By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Sumio Yamada

WBO 105-pound champ Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5 KOs), 105, impressively kept his belt in his initial defense as he was awarded a TKO victory after the eighth round when Mexican Moises Calleros (28-8-1, 16 KOs), 105, quit on the stool because of his absorption of punishment in the eighth on Sunday in Kobe, Japan.

Yamanaka utilized his faster left hand to be leading on points: Gerard White (US), Jose Roberto Torres (Puerto Rico) both 80-72, and Salven Lagumbay (Philippines) 78-74, all for Yamanaka. The ref was Jose H. Rivera (Puerto Rico). Calleros showed his retaliation with body shots to the fleet-footed champ in the third and fourth, but Yamanaka took the pace and accelerated his furious attack to hurt the game Mexican with a flurry of punches in the fatal session.

Before this reporter writes a detailed fight report, I wish to describe Ryuya Yamanaka’s heart-warming life story to support his family. His mother Rie, 46, divorced with six children including the oldest son Ryuya when he was only thirteen. She devoted all herself to having them grow up within a very limited economy. Since she had to take care of small sons and daughters in the daytime, Rie worked at night–serving as a dishwasher, taxi car washer, night sweeper, etc.

Ryuya gave up going to high school and began to work at the age of sixteen to support his mother and family. The shaven skulled Ryuya happened to watch his future idol and club senior, then WBC bantamweight champ Hazumi Hasegawa successfully defend his belt by a spectacular knockout, and made up his mind to enter the same boxing club, Shinsei Gym. His younger brother Daiki, 19, also followed a same footstep and became a professional boxer in the minimum division, scoring a 5-2 ledger.

For what does he fight? Ryuya says, “I strongly wish to build a house and gift it to my mother and family.” They lived in a small apartment together since his childhood, and it is Ryuya’s strong motivation to keep defending his world belt to realize his dream to have his family live in a new house with his ring earnings.

Japan, generally speaking, has become rich and a great majority of the younger generation seldom know poverty and hunger. But Ryuya Yamanaka had a real hunger for fame and fortune for the sake of his family to have them enjoy a wealthy life. Let’s go back to review the title bout where Yamanaka displayed a remarkable improvement and unexpectedly halted the highly regarded Mexican hombre.

Ryuya Yamanaka, unlike great WBC 118-pound champ Shinsuke Yamanaka, hadn’t been highly evaluated by our fight scribes because of (1) a low KO ratio (15-2, only 4 KOs), (2) a previous first-round knockout loss by Kenta Shimizu in his fifth bout of the national four-round tourney and (3) his outboxing style (people here love aggressive punchers). He lost a split verdict to free-swinging Filipino Roque Lauro in 2014, which was his last setback with eight consecutive victories since. Ryuya displayed very sharp outboxing in acquiring the vacant OPBF 105-pound belt by outspeeding and outpunching top ranked OPBF contender Merlito Sabillo en route to a lopsided decision (119-110, 118-110, 117-111) in Kobe in November 2016.

Having moved up to be the WBO top challenger, Yamanaka went to the champion’s home turf—Ashikita gun (ward) in Kumamoto Prefecture—to have a mandatory shot against compatriot Tatsuya Fukuhara last August. An obvious underdog Ryuya amazingly caused an upset and wrested the WBO minimumweight belt by a unanimous decision (116-112, 115-113 twice) over twelve hard-fought rounds. Yamanaka outlegged the game southpaw infighter Fukuhara to win the belt.

Mexican Moises Calleros was the hombre that Fukuhara struggled to beat on a split decision (116-112 twice, 113-115) in the WBO title bout for the vacant championship in February 2017. Ryuya’s manager/promoter Masato Yamashita, in this voluntary defense, selected the tough and dangerous Calleros in his first defense.

