By Joe Koizumi
Unbeaten Japanese southpaw Koki Kameda (22-0, 14 KOs), 112, captured the WBC flyweight belt as he was awarded a unanimous decision over compatriot defending champ Daisuke Naito (35-3-3, 22 KOs), 112, on Sunday in Saitama, Japan. The official tallies were as follows: Hubert Minn (US) and Daniel Van de Wiele (Belgium) both 117-111, and Max DeLuca (US) 116-112, all in favor of Kameda, twelve years his junior at 23. The referee was Hector Afu (Panama), who controlled the fast-moving pair very well. It was not a good fight, as it was quite different from what people had wished to watch with high expectations. Kameda, who had boldly predicted a KO victory within the first three rounds, kept retreating and circling to show negative but effective counterpunching all the way, though Naito remained aggressive, stalking the elusive challenger.
Photos: Sumio Yamada/WBC
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Throughout the contest, Naito threw at least twice as many punches as Kameda, who refused to mix it up toe-to-toe and kept averting the champ’s assault with his peek-a-boo guard and backpedaling footwork. Kameda was never a tiger as he used to be, but a fox that pretended to be on the defensive and abruptly scored a very few counters, which proved more effective than Naito’s abundant punches that missed the mark.
It may sound strange that many spectators, including such ex-world champs as Hideyuki Ohashi, insisted on Naito’s triumph despite such a wide margin as tallied by the officials. Naito remained the aggressor all through the game, but his face was grotesquely swollen with the probably fractured nose. Naito looked more loser than winner in the end, regardless of his greater energy shown in attacking the running challenger.
In retrospect, the tide might have invisibly turned in the second, when Kameda scored with a light but well-timed southpaw left that had the champ nose-bleeding. Naito kept streaming blood from the nostrils since then, and finally his face looked like a rotten pumpkin probably due to Kameda’s continually sporadic but effective counters.
The first surprise was the scores announced after the first four rounds based on the open scoring system. Although Naito seemingly dominated three sessions, the tallies read: 38-38 twice and 39-37 for Kameda.
The second surprise happened after the eighth, when the scores were announced 77-75 twice and 78-74, all for Kameda, though it looked nearly even at that time. The officials of this night might have evaluated the technical side of the fight rather than the fighting spirit.
Naito paid his best efforts, as he kept going forward to attack the retreating challenger and kept punching and punching, despite missing plenty. Kameda, with a shorter career, put on an economic performance as he landed a few counters to the wide-open champ after he threw roundhouse combinations and lost his balance.
Aware of being behind on points after the eighth, the champ desperately became more and more aggressive, stalking the counterpuncher from pillar to post. But he failed to catch the Fancy Dan in the Tom-and-Jerry game. The tenth saw Naito sustain another cut caused by Kameda’s fewer shots. Kameda might be in command in three rounds out of the last four, but it was Naito that took command of the final three minutes.
It was good that Naito dominated the last round, because it may be his final session in his career. The 35-year-old Naito had been strongly rumored to hang up gloves for good, should he lose his belt in this game.
It ended leaving a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. It never belonged to such a good performance of compatriots with the world belt on the line as Hiroshi Kobayashi-Yoshiaki Numata (undisputed 130-pound) in 1967, Masao Ohba-Susumu Hanagata (WBA 112-pound) in 1972, Jiro Watanabe-Shoji Oguma (WBA 115-pound) in 1982, et al. It was because Kameda, unlike all other previous world challengers out of Japan, remained defensive and clever all the way. This is a boxing game, and we have to admit his successful game plan, whether we liked it or not.
The new champ Kameda said from the ring, “I want to be like Pacquaio.” But Pacman always fights more manly than Kameda.
Unbeaten WBC female atomweight champ Momo Koseki (6-0, 2 KOs), 101.75, kept her belt by winning a nearly shutout decision (99-91 twice and 100-90) over Teeraporn Pannimit (8-3, 3 KOs), a 17-year-old Thai girl, over ten.
Promoter: Miyata Promotions.
WBC supervisors: Houcine Houichi (Tunisia) for the Kameda-Naito bout, and Frank Hadley (US) for the female title bout.