Koki Kameda put the final stamp on a busy, eventful and exciting weekend of boxing by defeating rival Daisuke Naito in Saitama, Japan, taking Naito's WBC flyweight title, staying undefeated, and almost surely silencing some of his critics.
Kameda (22-0, 14 KO) won by unanimous decision. Scores were 116-112, 117-111 and 117-111. Bad Left Hook scored it 116-112 for the young challenger, who used speed, accurate punching, and boxing class to topple Naito.
For Naito (35-3-3, 22 KO), this was no big time fall from grace. In fact, Naito looked no older today than he has in his other recent fights. At 35, he's slowing down. That's natural. But he's still a world-class fighter at 112 pounds, and proved that.
This was less a show that Naito was too old than it was a passing of the torch in a lot of ways. Kameda is the real deal. His counter punching was outstanding, he stayed controlled the entire fight, and unlike the ferocious killer Kameda we've seen before, he recognized that Naito wasn't one of those slugs he'd sparked in the past. Despite any out of the ring trash talk, Kameda clearly respected Naito as a fighter.
It's a terrific win for Kameda, as it fully legitimizes him on the world stage. For my money, there really isn't a better flyweight out there. I think with his youth, speed, power, and the fact that he's going to get better, he's a step ahead of the rest of the division right now. It's nothing against fighters like Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Denkaosan Kaovichit or Omar Narvaez, it's just that those guys are in their mid-30s. Kameda's an explosive fighter who coasted through 12 rounds of a fight that wasn't easy. His conditioning was superb.
By the end of the bout, Naito was tired, his nose appeared broken, and he had clearly been in a fight. Kameda barely looked any different than when he hit the ring to the sweet, sweet sounds of Survivor's "Burning Heart."
This wraps up what was an abnormally ridiculous weekend for us at BLH. We covered six cards in three days, plus watched the main event of a seventh (Molina-Honorio on Shobox). It was fun.
Some personal highlights for me from this weekend's massive slate of shows:
- Anthony Small's ludicrously bad fight with Thomas McDonagh on Friday was highlighted, in my view, by one of the many moments that neither man was throwing a punch, much less landing one. It came when Small, doing one of his "look at me entertain!" dance numbers, tripped on the ring apron, and during his fall, mule kicked the ring bell. Falling down is embarrassing enough. Falling down and kicking the bell, which makes a noise everyone hears, is truly hilarious.
- Lennox Lewis referring to Ali Funeka's tough luck on his second trip to America. The fight was in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
- Barry McGuigan's overbearing fascination with Yassine El Maachi (11-4, 5 KO). To hear McGuigan tell it, we're looking at Prince Naseem mixed with Roy Jones Jr.
- This quote from Lucian Bute, after he knocked out Librado Andrade: "Librado Andrade is a great person. He’s a great fighter and he will stay my friend for life."
- The atmosphere at Saitama Super Arena. There are all kinds of "great atmosphere" for a big fight, but the energy from a Japanese fight or puroresu crowd is so much different than in other parts of the world.