The highlight of the boxing week took place earlier today at the legendary Korakuen Hall as Japan's very own Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) reclaimed the WBA Super Flyweight title that he lost to Liborio Solis less than a year ago.
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)
Courtesy of boxrec.com
Whilst boxing in Japan this year has generally been great with the likes of Takashi Miura defending his belt in a Mexican barn burner, Koki Eto defeating Kompayak Porpramook in a fight-of-the-year contender and Tomoki Kameda completing a Kameda family sweep it's also had it's down points.
Interestingly many of the Japanese low points have come in the Super Flyweight division with Yota Sato being stopped by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Kohei Kono being beaten by Liborio Solis in world title defenses at 115lbs and Hiroyuki Hisataka being stopped by Omar Andres Narvaez
Today however things looked better for the Japanese fighters at 115lbs as the tough and rugged Nobuo Nashiro (19-6-1, 13) traveled to Thailand to battle Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (62-3-1, 26). It was thought by many, at least us here at Asianboxing, that this was going to be a return to world championship status for Nashiro as he took on the 37 year old Kaovichit, a man many thought was long past his prime.
What began as a hopeful day for Japanese boxing at 115lbs, didn't really go the way many thought it would, in fact for the first few rounds it was Kaovichit who looked the younger, fresher man.
The fight began with Nashiro applying pressure but being fended off with quick combinations by the Thai fighter who was cheered to the rafters every time he threw a punch. It was clear that no matter what Kaovichit did, including landing clear flurries on gloves, he was going to get a reaction from the partisan crowd who refused to react at all to anything Nashiro did.
Nashiro's pressure, which did little in the opening couple of rounds finally seemed to begin to have an effect in round 3 as he connected with his first eye catching shots. Although it was a better round for the Japanese visitor it wasn't a round that he managed to win with Kaovichit out-working him over the 3 minutes.
Despite losing he third round Nashiro kept on with the same game plan and began to have more success in rounds 4 and 5 as he managed to get closer to Kaovichit and land his shots with more and more regularity. Kaovichit, for his part, made both rounds close and may have won them with the help of the home crowd, though it was clear that Nashiro was starting to work his way in to the bout.
Nashiro's success blossomed in the sixth round, arguably the first that you could clearly give him as Kaovichit's age and legs seemed to be starting to catch up with him.
By the end of the sixth it was starting to look likely that Nashiro would be able to break down Kaovichit, though unfortunately for him and Japanese boxing fans he was unable to repeat the success in a very quiet and uninteresting seventh round.
The fight seemed to really come alive at the end of round 8 as both men stood their ground and traded shots inside. It was here that Kaovichit first seemed to think about his age and legs as his movement stopped. On paper the inside game was expected to suit Nashiro but the ending of the eighth seemed to just go with Kaovichit who's hand speed allowed him to again land the more eye catching shots.
From the success at the end of the eighth it appeared that Kaovichit was going to continue an inside battle with the men going straight back to action to begin round 9. It didn't take long this time around for Nashiro to take the initiative and eventually Kaovichit seemed to realise that trading on the inside with Nashiro wasn't the smartest idea. By the time he had realised that however he had lost the round, arguably just the second that he had lost.
With Kaovichit knowing he had won a majority of the early rounds and also knowing he was at home it seemed likely that Nashiro, at the very least, was going to require a knock down going in to the final 3 rounds.
In the tenth round Nashiro began to turn up the pressure and forced Kaovichit into fighting back. The round wasn't a clear one to Nashiro, especially due to the late work of Kaovichit who landed some eye catching combinations late to arguably steal the round, but it was evidence of the Japanese fighter's intent to try and force the stoppage.
If the tenth had been close then the eleventh was genuinely one sided with Nashiro force feeding Kaovichit right hand leads. The Japanese fighter, who was looking a little predictable, seemed intent to load up every right hand he threw in an attempt to take out the Thai and many of them connected cleanly with the head of a tiring Kaovichit who by now was holding on at every opportunity.
With time running out on the Japanese fighter he knew that he would have to have a big round 12. Unfortunately for Nashiro, Kaovichit's survival instincts kicked in and he was again able to hold and smother Nashiro's work in a round he lost but didn't lose it big enough to hand over the victory.
Although Nashiro lost he may well be able to take heart from the fact the fight was incredibly close with the final result being a split decision in favour of Kaovichit. Anyone who has seen a fight in Thailand will know that a split decision in favour of the Thai represents a fight that could very easily have gone to either man. Although retirement is a real possibility for Nashiro we really do hope he gives it another go, he's still got too much left to just walk away from the sport, despite another set back at the world level.
For Kaovichit the end is nigh. He may have won the battle here but the way he faded down the stretch doesn't bode well for him. He certainly wouldn't be favoured over Liborio Solis, the WBA "regular" champion or compatriots Suriyan and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai or Tepparith Kokietgym. Although admittedly a fight with Srisaket would be unlikely, a fight with either Surriyan or Tepparith would see Koavichit really struggling to retain his belt against a younger fresher fighter.
World Title Results
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