The No. 1 bantamweight on the planet returns to action Friday in Kyoto, when Shinsuke Yamanaka defends his WBC title against Liborio Solis of Venezuela. He is 24-0-2 with 17 KOs and hasn’t had a blemish on his record since his second draw, early in his career in 2008. The Ring currently ranks Yamanaka No. 9 on their pound-for-pound list.
Yamanaka’s most recent fight was a split-decision victory over Anselmo Moreno, one of the best 118-pound fighters and top defensive technicians of recent years. A rematch between the two might be appropriate, but Solis is a credible opponent for right now. At the moment, The Ring has him rated 10 at 118 pounds.
He’s a former WBA champion at super flyweight, although it’s a title he lost on the scales in December 2013, prior to defeating Daiki Kameda by split decision, in what was probably the biggest win of his career. Other big wins for him were Jose Salgado in December 2011 and Jonathan Baat in his last fight, for the vacant WBA Fedecaribe bantamweight belt.
While Solis is certainly legitimate, he’s not likely to prove in Yamanaka’s class. Aside from Moreno, the other best fights available for the Japanese star would be Jamie McDonnell, who had outstanding back-to-back wins over Tomoki Kameda last year. Kameda would also be a terrific opponent for Yamanaka. The youngest of the famous Kameda brothers, Tomoki has been based mostly in Mexico during his professional career. But a fight against Yamanaka in Japan would surely be a big event there, despite Kameda’s two losses last year.
Unification fights for Yamanaka between IBF champion Lee Haskins or WBA title holder Zhanat Zhakiyanov would also be great matchups. While Yamanaka is currently a consensus choice for the top fighter at 118 pounds, he hasn’t managed to establish himself as the lineal champion.
To do that, he’s going to need to make some unification fights.