Report by Joe Koizumi
Photo by Boxing Beat
Venezuelan Liborio Solis (15-3-1, 7 KOs), 115, unified the WBA super-flyweight belt as he, WBA interim ruler, defeated WBA regular champ Kohei Kono (28-8, 11 KOs), 115, Japan, by a majority decision over twelve hard-fought rounds on Monday in Tokyo, Japan. Kono floored Solis with a countering right in round two, but the Venezuelan dropped the Japanese back with a vicious left hook in round eight in a give-and-take total war.
The official tallies were as follows: Stefano Carozza (Italy) 114-112 and Pinit Prayadsabu (Thailand) 115-111 (too severe against Kono) both for Solis, and Sergio Caiz (US) 113-113.
The loser Kono gloomily said, “I believed I won the fight. The referee deducted a point, but it wasn’t a low blow.” The winner Solis reviewed the tough battle, saying, “Kono was much stronger than I expected. I was the victor without doubt though it’s a close fight.”
Solis, who had acquired the interim belt by defeating Jose Salgado on points in Mexico in December 2011, made a good start in the first session, as he displayed an opening attack to the still stiff champ with fast combinations. Solis maintained the pressure to the champ, but Kono caught him with a countering right hook to the face to drop him in the closing seconds of the second session. Solis quickly jumped up to resume fighting to show it’s just a flash knockdown. The Venezuelan was in command in the third and fourth sessions to show his recovery from the visit to the canvas.
Kono, a slow starter as usual, began to attack the shorter opponent from the fifth round on, as he exclusively aimed at the midsection to have Solis slowing down. The Japanese fighter dominated the fifth through seventh as he kept stalking the Venezuelan with busier combinations.
The eighth witnessed Solis turn loose with a fine display of a triple left hook, which floored Kono onto the deck for the mandatory eight count. As Kono stood up and resumed fighting, he became very aggressive by battering Solis with persistent body punches for the remainder of the round.
Kono was an aggressor in the last four sessions as Solis apparently became tired and slowing down. In round ten he effectively kept battering the breadbasket of the Venezuelan rival, but the referee Luis Pabon, from Puerto Rico, penalized a point for Kono hitting below the belt, against which Kono and his promoter Watanabe strongly protested after the contest.
Kono appeared more aggressive with his abundant stamina while Solis repeated clinches to avert the Japanese champ’s last surge. When it was over, it looked such a close affair that the crowd couldn’t realize which the winner was.
When the scores were announced and the spectators found Kono the loser, people showed a great disappointment as Kono fought well especially in championship rounds. Kono seemed he couldn’t believe the result despite his confidence in a triumph.
Hitoshi Watanabe, the promoter/manager of ex-champ Kono, angrily said, “I’ll promptly protest against the verdict to the WBA. A judge’s score of four points against Kono was ridiculous as it was really a close contest. The referee deducted a point only from Kono, while he didn’t penalize a point against Solis having repeated clinching. We believed it’s a draw at worst.”
Kono, who had won the WBA belt by an upset stoppage of Tepparith Kokietgym in the fourth last December, failed to deck his initial defense. But his workman style was supported by the crowd, who appreciated Kono’s best effort to retain his newly acquired belt. The belt he forfeited left Asia for Latin America. The rotation of the championship might be the characteristics of the boxing industry.
Promoter: Watanabe Promotions. WBA supervisor: George Martinez.