In recent years we've not seen many questionable decisions come out of Japan at the world level. There's been one or two, but mostly the judging in world title bouts in Japan has been fairer than anywhere else on the planet. That hasn't always been the case however, and in the 1990's the country had a reputation for having some truly horrific decisions. Today we cover one of the most controversial of the era as we look at a worlkd title bout from May 1993.
Katsuya Onizuka (21-0, 17) Vs Jae Shin Lim (12-2, 7)
Coming into the bout Japan's Katsuya Onizuka was the WBA Super Flyweight champion, a hugely popular fighter and someone who appealed to not only boxing fans, for a fun in ring style, but also non-boxing fans. He was good looking, stylish, appealed to females and oozed natural charisma. He was the sort of bankable star that was going to draw solid TV figures fight after fight. His popularity had already helped him over-come an in ring controversy, his world title win in 1992 against Thanomsak Sithbaobay. In his third defense, just 13 months later, he was matched with Japanese based Korean Jae Shin Li, also known as Kotaro Hayashi whilst fighting in Japan.
Sporting a 12-2 record Lim, on paper, had nothing for Onizuka to worry about. He lacked the experience to be regarded as a true challenger and the level of competition he had been facing was limited to say the least. He had faced absolutely no one good enough to prepare him for a world title bout. Notably he had won 11 bouts in a row coming into this, but the reality is that those 11 wins came against some very poor opposition, and no one capable of really testing Lim and proving him as a world class fighter.
On paper everything was stacked in favour of Onizuka. He was the draw, the man the crowd was behind, the main with edge in experience, the champion, the one who was proven at world level and the naturally bigger man. Lim however wasn't there to roll over and just be the under-dog. He was there to become the new champion.
From the opening stages Lim looked confident and sharp, making the most of a busy jab through first round and using his footwork to prevent Onizuka from setting himself, making the champion reset time and time again. Onizuka looked the more powerful man in the opening round, but was easily out worked and out boxed by Lim through the first round. Despite the decks being stacked against him Lim put on an excellent showing through the full round.
To his credit Onizuka moved up a gear in round 2, showing more aggression and hunger, landing the occasional shot that drew a roar from the crowd. Those moments of success from Onizuka were however fleeting moments whilst Lim remained consistent, and event seemed to shake Onizuka with a straight. By the end of the round the crowd were well into the fight, cheering on the local star, who seemed to be finding his groove.
Knowing that Onizuka was working his way into the bout Lim got back to what had worked well in the opening round. He was using his jab, his footwork, making use of his clear edge in speed and mobility, and simply outboxing the champion, out landing him and showing a gulf in skill between the two men. Onizuka, when he landed, drew huge roars from the crowd, but any half decent judge would have seen that they were fleeting moments from Onizuka in a round that he was easily out boxed in. The success from Lim continued through rounds 4, 5 and 6 as he began to establish control of the action. Onizuka was looking slow, clumsy, and struggled badly with the movement of Lim who looked much more skilled than the champion, who regularly ate jabs and missed his own shots. Round 5 was a particularly big one for the Korean who backed up Onizuka and battered him on the ropes, as he hunted what would have been a hugely surprising stoppage. It was a very one sided round that could, potentially, have even been scored a 10-8 for the challenger, who looked sensational.
At the midway point it seemed clear that Onizuka had to turn this around very, very quickly. There was no way he could have been in the lead by this point, and even the fact two of the judges were Japanese, as well as the referee, couldn't change that, right?
Onizuka, likely knowing he should be behind, began to try and turn things around in round 7 as he finally let his shots go, though Lim wasn't going to just let his lead go. Lim boxed well, had his moments, and although he probably didn't do quite enough, he made the round close whilst also getting a chance to catch his breath after the busy work rate from earlier in the bout. Onizuka seemed to also look the better man through parts of the 8th round. Sadly it really was just "parts" of round 8, with Lim holding his own through out the round and having some of the most eye catching moments of the round.
After the bout had been nice boxing for the most part through 8 rounds we saw the pace drop off in round 9, with some messy holding early on. About a minute into the round Onizuka had his biggest moment, rocking Lim with a huge right, which forced the challenger to hold on. It seemed like the tide was starting to turn in favour of Onizuka, but Lime smartly held, then moved, creating time to recover, whilst Onizuka failed to inject an immediate burst of pace. Around a minute later Onizuka seemed to hurt Lim again but the Korean saw out the storm, proving himself to be a legitimately tough guy. It was a huge round for Onizuka, but even when he landed his best shots he couldn't send the Korean down.
Impressively Lim had fully recovered by the start of round 10. Onizuka managed to have a nice first minute, landing a few eye catching shots, but lacked the energy to keep up the tempo, allowing Lim's to work his way back into the round, picking his spots well offensively, and taking a notable amount of Onizuka's shots on the arms. Lim also managed to continue picking his spots well in round 11, limiting Onizuka's success to a single shot here and there, whilst landing some huge shots of his own and winning in the exchanges.
It seemed that Lim had a lead, maybe only a narrow one but a lead all the same, as we went into the final round. Surprisingly it was Lim who took the early initiative, easily winning the first minute of the round, before Onizuka began to come back into the round. Even with Onizuka coming back into things it was still Lim out landing him, despite loud chants from the crowd as we went to the bell.
