Having fallen short against both Nabuo Nashiro and Thomas Rojas it did seem as if Kono would be "the nearly man" of Japanese boxing. A 2 time OPBF champion at Super Flyweight and a former Japanese champion he was clearly talented and although but the big one just eluded him.
Now having beaten Tepparith the 32 year old Kono will be looking to make the first defense of his title as he takes on little known Venezuelan Liborio Solis (14-3-1, 7), the former WBA interim champion at Super Flyweight.
In a career dating back to 2000 Kono has been one of the most under-rated in Japan. This is in part due to the losses on his record, including a debut loss to Toshiaki Nitta and another early carer loss to future world title challenger Daigo Nakahiro as well as losses in the aforementioned world title bouts and a loss to recently deposed WBC Super Flyweight champion Yota Sato. Of those losses it's fair to say that the one to Nashiro was unlucky as both Nashiro and Kono gave it their all in a tremendous bout that Nashiro won by split decision with all 3 of the judges scoring it 115-114.
Since losing to Nashiro in 2008 Kono's career has been a roller coaster. He went on to reclaim the OPBF Super Flyweight title (for a second time) and defend it twice before sliding to 3 successive defeats to Rojas, Sato and the highly regarded Yohei Tobe. For many fighters the loss to Tobe would have been the end but Kono got a third chance at a world title and took it against Tepparith, jumping on the Thai early and forcing a stoppage.
For Solis life in the ring hasn't been as interesting. Like Kono the 31 year old from Maracay, Venezuela has also been a professional since 2000 though took several years out of the sport after suffering a technical draw in his 4th professional bout in 2002.
Solis would return to action in 2007 and by the end of 2009 he had claimed the Venezuelan super Flyweight title thanks to a stoppage over Jose Jimenez which saw him moving to 7-1-1 (4) as a professional.
Following the victory over Jimenez, Solis started to fight in Panama and after 2 low level wins he would fight for his first international title. Sadly for Solis he would be out pointed (split decision) by Henry Maldonado in Nicaragua for the WBA Fedebol Super Flyweight title, this was despite dropping Maldonado. Solis would then suffer the 3rd and final of his career as the power punching Ricardo Nunez defeated him on points.
Since losing to Nunez we've seen Solis go on an excellent 5 fight unbeaten streak scoring wins in Panama, Mexico and Venezuela over some credible opponents such as Rafael Concepcion and Jose Salgado. This has seen Solis claim the WBA "interim" Super Flyweight title an make a solitary defense, though that defense was more than a year ago and was Solis' most recent bout.
For a fairly unknown fighter Solis is pretty solid though unspectacular. He's not technically the greatest but he has nice foot speed, a solid, though under-utilised jab a nice looking left hook which he uses well to counter. Despite how nice his hook can look at times he can also be made to miss it and miss it big which does leave him very open to a counter. Defensively he is a little open to a shot between the guard (which is rather wide) or to the mid section as well as a counter right over his hook which he appears to view as his best weapon.
The determined Japanese champion has not only mixed in better company than the challenger but he also seems to have a lot more to his game, especially going forward. Kono's attacks have more variety and are certainly sharper than Solis's. His work is often crisp and his 1-2 is a fantastic combination when he throws it as are his shots to the body which he seems to be able to switch to very easily. Defensively Kono is solid as shown by the fact he has never been stopped despite going in with several world level fighter though he's also a genuine tough guy in the ring, as many Japanese fighters are. His toughness was proven in a big way after he stood up to a monster low blow from Rojas, although the pain was evident he remained on his feet when other men would have crumpled into a heap.
The most over-looked feature of Kono however is that he's actually solid puncher and a really good finisher when he has his man hurt. His stoppage rate is less than 33% but don't let that that fool you into thinking he can't punch because as Tepparith found out, Kono can punch.
On paper neither guy is a big puncher yet both can genuine whack and if they end up battling left hooks there is no chance we're going the distance despite the fact neither man has been stopped. Although a distance contest seems the most obvious on paper this is a massive step up for Solis and it'd certainly not be a surprise to see him stopped late on.
With Kono perhaps feeling that judges are against him in world title bouts there is every chance he will look for the early ending and find it as his body shots wear down the Venezuelan challenger who has never a man quite like Kono.
In preparation for this promising title bout we've included the full Kono v Tepparith bout below to help get fans acquainted with the champion.