Like Groves, Kaneko was a youngster who had shown a lot of promise, shown real improvement from his earlier bouts and was seen as a fresh, young fighter with real power of his own. Uchiyama, like Froch, was seen as the long reigning but aging champion who was tough as old boots and in possession of fight ending power. Although we didn't quite go with that view we understood the thought behind it and could see how Kaneko could give Uchiyama some problems, at least early on.
Surprisingly however it was late on that Kaneko gave Uchiyama problems with a knockdown by the challenger coming in round 10.
The fight started with the 2 men looking relatively even for vast swathes of the opening round or 2. Although they were relatively even it just seemed that the more memorable and eye catching shots were from the champion and through the first 4 rounds it was difficult to give Kaneko more than just a single round as Uchiyama looked like he simply knew too much for the challenger.
Although behind on the cards Kaneko did manage to land the best shot of round 4 rocking Uchiyama and proving that it wasn't just "KO Dynamite" who had power. The telling thing though wasn't that Kaneko was behind but that he was taking full blooded counters from Uchiyama with out ever looking hurt, in fact it was Kaneko that was looking the bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter.
The natural strength of Kaneko served him well in round 5 as Uchiyama managed to pick his game back up and land some solid shots which bloodied up Kaneko's nose. Despite the bloodied nose Kaneko still seemed to be the man coming forward as Uchiyama began to boxing on the back foot, using his movement and jab to try and avoid exchanges. The boxing of Uchiyama's continued through round 6 as he managed to claim the round despite only really winning the final 90 seconds of it as Kaneko struggled to land anything of note.
By now it looked like Uchiyama had seen out the storm and had awoken to the fact he was going to have to box to retain his title. Unfortunately for the champion he had done little but buy a temporary reprieve before Kaneko found a totally knew gear and gave Uchiyama an incredibly hard time through round 8. Although the champion looked like he might have stolen the round late it was fair to say that Kaneko probably deserved the round on his early work as he pushed Uchiyama hard.
Round 9 saw Kaneko again move up a gear as he pushed Uchiyama hard with his pressure. By now it was clear that Uchyama was going to do what he could to avoid a tear up with the younger man. The champion had built up a comfortable lead on the cards and wasn't going to risk it by going toe-to-toe with the younger, fresher man who appeared determined to make the most of his opportunity.
Having managed to really push Uchiyama in rounds 7, 8 and 9 Kaneko managed to really give Uchiyama a scare as he landed a perfect land hand that dropped Uchiyama. Kaneko tried to jump on the champion seeing his opportunity though unfortunately the there wasn't enough time left for the challenger to make the most of the opening. Surprisingly Uchiyama seemed to look more embarrassed in his corner between rounds than hurt and was the first off his stool to begin round 11. Although Uchiyama was off his stool before Kaneko it didn't stop the challenger from literally leaping off his to start the round.
With Uchiyama having been down in round 10 it was fair to assume that Kaneko would be trying to take out Uchiyama in the eleventh. As it turned out it wasn't just Kaneko trying to score an eleventh round KO but also Uchiyama as the men traded leather in a late contender for round of the year. The men unloaded bombs, they stood toe to toe and they went for it with reckless abandon. The trading actually favoured Uchiyama who left Kaneko's nose bleeding as he further inflicted pain on the impressive challenger.
The final round saw Kaneko needing a KO and he seemed to know it as he chased Uchiyama around the ring with bad intentions. Unfortunately for the challenger his inexperience worked against him as he walked on to a number of big shots and saw Uchiyama stepping away from his charges. This saw Uchiyama managing to control the round before really unleashing late and he rocked Kaneko for the first time. The round had secured his victory though it had also shown just how good, how tough and how credible Kaneko was as a challenger.
Knowing he hadn't gotten the much needed KO Kaneko didn't celebrate whilst Uchiyama, who knew he had been pushed incredibly hard, smiled almost admitting he had been given a really stiff test. If we looked at the face of the 2 men Kaneko looked like the beaten man, his face was swollen and bloodied but if we looked at the actual fight and performance then Kaneko was the big winner. He had gone from a man relatively unknown around the world to a man many are now tipping as a future world champion.
At just 25 years old Kaneko will certainly come again and if, as expected, he wins a world title in the future this fight will reflect well on both men. Like Takashi Miura, we think that Daiki Kaneko will go on to claim a world title somewhere down the line, and in fact a bout between Miura and Kaneko would certainly be fun to watch.
For those wondering the scores, all 3 judges had it 117-110 to Uchiyama, we had it much closer at 115-112.