At the end Lim celebrated, Onizuka on the other hand seemed to be reserved. It seemed, at least to us, that Lim had done enough. At worse he had won 7 rounds, and maybe even more. In the end however the judges disagreed, giving Onizuka the split decision victory and pleasing the 11,000 fans in attendance.
The scores at the final bell were 116-115 to Lim, 116-15 to Onizuka and a bizarre 117-113 to Onizuka, a scorecard that we really can't explain.
A rematch would have made sense,sadly though Lim would only fight twice more. He was out of the ring for more than 2 years before returning in September 1995 for a couple of low key fights, both in Korea.
As for Onizuka he would record two more defenses, both of which were very close decision, before losing the belt in September 1994 to Hyung Chul Lee, and retiring following an issue with his eyes.
In the 1980's and early 1990's we had some legendary Super Flyweights including Jiro Watanabe, Gilberto Roman, Khaosai Galaxy and Sung Kil Moon. Sadly when Galaxy retired the WBA title was left vacant and a new champion needed to be crowned. To find a new champion the WBA matched up two of the best fighters in the division in what turned out to be a hugely controversial bout on April 1992. It was controversial but a truly fantastic bout, that now, almost 30 years later, is often forgotten.
Katsuya Onizuka (18-0, 16) vs Thanomsak Sithbaobay (37-2, 21) I
To crown the new champion, the man to replace the legendary Khaosai Galaxy, the WBA matched up experienced Thai Thanomsak Sithbaobay, the then #2 ranked WBA fighter, with Japan's Katsuya Onizuka, the then #1 ranked fighter. The bout made sense, it looked great on paper and was another chapter in the long running Japan Vs Thailand rivalry.
Although not well remembered now Thanomsak was a legitimately brilliant Super Flyweight. Heading into this bout he had lost only twice, a split decision in Japan to Kenji Matsumura, in 1987, in an OPBF Flyweight title bout and a thin decision in a WBA Bantamweight title bout to Luisito Espinosa in 1990. He had been a former OPBF Flyweight champion, and had beaten the likes of Soon Jung Kang, Frank Cedeno, Torsak Pongsupa and Choo Woon Park. He was a talented all rounder, who could box, bang, fight and brawl, and a man who had earned Onizuka's respect when Onizuka had gone to Thailand and seen him training. He was regarded as the Thai successor to Khaosai Galaxy, and their next champion.
As for Onizuka he was a former Japanese champion who had ended the lengthy domestic reign of Shunichi Nakajima but was stepping up beyond domestic class for the first time. He had impressed, mightily, on the Japanese scene, whilst building a huge fan following. He was fun to watch, a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, with charisma and good looks, able to attract more than just the boxing fans to his fights. He was an anointed one, who was regarded as Japan's next big thing, and their first champion at the weight since the legendary Jiro Watanabe back in the mid-1980's. Onizuka was to Watanabe what Thanomsak was to Khaosai Galaxy, making this a proxy version of the bout we never got.
For those in South East Asia this was something to get excited about. Really excited about.
From the opening seconds it was clear that both men felt confident of their abilities and both began behind their jabs, looking for control of center ring and the ability to guide their opponents where they wanted them. The winner of the battle of the jabs was Thanomsak who's jab seemed stiffer than Onizuka's and it seemed he was also landing it cleaner, backing Onizuka on to the ropes mid way through the round. To his credit Onizuka fought well off the ropes, but he took some solid body shots from the Thai whilst there. The second round was much like the first, with both men battling for center ring, and the Thai getting the advantage, despite some good moments from Onizuka. By the mid way point of round 2 it was clear we were getting something a little bit special, with each guy responding to being hit with combinations of their own. Despite some amazing back and forth action it seemed, once again, like the Thai did more than enough to take it, especially with his stellar combinations and more consistent offensive work.
Realising that Thanomsak was stronger than her was Onizuka seemed to change tactics in round 3. He had given up trying to take center ring and was instead going to use the outside of the ring, fighting off the ropes. He did need to change things but it wasn't a tactic that had immediate success, instead it seemed to allow the Thai to walk in and unleash with him on the ropes. Although the success for Onizuka wasn't immediate he did have some great moments fighting off the ropes, and tucked up well when the Thai was unloading. By the end of the round Onizuka was bloodied from the nose and, seemingly, down on all 3 cards. He had had moments but was being out worked.
The pace and tempo continued to be red hot in round 4 as Thanomsak continued pressing the pace and forcing Onizuka on to the ropes. This time around however Onizuka began to have consistent success off the ropes, moving well, and landing clean. Thanomsak on the other hand seemed to slow, he still had moments of great success, but they were less consistent than they had been in the first 3 rounds. The Thai was certainly slowing down, though it was unclear if it was due to his work rate or a choice, as he still seemed to be controlling things and stepping up the pace in exciting bursts.
In round 5 we again saw Thanomsak slowing slightly. He continued to pick moments to strike, and when he let his hands go he looked sensational, but the tempo was dropping from him. Then again we weren't seeing Onizuka make him pay, instead we were seeing the Japanese local have his face smeared with his own blood, backing off, and moving without letting his hands go. It was hard, if not impossible, to have given Onizuka any of the first 5 rounds, putting him in a hole, bloodied and looking like a man who had to turn things around, and quickly.
