Over the last 24 hours or so Spanish language sites have begun to report that former world champion Omar Andres Narvaez (46-2-2, 24) will face OPBF Bantamweight champion Takahiro Yamamoto (18-4, 15) [山本隆寛] later this year in an IBF Bantamweight title eliminator. Although no date or venue is set the bout is an intriguing one with Narvaez potentially facing his first test as a Bantamweight and Yamamoto facing his most skilled foe to date.
Ahead of the announcement of the bout, I thought it would be a great time to introduce Western fans to Yamamoto.
Born in 1990 in Takarazuka, Hyogo we’ve seen Yamamoto move to Osaka, one of the key areas for boxing in Japan, along with Tokyo. It’s been in Osaka that he has fought 18 of his 20 bouts and has developed a fan base courtesy of his style and power.
Yamamoto debuted in 2008, fighting at the Mielparque Hall in Osaka, where he scored a second-round TKO win. The card was promoted by his then promoter Amagasaki Promotions who he worked with through the early part of his career.
Within a year of his debut, Yamamoto was 5-0 (5) having stopped his first 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds. Sadly that winning run would come to an end in September 2009 when he lost a 5 round majority decision to a then unbeaten Hideo Sakamoto. One loss lead to another and 5 months later Yamamoto suffered his second loss, coming up short against Tomoaki Hashizume in a 6 rounder. Sadly Yamamoto’s career suffered another setback soon afterwards, losing to Jerope Mercado, and within 2 years he had dropped from 5-0 (5) to 6-3 (5).
In 2012 Yamamoto transferred from Amagasaki to Ioka. Under the guidance of Ioka, we saw Yamamoto begin to develop into a promising fighter. He kept the power he had shown early in his career but began to add to his defense, his skills became rounded and despite fighting limited opponents he was developing into a fighter with the potential to go places.
After a series of straightforward wins over poor imports, Yamamoto got his first title bout, facing off against Yu Kawaguchi in April 2015 for the then vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The bout was a thriller, with very little to separate the two men, though unfortunately for Yamamoto the judges sided with Kawaguchi, who claimed a split decision win. The competitive nature of the fight lead to a rematch 4 months later and fans ended up getting a Japanese FOTY contender with both men being dropped before a cut to Kawaguchi forced the referee to stop the bout and give Yamamoto the TKO win. A win that saw Yamamoto claim the OPBF title.
Since that win Yamamoto has defended the title twice, stopping Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December 2015 and Rex Wao this past July.
In the ring, Yamamoto has got that crude edge that we often see with punchers, more reliant on their blunt force shots than really knowing how to set them up. At the domestic level that’s fine but against better opponents, their will need to be more than just power and a high offensive output. His is open and often low, his jabs are regularly short and although he is aggressive he’s not particularly great at cutting off the ring.
Against a prime Narvaez, I’d say Yamamoto would have only a puncher’s chance. He would be made to look slow, clumsy and open by the extremely talented Argentinian. With Narvaez now heading towards his 41st birthday however, he isn’t the fighter he used to be and as he ages he’ll slow, giving Yamamoto a better chance. The longer the bout takes to get made the more it favours the Ioka man.
You can read more from Scott Graveson at asianboxing.info