Early on Concepcion's movement and skill prevented Kono from landing much clean with the “Tough Boy" struggling with the distance and tempo as the slower Japanese fighter who fought on the retreat through the opening rounds as Concepcion backed him up at will. Despite the good start for Concepcion's we then saw Kono's fighters mentality kicked in round 4 as we started to get the fight many had been expecting and saw the two exchanging blows. It was during the exchanges that Concepcion's power began to take hold and he forced Kono to back off after taking more solid shots.
Having felt the Panamanian's power Kono changed tactic and began to look for counter shots, knowing that his Plan A wasn't a smart one. Those counters were well timed but Concepcion didn't seem too bothered by them with the visitor adapting and changing the pace of the fight, holding when he needed to and disrupting Kono's assault's when the Japanese fighter started to grow in confidence and come forward himself.
Despite Concepcion looking in control at times Kono did break through in round 9 with a solid right hand and it seemed that, for the first time, he had Concepcion in trouble. Concepcion however rode out the storm and got back to the smart work he had been doing earlier in the bout. Going into round 10 it was clear that Kono had a lot of work to do though unfortunately he was unable to turn things around, despite having success with his right hand through the 10th.
Kono again had success in round 11, as Concepcion seemed to slow further, but was unable to finish off his foe who again used his abilities to thwart Kono's charge, with a nasty headbutt causing visible damage. That charge of Kono's was further slowed in round 12 when he took a painful low blow. The pain was clear but so was Kono's desire and he continued to try to turn the bout around, but it was far too little too late.
At the final bell there was no surprise over who had won with Concepcion a well deserving winner with scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113, with the final card a bit too close in our eyes.
Sadly for Watanabe that's their second champion to lose their title this year, with Takashi Uchiyama losing the WBA Super Featherweight "Super" title to Concepcion's countryman Jezreel Corrales in a genuine upset. Watanabe may be able to secure two rematch for New Year's Eve, however it's clear both Kono and Uchiyama are coming to the end of their careers and it would be no shock to see both hang them up in the very near future. If they do it'll be a horrible time for those in charge of the Watanabe gym, who have also seen veteran Akio Shibata retire this year and it could be that the elder statesmen of the gym all vanish in the space of a year.
For Concepcion the bout opens up a lot of doors in Asia with fighters like Takuma Inoue and Sho Ishida both possibly encouraging their teams to offer the new champion a December bout in Japan for solid money and a potential rematch with Kono also plausible. After today's bout we wouldn't be surprised if Japanese fans wanted to see more of Concepcion.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)