Sadly for Onizuka things didn't really seem to improve much in round 6, at least not early in the round. He did however have some good success in the middle of the round, when he began to get off the ropes and work with some space. It wasn't a clear round for him, or anything like that, but it seemed, at last, that he was starting to put some moments together, landing some solid shots and getting Thanomsak's respect. That continued in round 7, as the Thai continued to slow, feeling the pace of his brilliant start, and Onizuka began to back him up. The tables were beginning to turn and Onizuka was on the charge at last, though he was still in a deep, deep hole.
After a very good round for Onizuka he seemed to fail to build his success, and round 8 was a much closer one. Thanomsak didn't seem to suddenly have a second wind, but it seemed like Onizuka just failed to keep his foot on the gas. The local may have done enough to take the round, but it certainly wasn't a clear cut one, and it was far too close for comfort, given how clearly he had lost the first half of the bout. Round 9 was another where it seemed like Onizuka should have put his foot hard on the gas, but he couldn't and Thanomsak managed to have enough moments to keep things very close through the round. The aggression, pressure and combinations were gone from the Thai's work, but he was boxing smartly, jabbing, moving, making Onizuka miss and relying on the basics of the sport. It was a round that the Thai seemed to win, but simply keeping things simple, and re-opening a cut on Onizuka's left eye.
By now it seemed like Onizuka had 3 rounds to at least drop the Thai. Sadly for him he was looking too tired to press forward, and despite some fantastic flashes he was consistently out boxed through the round by an exhausted looking Thanomsak, who again kept things very simply, using his jab and his footwork to keep Onizuka at range.
After a few quieter rounds we saw Onizuka rush off his stool to begin round 11. The penny seemed to drop, at last, that he had to turn it on, put his foot on the gas and go for it. This lead to a truly brilliant round as both men sucked it up, dug deep and let their shots go. This was much more like the action from the early rounds, though it was Onizuka who was beginning to hammer away at his foe. Thanomsak came back but overall it was a round for the local, a clear round for him, and one he seriously needed.
With Onizuka having had a very good round 11 it seemed like he was going to end the bout hot, coming out hot for round 12. That however didn't really happen, and it was Thanomsak out worked his man in the final round, letting his shots go, catching Onizuka clean with head shots, unleashing flashy combinations. Onizuka certainly had moments, but nowhere near the amount we had expected from him, or the amount he needed. Going in to the round it seemed he was quite some distance behind, winning the round wouldn't have changed things, he needed to go out and try to stop the Thai.
After the bell Thanomsak celebrated, raising his hands. It seemed he was going to reclaim the title for Thailand, and take back the belt Khaosai Galaxy had vacated, Onizuka on the other hand walked back to his corner looking dejected. Like a beaten man. He seemed resigned to knowing his unbeaten record was gone, his title shot had ended with disappointment and that he had a lot of work to do to become a champion.
Then the result came in, and to everyone's surprise Onizuka was announced as the winner. Whilst his team, and the crowd celebrated he looked unhappy, as if he knew he hadn't won. The Thai looked genuinely disgusted at the result.
Whilst many of the fans had cheered the result, and Onizuka, there was a solid number who were angry about the outcome, describing it as a "Kyoei decision", blaming Onizuka's promoter. With scores of 115-114, twice, and 116-114 all in his favour the Japanese fighter had gotten the win courtesy of a 10-10 round on two cards, and two of them on the third.
Some of those in the venue told Thanomsak what they had thought, telling him that he should have been the champion. That he should have got the decision.
Around 19 months later the two men rematched, and once against Onizuka got a close decision. He would go unbeaten until September 1994, when he was finally dethroned by Hyung Chul Lee, and then retired due to an eye issue. As for Thanomsak he became a member of the "who needs him club?" after the second bout with Onizuka. He fought through to 1996, losing to Sirimongkol Singwancha, before a 1 fight return to the ring in 1998, which he lost. In the end Thanomsak would retire having never won a world title, and is regarded as one of the best Thai's to have never claimed a belt at the very highest level of the sport.
When the referee loses control of a bout it's fair to say that some genuinely weird things can happen. Rarely however, does a referee lose control in the opening few minutes. Today we look at a bout that probably should have seen a referee step in much, much earlier, read both men the riot act and tell them both that any money business and he'd throw them out. Instead we a got a KO from a foul, followed by a mini riot and eventually the bout being ruled a No Contest. This was wild, wacky and really didn't belong in a boxing ring in 2009.
Kenichi Yamaguchi (15-1-2, 4) Vs Billy Dib (22-1, 11)
Billy "The Kid" Dib was one of the big Australian names of the 00's and 10's. He was a talented Featherweight come Super Featherweight but one of those fighters who was rather lucky that he came through in the 4-title era. Up to this point in his career he had gone 22-1 with his only loss coming in a WBO world title fight against Steve Luevano, in what was a fairly competitive contest. Just 9 months after that bout he took on Japan's Kenichi Yamaguchi.
Before we speak about Yamaguchi we probably look over what became of Dib's career after this 2009 bout. In 2011 he became the IBF Featherweight champion, beating Jorge Lacierva for the vacant title, he would make 3 defenses before losing the belt in 2013 to Evgeny Gradovich. After that he remained in, and around, the title mix until around 2018. In that time he lost in world title fights to Gradovich in a rematch, Takashi Miura and Tevin Farmer.