From the outset, Ryuya displayed good jabs and fast footwork to take the initiative. Faster on hand and foot, Yamanaka was in command in the first two sessions. But Calleros positively attempted to mix it up in the middle or close range in the third and fourth sessions. Ryuya, however, regained his rhythm and footwork from the fifth onward, and worked the body with solid shots that apparently weakened the game Mexican. Jabbing with precision, Ryuya completely dominated the pace and hurt the onrushing Mexican with solid and accurate uppercuts to the face.

The fatal eighth witnessed Ryuya positively turn loose with sharp left-right combos and pin him to the ropes with a flurry of punches, and Calleros barely weathered the storm of Ryuya’s aggression. But it was surprising that Calleros quit going on after the eighth, which might show his damage caused by Yamanaka’s determined onslaught.

The victor jubilantly said in the ring, “I’m happy to win and defend my belt. Mother, I always thank for your support!” The crestfallen loser with a swollen face said, “Yamanaka was fast and skillful. His uppercut really hurt me.”

His manager Yamashita smilingly said, “I trained his left hand exclusively, and he improved his power of the left hand in jabbing and left-hooking. He is still twenty-two, and will become stronger with his discipline.”

The champ will enjoy a vacation to accompany his family to Nagashima Spa Land, a family resort place. The still-improving Ryuya may become an excellent champion with good footwork and sharp jabbing.

WBO supervisor: Tsuyoshi Yasukochi (Japan).
Promoter: Shinsei Promotions.

Yamanaka-Calleros Full Report

Date:  Sunday, February 26, 2017

WBO Interim Mini Flyweight Championship Title Bout

Location:  Kamiamakusa, Kumamoto, Japan

Promoter:  Honda Fitness Promotions / Kenya Honda

Supervisor:   Leon Panoncillo, Jr.

Referee:  Danrex Tapdasan,

Judges:   Sawaeng Thawaekoon (112-116), Edward Ligas,  (112-116),  Surat Soikrachang (115-113)

Results:  The Japanese Tatsuya Fukuhara  won the Interim WBO Mini-Flyweight title with a split decision over  Moises Calleros.


fukuhara-finger2  By David Finger –

Anyone who saw Tatsuya Fukuhara’s gritty twelve round split decision victory over Moises Calleros February 26 would be forgiven if they assumed that the toughest part of being a world champion was now behind him. After all, his fight with Calleros was a fight of the year candidate and one of the grittiest brawls in recent memory. It was made all the more memorable considering it came in Fukuhara’s backyard, a city that had suffered one of the worst natural disasters in recent history when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the city of Kumamoto. Fukuhara (19-4-6, 7 KOs) won the interim WBO mini flyweight and passed what was undoubtedly his toughest test to date. But for Fukuhara, it’s not about to get any easier.

He is now mandated to fight the WBO mini flyweight champion in recess: the cagy 33-year old Katsunari Takayama (31-8, 12 KOs). 

Takayama may not be old as Bernard Hopkins, but in a division that rarely sees careers that span over ten years Takayama has done the unthinkable: he has remained the top dog for the better part of a dozen years. After turning professional in 2000 Takayama won his first world title in 2005 and although he has dropped the title several times since then, he has nonetheless been a consistent powerhouse in the division, winning a version of the world title of six times since 2005.

It’s not an easy draw for your first title defense, but as Fukuhara showed us against Moises Calleros, he is more than up for the challenge.

Fukuhara took time to speak with the Fightnews after his victory with Moises Calleros, speaking about his new status as a world champion, his fight of the year with Moises Calleros, and what he sees the future holding for him.

Fightnews: Right off the bat let me say congratulations on your victory!

Fukyhara: Thank you.

Fightnews: How do you feel now that you are a champion holding that belt?

Fukuhara: It hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

Fightnews: Have you had a chance to talk to some of your fans here in Kumamoto since the fight?

Fukuhara: Just a little time to talk to both friends and family and they said that it was a good fight.

Fightnews: This was undoubtedly a very important fight for you but also for the city of Kumamoto, which suffered a tremendous earthquake last year that left many of its citizens, including you, homeless for a period of time. How did that inspire you during the fight, hearing your fans cheering you on and knowing how much this meant to Kumamoto?

