It's only fitting that Luis Nery's already disgraceful bantamweight title reign ends without having made a single successful title defense.
The unbeaten knockout artist from Mexico was forced to vacant his World Boxing Council (WBC) strap at the scales after severely missing weight for his title fight rematch with Shinsuke Yamanaka. Nery initially weighed 123 pounds on his first attempt, five pounds above the 118-pound bantamweight limit and even exceeding the 122-pound super bantamweight mark. Most respectable commissions would have canceled the fight on the spot, but Nery was given two hours to shed as much weight as possible, coming back at 121 pounds and now an ex-titlist.
For his part, Yamanaka (27-1-2, 19KOs—well within the limit at 117.5 pounds—agreed to proceed with the fight, which takes place at Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. As such , the former long-reigning titlist will be given the chance to earn back his old belt, which he conceded in a 4th round knockout to Nery in his lone career loss last August.
The official verdict comes with an asterisk, as Nery was discovered with a banned substance in his system as produced during random drug testing which was revealed after the fight. The finding was attributed to contaminated meat in his native Mexico, an alibi all too willingly accepted by the WBC whom allowed him to remain champ on the condition that he grant Yamanaka an immediate rematch for what was to be his first title defense.
However, the title will only be on the line for Yamanaka since he is the only participant to make the bantamweight limit. Should Nery once again emerge victorious, the belt will remain vacant.
In the wake of their first contest, Yamanaka decided to call it a career—a hell of a one at that. The 35-year old southpaw racked up 12 successful defenses during a title reign spanning nearly six years. Following the WBC's ruling, he decided to return to the ring at least for another shot at his lone in-ring conqueror.
Nery (25-0, 19KOs) took on a non-title fight while waiting out last year's WBC investigation, climbing off the deck to stop former 115-pound contender Arthur Villanueva in six rounds last November in his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico. Thursday's bout will mark his second outside of his home country, with the lone other occasion coming in his title win over Yamanaka last August in Kyoto, Japan.
Oddly enough, drug testing and weight limits aren't the only subplots in this rivalry. Still pending is the outcome of an ongoing glove dispute, strangely enough with both boxers preferring gloves manufactured in their opponent's home country. Teiken Promotions—the lead promoter for the event—revealed during Tuesday's final press conference that both boxers will be using Reyes gloves, which are made in Mexico.
However, Nery insisted on sticking with Winning gloves, a Japanese brand which he used in the first fight and throughout training camp for Thursday's rematch.
A final decision is expected to come later Wednesday afternoon during the final rules meeting.