As for Yamaguchi he really isn't a notable fighter at all. He had began his career with a draw and was 4-1-1 before going on a 12 fight unbeaten run leading into his bout with Dib. Whilst he was going through a good run on paper he had been pretty lucky to have picked up victories in his previous two bouts and really wasn't a stand out fighter at all. If we're being honest his best win came in 2011, when he travelled to the Philippines and picked up a win over Mark John Yap.
Although his record might have looked good on paper Yamaguchi was chosen to lose to Dib, who was looking to secure a second win following the loss to Luevano. He was to lose, and make Dib look good. Instead what we got was chaos, and some terrible refereeing from referee Les Fear, who really didn't help things, at all.
From the opening bell Yamaguchi raced at Dib and within 20 seconds we had seen Dib put Yamaguchi in a headlock. Yamaguchi managed to land a wild looping left hook soon afterwards before Dib slipped to the canvas. Dib was the dropped, with the knock down being counted, despite the punch that sent Dib down coming behind the head. Dib never complained and the fight resumed after the mandatory 8 count.
Although Yamaguchi's work was wild and untidy, it was strangely effective and and was giving Dib fits. Dib, smartly, held on when Yamaguchi was close but that didn't help tidy up the action. In fact it lead to some even messier action, with Yamaguchi lifting up Dib at one point. By that Dib had had enough and finally let his hands go, dropping Yamaguchi.
Then he paused for a second.
Then he swung again, hitting the down and defenseless visitor. It was a clear, flagrant foul. He really left the referee with no option. It had to be seen as a deliberate foul right? Well...no...not to Les Fear who guided Dib to a neutral corner and counted the knockdown. Yamaguchi was stumbling all over the place from the foul, and the referee waved the bout off, giving Dib the win.
Then we got some ugly scenes with Yamaguchi pushing the referee, who had clearly screwed him out of a DQ win, then Dib pushed Yamaguchi and the ring just became a sea of chaos. The chaos and anger from the two teams kept growing, despite Yamaguchi being shuffled out of the ring.
Dib was then announced the winner, and the new WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion.
Yamaguchi's team then appealed to the WBO who turned the bout into a No Contest the following month. Thankfully some common sense did prevail over the bout, but that didn't excuse the chaos and controversy that we saw in the ring on July 9th 2009.
In recent "Controversial Clashes" we've looked at questionable judging and going a big further back referees allowing fighters to bend the rules with fouling and spoiling to the point where very limited boxing took place. Today we look at something else, something where the controversy wasn't immediately obvious, and where it probably deserved a review, and a rematch, with no one being truly at blame, but the finish perhaps wasn't the most fair. Thankfully this bout wasn't too overshadowed by the controversy, and it was a genuinely good bout. As always we'll look at the fighters, the fight and the controversy.
Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) Vs Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15)
We roll back to April 22nd 2015 for this bout, which took place at the Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka. A venue that had previously been known as the "Bodymaker Colosseum" and is now known as the EDION Arena Osaka.
In one corner was Japanese veteran, and cult boxing fan favourite, Katsunari Takayama. At the time Takayama was enjoying a reign as the IBF Minimumweight champion and was making his first defense since recapturing the title in December 2014, when he beat Go Odaira for the IBF and WBO titles. At the age of 31 Takayama wasn't an old fighrre in terms of years, but was an old fighter in terms of damage. He had been in a lot of tough bouts and had taken a lot of punishment during a hard 36 fight career. Win or lose he was always in amazing fights, but his body, and particularly his skin, were showing signs of his long career.
In the other corner was second generation fighter Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who was 21 years old and boasted a 29-3-1 (17) record and was looking to claim a title that his father had held in the 1990's. A win for Fahlan would have seen him and his father become the first father-son champions in Thai boxing history, and he had full belief and confidence that he could pick up the win. Added to that confidence was the fact that last time he fought in Osaka, at the end of 2013, he scored a career best win and upset Ryo Miyazaki in one of the big upsets of 2013. In fact not only was that in Osaka, but it was actually at the same venue that he was fighting Takayama in. Despite having a lot of fights to his name he was young, hungry and hadn't taken much punishment in his 33 fights.
Like many Takayama bouts the fight started with Japanese fighter looking to find his rhythm before coming forward, using a lot of energy with his bouncing footwork. There wasn't too much to get excited about in the opening minute, but then the bout began to get going with a handful of eye catching exchanges. From there the bout began to build and as the final round closed out you could feel the fight catching fire, very quickly. The round had gone from first gear to third gear in the final minute or so. Not only was the bout catching fire, but both men looked up for it.
In round 2 the pressure from Takayama started to show it's self, pushing Fahlan backwards, and occasionally getting him on to the ropes, where he began to unload. The bout continued to go through the gears and the bout began to settle into this round with Takayama pressuring, getting Fahlan on to the ropes and the two men letting their shots go.
The dynamic between the two fighters and their styles, with Takayama pressing and Fahlan boxing off the ropes, slipping and sliding, made it feel like a smaller version of the legendary bout between Somsak Sithchatchawal and Mahyar Monshipour. Not quite the same intensity, but a very similar fight from a stylistic point of view. Whilst some will appreciate the skills that Fahlan showed with his back on the ropes, and they were very smart moves and counters, it was also easy to be impressed by Takayama's aggression, output and intensity.
