Luis Nery and Shinsuke Yamanaka are set for a rematch in which both boxers seek redemption.
An ordered sequel to Nery's title-winning stoppage victory over Yamanaka last summer is set for March 1 at Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. The bout was formally announced Friday during a press conference in Tokyo.
Nery will make the first defense of the bantamweight crown he lifted in a shocking 4th round knockout of the long-reigning champion last August in Kyoto, Japan. The feat was mired in controversy, as the unbeaten boxer from Mexico was discovered to have tested positive for the banned substance zilpaterol—an adrenergic agonist more commonly known as Zlimax, used to increase the size of livestock and in effect producing large quantities of contaminated meat.
The issue has run rampant in Mexico, Nery's home country and for which he attributes the failed drug test. His alibi was found to be deemed acceptable by the World Boxing Council, who has kept the now 23-year old boxer as its champion. However, a compromise was found in granting a rematch to the former champion. whom at one point following the lone loss of his career was contemplating retirement.
Talks of walking away from the game quickly dissolved as Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19KOs)—whose 12 title defenses fell one short of the all-time mark for a champion from Japan (held by Yoko Gushiken) and four short of Orlando Canizales' all-time bantamweight record—confirmed later in the year of his intention to remain active. It was hardly a mystery as to what his next step would be once he shook off any retirement thoughts.
“To be honest, I’ve been training thinking that I want to avenge the loss to (Nery),” Yamanaka said during the press conference, according to a translated version from the Japan Times which was the first to confirm news of the rematch becoming a done deal. "I couldn’t end my career that way. I don’t have to worry about the title defense record any more. I decided to continue to fight with my own will.”
While waiting out the WBC investigation, Nery (25-0, 19KOs) kept active in a non-title affair last November. The unbeaten power-puncher shook off a 4th round knockdown to score a 6th round stoppage of Philippines' Arthur Vilanueva, whose lone two other losses came in vacant title bids versus McJoe Arroyo and Zolani Tete.
In the evening's chief support, Ryosuke Iwasa will attempt the first defense of his super bantamweight title versus Philippines' Ernesto Saulong. Iwasa (24-2, 16KOs) came up aces in his third crack at a major title when he stopped countryman Yukinori Oguni in six rounds last September. His lone two losses came in a failed title bid versus Lee Haskins in their June '15 thriller and a March '11 stoppage loss to Yamanaka, whose very next fight earned him the bantamweight title he held for nearly six years prior to last summer's setback versus Nery for his lone career defeat.
Both bouts will air live on Nippon TV in Japan. Given the date and time, it is doubtful that the show will be picked up by a U.S. TV outlet, although American cable giant HBO has expressed serious interest in working with Nery as part of its continued showcasing of the lower weight classes including its February 25 "Superfly 2" 115-pound themed show in Inglewood, California.