Fukuhara: It was very important. I just felt there was so much support that no matter what happened in the ring I would never give up and I would keep fighting.

Fightnews: In the West there is a view of boxing in Japan that fans seldom get loud during a championship fight. This was clearly not the case with you during your fight with Calleros. How much of an inspiration was it hearing two thousand fans loudly chanting your name in between rounds?

Fukuhara: That’s why I was able to win.

Fightnews: In the middle rounds all three judges had Calleros winning the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds. Did you feel like you were in trouble at that point?

Fukuhara: I couldn’t see (due to a cut inside his left eye) and Calleros was such a hard puncher. Because I couldn’t see I lost my sense of distance. I couldn’t calculate the distance. I felt a sense of danger that I might be losing the fight.

Fightnews: How did you turn it around from that point to come back and win the fight when it looked like the fight was going away from you?

Fukuhara: At that point Mr. Honda told me I needed to put my energy and dig deep down into my primal life energy if I wanted to win this fight. When I heard that I tapped into that energy and was able to turn it around.

Fightnews: I described Calleros as a “Mexican Tank” in my report. He seemed like he would not take a backward step for the better part of the fight until the eleventh round when it looked like you finally were able to get to him. In the twelfth I thought you did very well against Calleros and seemed to be in control in that final round. How did you feel knowing that the fight was so close in the final two rounds and that whoever won those rounds would probably win the fight? Did you think you needed to win the last round to win the fight and did you sense Calleros was in trouble in that round?

Fukuhara: I could tell that I hurt him with body shots in the eleventh round and so when I saw that it gave me more energy to attack him. So I kept the pressure on him in the last round knowing that it was the last round and that I could see that I hurt him. I kept the body attack on him.

Fightnews: Were you worried at the end of the fight when the first judge awarded the fight to Calleros?

Fukuhara: (Laughing) Yeah, I was worried.

Fightnews: In the second round Calleros hit you with a shot that looked like it hurt you. Did that shot hurt you and how did you come back from it?

Fukuhara: Yeah, it hurt me. It hurt me but it didn’t hurt me all the way to my legs because I ran a lot to prepare for this fight so I was able to hold on. I thought it really looked bad to the judges that I went down like that so I knew I had to get it back and I was able to land some blows.

Fightnews: This was one of the most exciting championship fights I’ve seen in some time. Did you expect this fight to be such a war and how do you feel knowing you had to dig deep to win this fight?

Fukuhara: I knew Calleros would come at me and wouldn’t back down so I was anticipating a hard contest.

Fightnews: What’s next for you?

Fukuhara: I’ll be fighting Katsunari Takayama to determine the unified WBO champion. If not I would like to fight one of the Japanese ranked fighters.

By Joe Koizumi

February 21, 2017
WBO#1 minimum Moises Calleros (25-6-1, 14 KOs) from Mexico arrived yesterday (Monday) in Kumamoto City, Japan, where he will dispute the interim WBO 105-pound championship with local prospect Tatsuya Fukuhara (18-4-6, 7 KOs) on this coming Sunday.

In the begining, the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) won’t accept an Interim Title bout to take place here in Japan, but the legitimate WBO champ Katsunari Takayama had his notorious scar tissues operated last year and needs more time for recovery, so the Calleros-Fukuhara interim title bout received a special permission of the JBC.

The lefty fighter from Japan, Fukuhara acquired the vacant national 105-pound belt by defeating Hiroya Yamamoto in November 2015 and kept his belt three times by beating Takumi Sakae (W10), Genki Hanai (TKO7) and being held to a technical draw with veteran Shin Ono.

Calleros, with the same age as Fukuhara at 27, recently scored five victories in a row since his KO defeat at the hand of Samuel Gutierrez in 2014. The winner is supposed to have a long-anticipated shot at the full champ Takayama upon his recuperation, the WBO has put the time of a 180 days for the Interim Champion faces the WBO Minimumweight Champion Katsunari Takayama.

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