Solis, of course, was stripped of the belt prior to his controversial fight with Daiki Kameda, and that had left the title vacant. The WBA had rightfully decided that the way to crown a new champion was to match the top two contenders and that's exactly what they did by matching Kono, #2, with Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (62-4-1, 26), who was himself ranked #1.
Of course the ranking's don't often tell you the real story of a fighters talent but these two were both bona fide world level fighters, both had been former world champions and both knew that this was their big chance to re-establish themselves on the world stage.
The fight started with both men looking to force their fight. This saw Kaovichit coming forward with a busier work rate, his intentions were clear, he was going to be trying to set a quick pace and rack up the rounds early, as he had done against Kono's compatriot and former rival Nobuo Nashiro last year. Kono however was playing the patient game looking to land his heavier right hands at rather than give away his power for speed. This combination of styles made for some very interesting rounds which could be scored either way depending on whether you preferred work rate or clean accurate punches.
In round 4 the power of Kono was finally felt as he landed a beautiful counter right that dropped Kaovichit hard. The Thai had effectively walked on to the shot, which was one that Kono had been practising through out his training camp. To his credit Kaovichit got to his feet, he was still visibly hurt though had the where with all to see out the round and make his way to the bell.
Despite the knockdown in round 4 Kaovichit did incredibly well in the proceeding rounds seemingly winning both round 5 and round 7 as Kono patiently waited for another chance to land his right hand. There was no sense of urgency in Kono's work just the belief that he was going to get a chance to connect with another big right hand at some point. Though in round 6 the Japanese fighter did land some crisp shots taking advantage of the fact Kaovichit was becoming awfully predictable at times.
Having seemingly known he was up on the cards entering the second half of the fight Kono then took round 7 off. He allowed Kaovichit to do as he wished with little really thrown back in anger. It was a big change from round 6 though it seemed to set up Kaovichit for the fall that was to hit the following round as the Thai was smashed by a stunning right hand that laid him down in round 8. This time the shot was enough to see off the Thai whose career must be all but finished.
Whilst this may be the end for Kaovichit it seems likely to re-ignite Kono's career and a fight with former 3 weight world champion Koki Kameda is looking very likely later this year. Although the Kameda's haven't got a Japanese license right now it's expected that Koki will agree to sign on with another gym for his chance to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion on the flipside though Koki will know that he won't be given the "promotional protection" that has helped in some of his more recent bouts. In fact if anything he'll have to fight on a Watanabe show, with Kono being the "home fighter".
(Photo courtesy of boxingnews.jp)