boxers have to obey rules, including making a designated weight for fights.
“With the result at yesterday’s weigh-in, I thought he did something you are not supposed to do,” said Yamanaka, whose focus was to avenge the aforementioned loss to Nery rather than regaining his title belt. “And I could not hold my irritation to be honest. I would like him to follow rules going forward. Moreover, I think everybody has to in the entire boxing circle a lot more strictly.”
Teiken Promotion president Tsuyoshi Hamada said on behalf of Yamanaka that it was undeniable that his boxer was in a different state of mind because of Nery’s failure to make weight.
Yamanaka stated that he had tried to not think about what he would do after this fight.
But now he has made up his mind. Yamanaka said that he would hang up his gloves.
“Of course, this is it,” Yamanaka said.
Finally, Yamanaka thanked his own “God’s Left” blow.
“I’ve always relied on it until the very end,” Yamanaka said. “It’s been my most reliable weapon for sure. I misfired it today, but I think my children would say it was a strong blow no matter how many years will pass.”
In Thursday’s other world title matches, champion Ryosuke Iwasa successfully retained his IBF super bantamweight belt against the Philippines’ Ernesto Saulong (21-3-1, eight KOs) in a unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109, 118-110) in his first title defense.
Iwasa (25-2, 16 KOs) struggled to land heavy blows, but kept taking the pace for the majority of the fight.
“As you saw, it was the worst fight I’ve done since I started fighting in this class,” the 28-year-old Iwasa said. “I managed to win it, but I and our gym president have much higher objectives. But I apologize for showing such a bad fight.”
Former two-division world champ Takahiro Ao beat Gamaliel Diaz in a unanimous decision (77-76, 77-74, 79-74) in his first fight in nearly three years. The two fought in a 62-kg catchweight match. The 33-year-old Ao (28-3-1, 12 KOs) had lost his WBC super featherweight title to Diaz (40-19-3, 19 KOs) in October 2012.