Today however the Koki Eto (14-2-1, 10) helped to change that as he became the first ever Japanese fighter to claim a world title on Thai soil, as he defeated Thai warrior Kompayak Porpramook (50-5, 35) in a genuine Fight of the Year contender. The fight was so good in fact that it may well over-shadow the recent war between Nihito Arakawa and Omar Figueroa, a bout some had already crowned the best fight of the year despite it's somewhat one-sided nature.
Eto started off using his under-rated boxing ability and using his significant size advantage to fire off his jab and keep Porpramook eating a steady stream of shots as the Thai tried to work his way in. Late in the opening round however Eto turned up the screw and went on an all out offensive dropping Porpramook, although it was ruled a slip Porpramook was certainly down from the shots Eto was throwing rather than anything else.
That pace with which Eto had finished the opening round was brilliant and in the second Porpramook matched it as the two men traded shots with little to no regard for defense. Porpramook, who was naturally better suited to the inside war was of course having success but Eto was surprisingly efficient at the inside action himself despite his size, in fact it was Eto's uppercuts that were really the highly of the close action.
It was an amazing second round though the same pace and ridiculous action continued through the third and fourth rounds as both men took the best shots their opponent before firing back, almost taking it in terms to try and batter the other into submission. The hectic pace was simply amazing and neither man seemed willing to really take a backwards step.
Although the bout was an out and out war in the first half of the bout it was Eto who was showing more to his game than the experienced champion. Eto was able to not only hold his own in the trenches but also box and he tried to mix up the two styles when he wanted to slow the pace. This worked great for him as he got to tag Porpramook coming in, as he did relentlessly.
Through the middle rounds it was obvious that the pace was beginning to get to both men, and the body shots of Porpramook, who had really targeted the midsection of Eto, seemed to be slowing the bout. Although the bout was "slower" it was still high paced as both men tried to bomb the other out. It seemed that even the slower rounds were more action packed than the most action packed rounds of many other bouts.
The slower action seemed to favour Eto who getting the space he needed to box and use the jab a bit more. Porpramook was unwilling to just give the Japanese fighter space but the Thai was made to pay for his pressure with Eto again having success on the back foot as well as in the head to head exchanges.
Unfortunately due to Thai TV issues rounds 9 and 10 were almost completely absent from the TV broadcast. When the fight was back on Channel 7 there was little more than 2 rounds left.
Whilst Eto seemed to be in the lead from a neutral's point of view it was clear that he thought the fight was still up for grabs and in round 11 he took the bout by the scruff of the neck and dominated a clearly exhausted, but still teak tough, Porpramook. The Thai, who threw very little through the round had made no argument to try and claim it as the Japanese fighter showed unbelievable energy.
Although Eto had clearly won round 11 he again seemed unwilling to just rely on his work and instead set of for round 12 with the intention of stopping Porpramook. The Japanese fighter unloaded form the bell and staggered Eto around the ring with a serious onslaught that would have taken lesser men out. Porpramook somehow survived the attack and actually fired back himself before a second big attack from Eto managed to drop Porpramook in the corner. This time the referee did give a count, unlike in the first round, and it seemed at last that Eto had sealed it.
Amazingly the knockdown had quenched Eto's desire to take the title and instead he went on a seek and destroy mission rocking Porpramook around before the bell save the Thai.
With the fight being in Thailand there may have been some, including Eto, who expected Porpramook to retain his title. Instead the judges did the right thing and awarded the victory, and the title to Eto who had claimed a well deserved, and action packed, victory against a very game opponent.