Despite being on the front foot so much Takayama was taking some clean counters and his face was starting to swell around the eyes quite early on. It wasn't threatening to stop the fight, but it was clear that he was taking shots himself, and that his eyes were marking up. Then the swelling became a cut, with Takayama having blood pouring out of of his left eye. Despite the cut, and the real risk of making it worse, Takayama continued to press on, trying to break down and stop the Thai challenger. By the time he went to his corner at the end of the round the damage was clear. This was a nasty on the eye lid, a cut that Takayama's mentor Hiroaki Nakade couldn't stop. By the time the fighters came out for round 9 it was clear the bout wasn't going to last long. Just over 20 seconds into round 9 Takayama was taken over to the doctor for the first time, his face a swollen mess, with cuts on both eyes. The fight was allowed to continue but time was ticking and a second inspection, with less than a minute of the round remaining, saw the doctor halting the contest.
The question however was what caused the cut?
There was no clear indication from the referee, when the bout was stopped Takayama looked close to tears. It seemed that he felt his title was gone. He had been fighting like a man who needed a stoppage, surely he assumed the cut was from a punch. He fought that way at least and his post fight emotion seemed to show as much. Fahlan also seemed to think he had scored a huge stoppage win. The crowd also booed the decision to stop the bout.
After the bout was stopped we then, to the surprise of everyone, went to the scorecards. The news of that drew a loud roar from the crowd, who realised their man should retain his title. Unsurprisingly, given the action we saw, the cards ended up favouring Takayama, who got the nod with a technical decision to retain the title.
The decision was met with annoyance form the Thai's team, who could be seen shaking their heads as Takayama's arm was raise and when they realised what had happened.
What made the whole situation worse was that, there had been no clear indication that the cut was caused by anything but a punch. The replays, which were shown by the Thai's team in the days that followed the fight, seemed to make it very clear that the damage was from punches, and given the way Takayama had fought it seemed obvious that he too thought it was from a punch.
Sadly we never got the rematch. Fahlan would later move up in weight, losing to some of the top Light Flyweights of the time, whilst Takayama would defend the title against Ryuji Hara before losing the belt, in another decision, to Jose Argumedo. Incidentally Takayama seemed to deserve the technical decision win over Argumedo a lot more than he deserved this win.
Over the last few months we've been focusing on the lower weights in this series, with Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight all being featured. Today however we go up the scales to Light Welterweight for a bout that has a scorecard that doesn't appear to make sense, and a bout that really shouldn't have gone the way it did. In fact we struggle to understand how the bout went to the guy it did. This is one of the many bouts where the result didn't match what we saw with our eyes.
Tsuyoshi Hamada (20-1-0-1, 19) Vs Ronnie Shields (25-4, 19)
It was December 1986, in one corner was WBC Light Welterweight champion Tsuyoshi Hamada, a hugely popular figure in Japan who had brutal power in in his punches and a real fan base. Although a devastating puncher he was technically quite crude, relying more on his ability to bang rather than box. He combined that power with high work rated, an under-rated defense and an ability to take a shot when he needed to. His only loss up to this point was an early career defeat more than 7 years earlier, in his third professional bout, and since then he had gone 18-0-0-1 (17) with only Jong Jong Pacquing managing to hear the final bell against him.
Hamada had won the belt around 4 months earlier, when he stopped Rene Arredondo and was now looking for his first defense. That first defense saw him face off with American challenger Ronnie Shields.
At the time Shields was a genuine contender level fighter, he wasn't unbeatable, but was a high capable fighter who had previously come up short in a world title bout, against Billy Costello, but had scored a number of solid wins, including decisions over Saoul Mamby and Joe Manley. Shields, who is now one of the top coaches in the US, was a talented boxer puncher. Maybe a little bit under genuine world class, but certainly knocking on the door. Sadly for him he had lost his previous bout, a decision to Frankie Warren, though did still get this call to travel to Tokyo to take on Hamada. He technically a very good boxer, with respectable power, good speed and although he excelled in no particular area he was good, to very good, in every area.
From the opening round it was clear Shields was in Japan to win and was using the tools he had learned in well over 200 amateur fights to try and take that victory. He boxed well, kept Hamada at range for the most part, tagged the local star with clean single shots to the head and made Hamada miss, a lot. The different in boxing IQ was clear with Shields looking like he took the opening round without too much doubt. Hamada came out for round 2 with more urgency, starting the round well, but the boxing skills and brain of Shields neutralised the threat quickly, creating space and making Hamada work hard to cut the range. Thankfully for Hamada he did still manage to have his moments, and did land a number of solid body shots.
Hamada had one of his biggest moments in round 3, but that wasn't enough to discourage Shields who came back at him. Despite Shield's valiant fight late in the round it seemed very much like a potential turning point in favour of Hamada with the local star starting to build some momentum. That momentum was short lived however and the following round he was deducted a point for low blows, the first of the bouts 2 deductions.
In the middle rounds Hamada would have moments, but he struggled to build anything consistent, and seemed to caught clean when he was coming in. Their was always a sense that his firepower would cause issues, but Shields took it well, neutralised on the back foot and seemed to out box Hamada, taking his power away well whilst landing his own solid shots.
