Friday night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois, WBA World super flyweight champion Kohei Kono (31-8-1, 13 KOs), from Tokyo, Japan, successfully defended his title against former three-division champion Koki Kameda (33-2, 18 KOs), the southpaw from Osaka, in a 12-round war.
The final scores were 115-107, 116-108, and 113-111.
Fighting out of the blue corner in green trunks, 34-year-old Kono was thought to have met his match against his 28-year-old opponent, who expressed contempt for the reigning and defending champion prior to the fight.
Kameda, fighting out of red corner in red and gold trunks, with his illustrious boxing lineage and desire to become the first Japanese fighter to become champion in four weight divisions, came to win at any cost.
At the opening bell it looked as if Kameda’s goal was within reach. He was busier. He was dominant. He had a greater variety of punches of his disposal. Kono was slow out of the gate. But the bad blood between the fighters was palpable.
In round two Kameda dropped Kono. It was ruled a low blow. Kono dropped Kameda later in the round, the second time Kameda had been dropped in his career. The action was nonstop. Neither fighter took a step back.
Kameda was twice penalized for low blows in the third. Given the number of punches thrown that call could have gone either way, especially as Kono’s trunks were above his waist. But no matter. The fight was on and it was a humdinger.
Both fighters continued to wing punches in the fourth. Kono came into his own in that round and slowly but surely began taking control of the fight.
Referee Celestino Ruiz attempted to keep the fight clean. But with no Japanese to speak of and an intrusive style, he was up against it. He ordered the fighters to neutral corners and called a halt to the action in round seven so he could consult with a ringside official. It was, to say the least, rather odd. When that consultation was over, he threatened to disqualify the next fighter to commit a foul. “Next one it’s over,” he said. It was a peculiar performance, perhaps a substandard performance by the third man in the ring, the best of whom are seen, preferably in the background, and rarely heard.
The fight resumed and the fouls were somewhat reduced, but Kameda was bleeding from a cut above his right eye.
Kameda had a strong eighth round, even though the left side of his face was swelling and starting to hamper his vision.
Kono had a point deducted in round nine for pushing his opponent’s head down. A big left rocked Kono at the bell.
The champion swept the last three rounds as the challenger began to fade.
It was however a helluva fight. Both men gave their all. But the best man won.
According to CompuBox, Kono landed 362 of 1039 punches thrown (45%) to Kameda’s 317 of 769 (44%).
“I’ve been training to win this title for years,” said Kono after the fight, “and I’m so happy that I have defended the title. If we had fought using movement, he probably would have beaten me, but he decided to trade punches with me and that gave me a chance to win. Early in the fight I wasn’t sure I could take his power. But after he hit me a few times and I was still there, I started getting confidence. I am so happy that I got to face Kameda and get this victory over him. It is a big win for my career.”
It was a crushing defeat for Kameda.
“I trained very hard for this fight,” he said. “I’m very disappointed. I got caught in the second round because I made a mistake I shouldn’t have made. My stamina wasn’t what it should be in the later rounds. He fought very well and I was surprised by his power. I was going to make a decision on whether to retire or not based on my performance. I feel it might be time for me to retire.”
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.