Whilst boxing fans in the West know all about the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry they may not realise that Asia has some similarly interesting rivalries with great history and great match ups. One such rivalry is the long-standing Japan v Thailand rivalry which had been one of the standout rivalries in world boxing.
If you've followed the rivalry you'll be well aware that Thailand is really dominant on home soil. Japanese fighters have had one worst records in world title fights when they've had to travel to Thailand and whilst the rivalry is a good one it's been hugely one sided when a Japanese fighter has travelled.
When it's been the Thai fighter travelling however the rivalry is much more interesting with a more even spread of results.
The next chapter in this great rivalry comes on March 26th when Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (62-3-1, 26) travels over to fight Japan's teak tough Kohei Kono (29-8, 12) for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title, a belt both men have previously held in one form or another.
Of the two it's Kaovichit with the longer and more established career. He began boxing way back in 1996 and quickly established himself on the Thai scene winning the PABA Flyweight title on his debut. After running up more than 20 straight wins he then fought Eric Morel in a world title fight. Morel proved to be too strong for Kaovichit but it was clear that the Thai was, one day, going to become a world champion.
Around 5 years after Kaovichit lost to Morel he returned to the world level and came incredibly close to claiming the WBA Flyweight title when he fought to a draw with Takefumi Sakata. A rematch with Sakata the following year, 2008, finally saw Kaovichit becoming a world champion aged 32.
The Thai's reign was somewhat short lived with him losing the belt 14 months later to Daiki Kameda after 2 successful defences against Japanese fighters, including Kameda before losing a rematch to him.
Amazingly since losing to Kameda back in 2010 Kaovichit has racked up 14 wins from 15 bouts, including a notable split decision victory late last year over Japan's Nobuo Nashiro for the WBA interim Super Flyweight title. That victory over Nashiro saw Kaovichit taking his record against Japanese fighters to 4-1-1, a shocking figure considering how many fights he has had in his long career.
Aged 33 Kono hasn't had a career nearly as long as Kaovichit but it has been a career full of ups and downs and numerous tough, hard fights.
The Japanese fighter began his career in 2000 and surprisingly he lost on debut and he lost again in his 10th pro bout to drop to 8-2. By that point few would have expected Kono to emerge as a force on the world stage though the hard man from Tokyo kept with the sport and made sure he improved rather than accepted that he wasn't going to ever be that good. His improvement paid off in 2007 when he claimed the Japanese Super Flyweight title with a victory over Teppei Kikui and later added the OPBF title to his collection with a victory over Eden Sonsona.
Kono's short burst of success came to an end in 2008 when he lost in his first world title fight, dropping a very close decision to Nashiro in a bout for the WBA Super Flyweight title. Although Kono lost he proved he was around the world level and just 2 years later he had earned himself a shot at the WBC Super Flyweight title. Unfortunately for Kono he came up short a second time, losing to Tomas Rojas, despite dropping Rojas in the final round.
Fortunately for Kono he managed to win a world title in his third shot, upsetting Thailand's Tepparith Kokietgym for the WBA Super Flyweight title. It had taken him 3 attempts but finally he had climbed the summit and his hard work had been rewarded. Sadly for Kono his reigned lasted just a few months before he lost a thrilling battle with Liborio Solis of Venezuela.
With Kaovichit we have a fighter who is experienced, obviously, though not one with much power. A problem at the world level where he had never stopped a world class fighter other than Sakata. He has instead relied on his speed, movement and combinations to get as far in the sport as he's gotten. It's obviously worked for him in his prime but at 37 he's slowing and his stamina doesn't allow him to carry it off for 12 rounds any more. He showed his age in the Nashiro bout where he started very well but looked completely spent in the final few rounds and against another pressure fighter he could well have come undone completely.
In Kono we have an aggressive fighter who fights very well by bringing the pressure, relying on his toughness and mentality of trying to grind fighters down. His biggest win, the stoppage over Tepparith, proved that Kono can bang but usually he forces opponents to be dragged into battles of attrition something that should really work in his favour against Kaovichit, as long as he can cut the ring off and make the early rounds hard.
Stylistically we can't see Kaovichit beating Kono, especially not in Japan with their careers where they are right now. In their primes this would have been a genuinely interesting match up though we do feel that right now Kono has a lot left in the tank than the Thai who is ancient for a fighter in the lower weights. We expect this to be similar to the Kaovichit/Nashiro fight though Kaovichit's feet and work rate drop earlier and Kono starts to turn up the heat quicker than his country man did. We're expecting that Kono's work rate will pay off with Kaovichit being stopped in the championship rounds after some thrilling exchanges.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.