The second deduction in the bout came in round 9, when Shields was himself deducted a point for pulling behind the head of the champion. It seemed a rather harsh deduction, with the referee possibly trying to help out the local, or maybe trying to apologise for the earlier deduction, which also seemed just a touch harsh. The deduction from Shields seemed to reinvigorate Hamada who got an extra burst of energy as he looked to secure a 10-8 rounds. That same energy was seen in the 10th round from Hamada, but it seemed like he struggled to maintain it in the championship rounds.
From the first round to the final bell Shields had used smart footwork, held when he needed to, spoiled up close and tried to keep the bout at range. Hamada on the other hand had been the aggressor, for the most part, but had had very mixed success. After 12 rounds we went to the score-cards. We were in Japan, so it wasn't going to be a surprise if the hard hitting local got the decision, and there was plenty of close rounds, but it seemed that Shields had done enough. Even on foreign soil.
After 12 rounds the scorecards came in, giving Hamada the split 116-111 and 111-108 in his favour whilst the third judge favoured Shields with a score of 115-113. The judges, or at least two of them had favoured the aggression and the pressure from Hamada over the smart, but sometimes ugly and frustrating, tactics of Shields.
Whilst we felt Shields should have got the win, it was a close fight, what we can't understand is the scorecard of James Jen Kin. It seems completely impossible to have turned in a score of 111-108 for the bout, in favour of Hamada. Even with the two deductions the closest to his card we can get is a 114-112 or 113-113. Now, around 25 years later, that scorecard stands out as a truly wrong score. Whether it was tallied wrong, the scorecard was filled in wrong, or something else was wrong. It seems almost as if it's missing something incredibly obvious.
This score isn't just on boxrec, where it could have been a type, but it reported widely in the Japanese press as well. The only way to get to that figure would have been for a host of 10-8 rounds, but it was hard to see any 10-8 rounds other than the two with deductions.
This isn't the most controversial decision of all time. It's one of those where the guy we felt deserved the win didn't get it. But that card of James Jen Kin. We really do not understand it at all.
Neither man really had much of a career after this bout. Hamada lost the title to Rene Arredondo in July 1987, before retiring and later becoming a key figure at Teiken and a TV commentator, among other things. Shields would fight 3 times, going 1-1-1, before retiring in 1988 and later becoming a genuinely brilliant trainer. His eye for talent is great and he has played a part in the creation of numerous world champions since hanging up the gloves himself.
Last we looked at a very controversial bout featuring Koki Kameda, what few realise is that that wasn't actually the only time Koki himself was in a bout that saw the scorecards and judging being questioned. Whilst the win over Juan Jose Landaeta was a massive controversy, that saw an loud outcry from the Japanese fans, the media and former fighters he had several other questionable decisions go his way as well. Today we look at one of the most overlooked of his controversial wins, and one that did see a number of Japanese fans question the outcome.
Koki Kameda (27-1, 17) vs Nouldy Manakane (24-10-1, 15)
Years after winning the WBA Light Flyweight title in controversial fashion, in the aforementioned bout with Landaeta, Koki Kameda moved up through the weight. He took the WBC Flyweight title, with arguably his career best win against Daisuke Naito, and later moved up and claimed the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. His reign there was truly unspectacular, full of under whelming performances and narrow wins. One of those, his 4th defense, saw him taking on Noldi Manakane from Indonesia.
With 35 bouts to his name Manakane was known regionally as a decent regional fighter but nothing particularly great. He had rebuilt well following a 1-4 start to his professional career and won the PABA, but wasn't really seen as being a world class fighter. If anything he was ranked more because of the PABA title than any specific win he'd score. His competition had been frightfully poor, inexperienced and limited and whilst we accept not all Indonesian and Thai's have complete records none of them seemed like the sort of preparation opponents needed for someone to move into world title level.
Despite the poor competition of Manakane, and his record, he was selected to be Kameda's challenger for an April 2012 bout. On paper a mismatch, even with Kameda looking a rather poor fighter at Bantamweight. He was given the green light by TBS, the television company behind Kameda, and the fight was on. The expectation was that Kameda would finally look good as a Bantamweight. Those expectations were very much wrong.
The opening round saw little in the way of action. Both men were patient, almost to a fault, there was little more than jabs from either man, in what made for a remarkably dull first round, with the main highlight being a looping right hand from Manakane almost 2 minutes into the round. Following that shot Kameda seemed to become even more negative. Whilst it could be put down to the typical "feeling out round" it was still dreary for a bout assumed to be a massive mismatch.
The pace began to pick up in round 2, but for the most part it was Manakane bringing the pressure, coming forward and throwing. To his credit the better work was from Kameda, it was clear Kameda was the more skilled boxer, the smarter man in the ring, and the one with that extra class. That however didn't make up for his laziness, and the short bursts of aggression from Manakane were certainly eye catching, if somewhat ineffective.
Round by round Manakane's confidence grew and he began to make a fight of things. He realised Kameda didn't have the power to hurt him and seemed happy to take extra risks, pushing the aggression more, and out landing Kameda in the exchanges. The fans who had expected the blow out win for Kameda were instead seeing the local man moving away and fighting like a man in sparring partner mode. This was obviously notable in some of the middle rounds, with round 5 being a very clear example of Kameda not being at the races.
Even when Kameda stood his ground and looked to fight with an increased output he didn't shine or show much consistency. He could only put his foot on the gas for bursts, something he did well in round 6 before going back off the boil soon afterwards.
That's not to say that Kameda looked bad when the tempo dropped. He still looked like a real talent, he showed some really nice touches, both defensively and offensively, but their wasn't much of them. For example landed a cracking left hand in round 11 and he had a fantastic round 12. Sadly though he made things hard for himself than they needed to be, he fought like a man scared of someone who was, essentially, a regional journeyman and struggled to get the juices going.
After the final bell Manakane celebrated. He like though that despite losing the final round he had built up a decent lead. That however didn't show on the official scorecards with scores of 117-110, 118-110 and 115-113. Scores that simply didn't make sense. The scores were met by mostly mild applause with a spattering of boos.
After the bout various international news sources reported that "Kameda dominated throughout the 12-round bout at Yokohama Arena in his fourth defence of the title he won in December 2010", but that was simply not true. Those in Japan felt the bout was close, some putting it down as a bit of a robbery in favour of Kameda, who had been getting a lucky run with the judges at this point in time. Plenty felt Kameda had deserved the win, though many felt it was by a point or two and that the scorecards were terrible, to say the least.
There was a rumour in some Japanese circles that the bout had been deleted from the internet at the time to stop people watching it and complaining about match fixing, genuinely that's an explanation we found on one Japanese site,
There is, of course, an argument of quality against quantity and the better shots did, for the most part, come from Kameda. There is no argument there. Some of the punches he landed were genuinely fantastic. The issue is that there wasn't enough of them. They were few and far between, and he was out worked by so much in some rounds that his quality shot or two was easy to forget. Round after round Kameda looked happy to try and old man the old man he was facing and it meant what was supposed to be a mismatch turned into a real struggle. The wrong tactics were applied round after round from Kameda, who looked incredibly lazy through out. The finish was good from Kameda, but it was impossible to give him a 117-110 or 118-110 card from the action in the ring. Those wide cards made it seem like Manakane, a very limited fighter, was being stitched up.
Interestingly Manakane has since fought in a number of Japanese bouts. In 2012 he lost to Eita Kikuchi and a debuting Kenji Kubo, was stopped in 2013 by Koki's younger brother Daiki Kameda, and lost to Juki Tatsuyoshi and Ryo Suwa in 2018. In none of those returns to the country did he look the same as he did here. As for Kameda he managed 4 more defenses, but 3 of those were hotly contested split decisions and he eventually gave up the title rather than face Anselmo Moreno. He dropped down to Super Flyweight and then lost to Kohei Kono in what was his final professional bout.
Despite the controversies Kameda has remained a notable figure in Japanese sports culture. He had a special event on an online streaming service, where he fought 5 people in the same event, and also fought Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in an exhibition style bout. He has however left the ring with many criticising his career, his opponents and bouts like this.
Whilst we don't see this as a robbery our selves, we do see the scorecards being rather awful. Interestingly Michael Lee, who had the bout 118-110, ended up doing Kameda's next two bouts, favouring him in both which ended in split decision wins for him. As for Ferlin Marsh, who put in the 117-110, he never got a call back to do a Kameda fight, but does appear to have been very consistent since his score here.
We've looked at some controversial bouts from Thailand in recent weeks, but this week we look over to Japan for a bout that was massively controversial, and we again feature the Kameda brothers. And not for the final time. This bout was actually the first world title fight to feature one of the Kameda brothers and although less well known in the west than Daki Kameda's bout to Daisuke Naito was similarly controversial in Japan.
Koki Kameda (11-0, 10) Vs Juan Jose Landaeta (23-3-1, 18) I
In 2006 Roberto Vasquez vacated the WBA Light Flyweight title to begin campaigning at Flyweight. This left the title vacant with 19 year old Koki Kameda facing off with Juan Jose Landaeta for belt.
Despite having been a professional for less than 3 years Kameda was already seen as a big name in Japanese boxing. He was a charismatic, cocky and arrogant figure who appealed to the youth, wanting someone with attitude to rise to the top, whilst the older skool fans disliked him and regularly felt that he was picking and choosing an easy route to the top. In his first 11 bouts he had only faced one notable name, and that was the shot to pieces Saman Sorjaturong, who had won just 1 of his last 5 bouts. With TBS backing him hard it was clear Kameda was being sent to the stars, but would obviously have a lot of extra attention on him as he went into his first world title bout.
Landaeta on the other hand was a tough Venezuelan with solid pop in his shots. Up to this point he had mostly fought at Minimumweight, and had held the WBA "interim" Minimumweight title. Despite being a solid fighter he had failed to win outside of Latin America, with a draw in 2004 against Chana Porpaoin and a loss, later than same year, to Yutaka Niida. Although he was very competitive with Niida he had followed that up with 4 relatively disappointing bouts against mostly limited opponents.
It was expected that the youth, size, power and speed of Kameda would be too much for the more experienced Landaeta.
Early on the bout was hotly contested with Kameda showing he was better than some may have expected, given his competition, and Landaeta showing he wasn't there to just make up the numbers. The first round was genuinely fought at a very solid and entertaining tempo as both men looked to get their nose in front. That was until very late in the round when Landaeta put down Kameda in the dying seconds of the round. The Japanese youngster got to his feet, and the bell rang before Landaeta could jump on him, but it was a clear 10-8 round to Landaeta.
Kameda fought back well in round 2, but it was another close round, and not one where he could make a definitive case for deserving the round.
