CHICAGO- Regardless of whether or not you believe that Al Haymon and his brainchild, Premier Boxing Champions, are good for the sport of boxing, true fight fans are relishing the recent injection of little big men into prime time cards.
In September, we saw the intriguing rematch between Jamie McDonnell and Tomoki Kameda. Earlier this week, Lee Selby outworked seasoned veteran Fernando Montiel to a unanimous decision victory.
Tomorrow, pound for pound kingpin Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will take on former three-time champion Brian Viloria in an HBO Pay-Per-View co-main event at Madison Square Garden.
And tonight in Chicago, we were treated to the first title bout between two Japanese fighters contested on US soil, with former WBA Bantamweight and WBC Flyweight Champion Koki Kameda (33-1, 18 KOs) moving back down in weight to challenge Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8-1, 13 KOs) for the WBA strap at 115 pounds. The fight was expected to be an action-packed affair and it did not disappoint.
The action started early with both fighters darting to the center of the ring and testing each other with sharp jabs and hooks to the body. The early power advantage appeared to go to Kameda with Kono seemingly quicker to the punch.
In the second round, Kameda landed a strong right hand that stopped Kono on his tracks but, in a move that foreshadowed the rest of the bout, the champion responded with rapid back-to-back flurries that caused Kameda to retreat to the ropes. Later in the round, Kono followed up with a powerful straight right as his opponent lunged with a punch of his own. That blow sent Kameda to the canvas.
Aside from a left hook that seemed to stagger Kono in the third round, the challenger found limited success in the fight against an opponent for which many thought he would be too strong.
As the second half of the fight swung into gear, Kameda began finding a home for his left hooks and uppercuts but the champion absorbed the challenger’s best shots and kept pressing the action.
By the start of the championship rounds, Kameda’s left eye was very badly bruised and nearly shut but he continued to apply pressure on Kono, hoping that a big blow would change the course of the fight.
That punch never came and Kohei Kono retained the title with a unanimous decision victory (115-109, 116-108, 113-111) over Kameda. The fight, which many at ringside felt belongs in the discussion for fight of the year, was a fan-friendly, albeit dirty, brawl with 2 points deducted from Kameda for low blows, a one point deduction for Kono for a head butt and both sides receiving numerous warnings for holding and pushing.
In a scene that, thankfully, is becoming more common in televised North American boxing, the little men proved tonight that they belong on the big stage with the big boys.