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Shinsuke Yamanaka vs. Anselmo Moreno II Pick

Shinsuke Yamanaka vs. Anselmo Moreno II Fight Preview and Prediction to Win
When: Friday, September 16, 2016
Where: Edion Arena Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Titles: WBC Bantamweight Title
By Loot, Boxing Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Shinsuke Yamanaka, 25-0-2 (17 KOs), Konan, Japan
Vs.
Anselmo Moreno, 36-4-1 (12 KOs), San Miguelito, Panama

Betting Odds: Shinsuke Yamanaka (-225), Anselmo Moreno (+175)

In bantamweight championship action, unbeaten titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka defends his title against former longtime champion Anselmo Moreno in a rematch. It's a top-notch 118-pound bout between two proven winners. Yamanaka is a 33-year old southpaw and unbeaten in 29 fights. He is making the 11th defense of a title he won in 2011 and is almost unanimously regarded as the top bantamweight in the world. Moreno is 31, a slick southpaw Panamanian who reigned as WBA champ from 2008 to 2014 and made 12 defenses. He is a tough package at 118 pounds to this day.

In September 2015, these two men fought for Yamanaka's WBC belt, with the Japanese belt-holder emerging a split decision winner. It was a high-level bout and a difficult one to score. When going round-by-round, one could make a case for Yamanaka, though one couldn't help but emerge with the feeling that the fight being in Japan had something to do with Yamanaka getting the split nod. That's not to say Japan does anything unique in this game as far as hometown decisions, but it's not easy to beat a reigning champion in a close fight on any foreign soil.

At the same time, Moreno was able to show his abundant skill and remains a threat to Yamanaka. Moreno was able to get his southpaw jab untracked to great affect and Yamanaka's straight left power shot was nullified to great extent. Yamanaka also got tired throughout the fight. Moreno was the best opponent Yamanaka had ever met and it showed. Despite being a champ with a long tenure on top, Yamanaka had never really beaten a top-flight opponent, though he had beaten a handful of good fighters. Moreno, meanwhile, has beaten some good fighters and been in the ring with top guys like Abner Mares.

The feeling with Moreno was that maybe he was slowing down after the loss to Mares. That's usually the case when fighters come to the end of a super-long title reign. A technical decision loss to Juan Carlos Payano was an anticlimactic way to lose his title and the loss to Yamanaka immediately followed that, leaving him 3-3 in his last 6 coming into this bout against his still-unbeaten foe. Against Yamanaka in their first fight, he showed that shoveling dirt on his world title chances are a bit premature. With the better part of a decade at the world-class level at 118-pounds, Moreno is still very relevant indeed.

Yamanaka is undoubtedly a top campaigner and worthy of more international recognition for a distinguished reign. At the same time, it's fair to start asking some tough questions. At 33, he is getting up there for a bantamweight. Not to generalize, but Japanese fighters are typically not blessed with the ability to fight well at an advanced age. Time and again, we've seen Japanese champs hit a wall at a certain age. His first fight with Moreno showed him not dominating in his normal fashion and not as sharp as normal. Whether that can be attributed to erosion or the fact that he was fighting a really good opponent is up for debate—maybe a little bit of both.

Still, the rematch presents some problems for Moreno. What can change from last time? He fought a good fight on what you would call an "on" night for Moreno. And he still didn't get the call. The rematch is still in Japan. Yamanaka is likely to be a bit more on-point, knowing the full scope of threat that Moreno represents. Yamanaka said that the distance that Moreno fought him at had him flummoxed and he plans to make the adjustments this time. And truth be told, Moreno is not a guy you can wing it against, so having a more-cerebral strategy could do Yamanaka wonders in this fight.

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Moreno, however, didn't get to where he is by not making adjustments in his own right. This is his sixth rematch and he has acquitted himself well in return bouts. He lost early in his career when he was only 17 years old, later avenging the loss. Other than that, the only man to defeat him with any conclusiveness was Mares. We're talking about a long stay at the top with nary a hiccup. There's a good chance that Moreno doesn't really get his just due considering what he's accomplished.

Maybe Yamanaka can improve and find a spot to land his left, known in Japan as "God's Left," Perhaps he can reconfigure his approach to accommodate the more-nuanced game of Moreno. If a fighter were to improve from the first fight, you'd tend to think Yamanaka, but Moreno has proven to be a really difficult nut to crack for all but the most-elite of fighters. He's going off at a nice underdog price and I can't help but think he edged the first fight. With a different set of judges, Moreno stands out as a good value. I'm going with the underdog.

Loot's Pick to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Anselmo Moreno at +175.

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