Eventually the mandatory was deferred with an agreement for the two men to fight in 2015. By then however Kono had lost several months of his career, the memory of his win over Kaovichit was waning and any hope of a career defining year was out of the window.
Thankfully with issues sorted Kono has managed to get a fight arranged for the year. Sadly it's a disappointing one that we suspect many will turn their nose up at, and rightfully so. Rather than fighting a top guy in the division Kono will instead find himself up against the relatively unknown Norberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10). A man so obscure that many hardcore fans won't even be aware of him, despite the fact he is unbeaten in 20 contests dating back more than 3 years.
Part of the reason Jimenez is unknown, despite his current streak of 18-0-2, is that he's been fighting solely at home in the Dominican Republic, and this will be his first bout away from home. Another part of the reason is that he's beaten nobody of note, in fact the only notable fighters that he's faced are Juan Carlos Payano, who beat him in 2 rounds way back in 2010, and Luis Hinjosa, who beat him by 6 round decision in 2011.
Although unknown outside of his homeland Jimenez has become a bit of a fan favourite with crowds at home. Known as “Meneito” he is flamboyant and like many flamboyant fighters he is also speedy. Sadly for him however his speed is rarely used well and his shots are looping, his footwork leaves a lot to be desired and a lack of power allows fighters to walk through a lot of his shots. Worst of all however is his defense, or lack of defense and he can often be seen leaving himself wide open any number of shots especially when trading with his chin in the air and his arms flailing in the air.
Against a low level of fighter, such as those Jimenez has been up against, he can get away with his numerous issues, he is however taking a massive step up to fight Kono and if Kono is out to make a mark then we may well see Jimenez finished off early.
Kono is known for his toughness and although he has been down in the past he has never been stopped, and has rarely even been halted in his tracks. What has happened to him however is that fighters have fought to his weaknesses. Kono, for all his toughness, is relatively slow of foot and can be found chasing as opposed to cutting the ring off, he can be out pointed by fighters with the energy to box and move and those with reaches that keep him at bay.
In a boxing based contest Kono is beatable. In a fighter however Kono will give anyone at 115lbs a real nightmare. He's not just tough but also possess genuine power, something that isn't really reflected in the stats on his record but is shown by his notable stoppages in recent years against Kaovichit and Tepparith Kokietgym. Not only has he stopped those two men but he has also recorded knockdowns against fighters like Liborio Solis and Tomas Rojas, two world class fighters in their own right.
Although not the sharpest fighter in the division Kono is a solid all-rounder. He can be beaten with intelligent speed and movement but rarely do fighters beat him without getting into trouble at some point and without being tough fighters. We suspect that Jimenez will be trouble early on and Kono will find a home for his hurtful right hand on the chin of the challenger. If Jimenez wants to fight like he usually does then Kono will walk him down and take him out somewhere in the middle of the fight.
There is a chance Jimenez will be much better here than he has looked in the past, however we honestly don't think he is. We think he's been fighting to the level of his opponents but rather never been given a chance to develop with fights to make the most of his natural speed. Speed is Kono's weakness but Jimenez doesn't have the boxing knowledge to make the most of it against an opponent like Kono.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe)