By Jake Donovan
Shinsuke Yamanaka continues to plead his case as the best bantamweight in the world. The latest piece of evidence in the form of a four-knockdown, 9th round knockout performance versus Belgium's Stephane Jamoye in their bantamweight title fight Wednesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
Four knockdowns were produced in the one-sided affair, though the difference in skill and desire was evident well before the bout began. Yamanaka was feverishly working the mitts in his dressing room moments before the main event, while Jamoye was "caught" relaxing in his dressing room, jumping up to shadow box only after realizing he was already on camera.
Tactical boxing was on display early, but merely a warmup of more thrilling action to come. Yamanaka patiently measured up his challenger, working his jab and controlling the action at his desired pace. Jamoye was lulled into believing a boxing match broke out, caught off guard when Yamanaka scored with a left hand over the top of his challenger's guard midway through round two, producing the bout's first knockdown.
To his credit, Jamoye came alive in round three, determined to win the fight or at least go out on his shield. Yamanaka was as calm as an assassin, steadily working his jab and punching in combination. Cognizant of the incoming, Jamoye knew to ride out the storm before charging forward and scoring with an occasional right hand whenever he was able to work his way inside. The punches came awkward angles and sloppy technique, but just enough to briefly throw Yamanaka out of rhythm.
Action slowed in the middle rounds, but with Yamanaka still largely in control. Every punch he threw seemed to put Jamoye on his heels, connecting at will with jabs and straight left hands.
Open scoring revealed a clean sweep through four rounds for Yamanaka, up 40-35 on all three scorecards. It was telling of the bout, even if a moot point as the judges' services were hardly required. Yamanaka connected with a series of left hands upstairs in round five, repeatedly rocking Jamoye. A brief moment of salvation for the challenger came late in the round, when a counter right hand caught Yamanaka by surprise, just long enough to take a step back and disrupt an otherwise surgical attack.
The threat of a knockout surfaced early in round six. A chopping left hand caught Jamoye flush on the jaw, leaving him rocked and wide open for an ensuing volley of punches. Yamanaka had knockout on his mind, but the challenger briefly rode out the storm.
Yamanaka's attack was disrupted midway through the round, when referee Hector Afu deducted a point for extending his right arm to keep his challenger in place. The deduction came with a slight delay, giving Jamoye just enough time to catch his breath and regroup. It didn't help turn the tide, but allowed him to survive the round.
It turned out to merely provide false hope. Jamoye was a spent fighter as the second half of the bout began. Yamanaka darted in and out, sizing up his deflated challenger who was sloppy with his punches and even flopping to the canvas after missing wildly with a left hook. Yamanaka failed to take advantage, however, conserving his energy and sticking to his jab.
What he lacked in desire in the previous round, Yamanaka more than made up for in the eighth. A straight left hand crashed on Jamoye's grill to produce the second knockdown of the fight. Jamoye made it to his feet, but remained on unsteady legs. The best the challenger could provide was to wisely hold whenever the champion worked his way inside. Yamanaka caught wind of the strategy, employing a range-finding jab to set up his attack.
The switch in strategy saw the southpaw score with a right hook to the body late in the eighth before finishing off Jamoye with a straight left hand early in the ninth. No count was issued upon the fourth and final knockdown, with referee Hector Afu immediately tending to the fallen challenger while signalling the end of the fight.
Yamanaka improves to 21-0-2 (16KO) with the win. Jamoye falls short in his first title challenge, falling to 26-4 (15KO). The 24-year old Belgian boxer came into the fight on the heels of a shocking points loss to Karim Guerfi last September, with previous losses coming to Leo Santa Cruz, Jamie McDonnell and Tomoki Kameda - all three of whom went on to win major titles afterward.
The only aftermath for Yamanaka following his own win over Jamoye is to further establish his dominance in the bantamweight division, at least until he's ready to move up in weight. The 31-year old has scored knockouts in all but one title fight. The lone title defense to go to the scorecards was his first, taking a 12-round decision over Vic Darchinyan in April '12. Five straight knockouts have now followed, as well as 14 stoppages in his last 15 fights. Included in the batch is a Knockout of the Year candidate with his 9th round drilling of Tomas Rojas in Nov. '12, as well as a 6th round stoppage of Christian Esquivil to begin his title reign in Nov. '06.
The bout aired via same-day slight tape delay on Nippon TV in Japan. Opening the broadcast, Kiko Martinez successfully defended his super bantamweight title for the second time, stopping former two-division champ Hozumi Hasegawa in seven rounds. A full report can be found
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox