The bout had been put together at relatively late notice, with Sakamoto's original opponent Kazuki Tanaka (5-0, 4) [田中 一樹] being forced out. That pull out by Tanaka opened the door for Kono who took his chance and claimed a career best win with a split decision.
From the opening round Kono looked determined, like a man who knew this was his big opportunity, and he landed a good 1-2 early whilst also quickly reading the straight right of Sakamoto blocking it well. The good start from Kono forced Sakamoto to respond and by the middle rounds the fight had really picked up with Kono landing some excellent counter right hands, and leaving Sakamoto with a cut over the left eye.
Sakamoto tried to turn it around in the later rounds and had his success but was unable to really blunt the desire of Kono who did enough to earn the decision on the judges score-cards, with scores of 78-75 and 77-75, whilst the dissenting judge had it 77-76 to Sakamoto.
The win should see Kono earn a Japanese ranking and perhaps open the door for him to now face Tanaka later in the year. For Sakamoto however the loss is his third success setback, following a draw last year to Hiroaki Teshigawara and a loss to Kentaro Masuda, and it could well be the end of him as a Japanese title contender.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)