By Kaz Nagatsuka
WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka will take on Anselmo Moreno in a rematch, while former double champion Hozumi Hasegawa will attempt to recapture a world title against Hugo Ruiz in a WBC super bantamweight bout on September 16, at Edion Arena Osaka, the organizers announced on Wednesday.
Yamanaka, 33, will look to defend his belt for the 11th time, but will face a tough challenge against the former WBA bantamweight champion, who arguably gave the Japanese star the toughest challenge of his title reign. Yamanaka edged the Panamanian in a split decision to retain his belt for the ninth straight time in Tokyo in last September.
Yamanaka said he expected to fight overseas, which didn’t happen this time, but that his motivation was high for the return match against Moreno.
“After I completed my 10th consecutive title defense in March, I was hoping for an unification match or a big match overseas,” Yamanaka said at a Tokyo news conference. “But to keep my motivation, my president (Akihiko Honda of the Teiken Gym) set up the fight against Moreno, for which I’m thankful.”
Moreno, 31, captured the WBA bantamweight belt in 2008 and defended it 12 times. The southpaw is known as the Chemito — the Phantom — for his phenomenal defensive skills. Yamanaka said he had a hard time landing his blows on Moreno in their last fight.
Yamanaka admitted that Moreno had been the toughest boxer he’s squared off against in his career “without a doubt,” but wants to prove he’s a better fighter in a clear-cut way this time.
“I wasn’t able to handle the distance as well as against my other opponents,” Yamanaka said of the last bout against Moreno. “But I know what kind of space he takes, and I can adjust this time.”
Yamanaka said he’s not a big fan of rematches in general, but doesn’t feel that way ahead of this one against Moreno. He predicts that the two champions will have an entirely different match come September.
“Both of us know what kind of blows we have, the sense of distances between us and things like that,” said Yamanaka, who would be in sole possession of third place on the all-time list for consecutive title defenses by a Japanese fighter behind Yoko Gushiken (13) and Takashi Uchiyama (11) with another victory over Moreno. “I have a lot of things I’ve got to reflect on from our last fight, but I feel like I’ve got more things that I learned from it.”
Everyone knows that Yamanaka’s got a heavy, jaw-breaking left, which is dubbed “God’s Left.” Yet he thinks that he’s also developed his right recently and that it will help land his left more effectively.
Yamanaka still anticipates a difficult, close contest against Moreno, who ranks No. 1 in the WBC bantam division with a 36-4-1 record.
“I want to win in a better way,” he said. “We’re going to work on our plans to do so. But if I get myself prepared properly, I have the confidence to win.”
Yamanaka posted a win over Liborio Solis in March and improved his undefeated pro record to a 25-0 (two draws, 17 KOs).
Meanwhile, Hasegawa, who used to hold the WBC bantam belt that Yamanaka currently possesses, will be trying to be a world champion “for one last time.”
The 35-year-old failed to defend his bantamweight title against Fernando Montiel in April, 2010, after defending it 10 straight times. He lost to champion Kiko Martinez in an IBF super bantamweight title match in April, 2014.
“It’s been almost two years since my last title fight, and I’ve practiced hard every day, waiting for (September, not having any other fight before) this year,” Hasegawa said. “Now I shall only focus on my training. I’ve had so many fights in my career and I don’t have to say a lot any more. I consider this my last challenge, and I’ll train as hard as possible so I won’t have any regrets.”
If Hasegawa takes the belt from Ruiz, who was a former WBC featherweight champion as well, he will be the fourth Japanese boxer to win world titles in three different divisions, joining Kazuto Ioka, Koki Kameda and Akira Yaegashi.
But Hasegawa, the fourth-ranked boxer in the WBC super bantamweight class, showed no interest in the feat, saying, “It’s way more important to become a champion once again.”
Ruiz, a 29-year-old Mexican, has been 36-3 with 32 KO in his career. He earned the belt with a first-round technical knockout victory over Julio Ceja in February and this will be his first title defense fight.