The other early rounds were legitimately entertaining giving us a brilliant back and forth. Some how one judge managed to pretty much give Kameda a clean sweep from round 2 to round 6, though that seemed very generous given that Landaeta was giving just as much as he was taking. The biggest question mark for that judge was round 4, which seemed like a pretty clear round for the visitor, and was scored to Landaeta by both of the other judges.
Prior to the bout Kameda had never been beyond had only been beyond 8 rounds once, an early career win against a tough but limited Thai. His lack of experience in the later stages showed, with Landaeta relying on his experience with the middle and later rounds round to out box a tiring, but gutsy, Kameda. Rounds 11 and 12 saw Kameda in all sorts of trouble, as Landaeta looked to take the result out of the judges hands. To his credit Kameda survived some hell in the final round, showing his toughness and bravery along the way.
After 12 rounds the scorecards came in with scores of 115-113, and 114-113 for Kameda and 112-115 for Landaeta, giving Kameda a very dubious, and much criticised split decision victory.
The out rage from those in Japan was almost instant, and not helped by pre-fight comments from Kameda. Prior to the bout Kameda had said he had wanted to give the belt to his father and coach, Shiro. This had lead the WBA to prepare a special belt for Shiro that they gave him after the bout. Given the controversial nature of the bout, and the pre-made belt it lead to calls of match fixing and rigged scorecards in Japan.
The decision saw fans in Japan incredibly angry about the result. Despite the fact their man had won. They wrote to the Venezuelan embassy to apologise to Landaeta, they complained to the Japan Boxing Commission and to TBS, who aired the bout. The fans also spewed their anger so much that the promoter of the event had to close their message board.
As well as the pressure and anger from the fans was also anger from the media, who suggested that the judge who gave Kameda round 12 was clearly wrong, and had been scored that way to try and get Kameda the win. Regarding that judge, had he scored the round the opposite way, as the other two judges did, his card would have been level at 114-114.
Their was also some backlash from fighters, both former and active, about the decision. Whilst most praised Kameda's performance, especially given the big step up in class and his age, many also spoke out about the decision with one going as far as to say "Japanese boxing died" with the result. Others however seemed to suggest they could see the result.
Due to the controversy the WBA left Landaeta as the #1 contender and ordered a rematch. That bout was originally pencilled in for fall 2006 but had to be pushed back when Kameda was injured in training. Eventually the bout took place in December 2006 with Kameda easily winning the rematch employing very different tactics to take the win, and try to put the controversy behind him.
Sadly the controversy and anger overshadowed what was genuinely a really good fight. A legitimately good fight. It was no fight of the year contender, but was an exciting, 12 round war, with Kameda showing real heart, drama, competitive action through out. It was a coming of age bout for Kameda, who proved he belonged at this level, but was so overshadowed by the judging and fall out that few remembered what a great fight they'd seen.
A couple of weeks ago we spoke about a controversial clash from Thailand that saw a man defending the IBF Flyweight title with some help from a referee who seemed like he knew where he was, and who he was there to help. That referee was Pat Russell, who completely botched his job as the third man in the ring. Thankfully for Russell his performance was forgotten just 9 months later when another referee went to Thailand and butchered the officiating even worse. That was Larry Doggett who did his best impression of a heel referee in wrestling.
Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5) vs Johnriel Casimero (21-2, 13) I
As with our article 2 weeks ago this is another Amnat Ruenroeng fight, and was actually his 4th defense of the IBF title. He had won the belt in early 2014 and had, by hook or by crook, defended it against Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo and Zou Shiming. He hadn't always looked great but was racking up wins and putting in a solid claim as one of the most under-rated fighters in the sport. In June 2015 he looked to continue hie reign as he took on former Light Flyweight champion Johnriel Casimero.
In 2015 Johnriel Casimero wasn't the world class Bantamweight that he is today. He was a former world champion at Light Flyweight but was better known for the crazy scenes following his battle with Luis Alberto Lazarte in 2012. Although not well known internationally he was deemed a real road warrior and hardcore fans had been rating him fairly respectably given the win over Lazarte and wins over Cesar Canchila, Pedro Guevara and Luis Alberto Rios, all on the road.
On paper this looked like an intriguing match up, but one that could have been a frustrating watch, especially given how Amnat had over-come Arroyo, with clinching being a major part of his arsenal. What we hadn't expected was a total foul fest with clinching being the least of Casimero's issues.
The very early seconds saw Amnat pretty much bull rush Casimero to the ropes and throw him down to the canvas. Within just 10 seconds Amnat was trying to play the dirty bully. Later that same minute Amnat hooked in a headlock as he continued to fight as much as box. With around a minite of the round left the referee did give Amnat a pretty clear telling off for pushing and seemed to be saying "no more or I'll take a point". Despite that Amnat got away with a lengthy hold and a shot after the bell to end the round.
If the gameplan of the champion was to get into the head of Casimero it seemed to work and in round 2 he dropped Casimero, who was rushing in. It made a bad start worse for the challenger.
In round 3 the hugging and holding and wrestling took over again, and was made worse by some farcical behaviour. This included the referee missing a potential knockdown scored by Casimero, letting Amnat away with more headlocks and body holds, a judo throw, almost constant holding and it took around a minute for Amnat to get his shoe laces tied at one point.
Round 4 featured a judo throw from Amnat, who was pissed when Casimero got to his feet and tried to punch him, almost forgetting that this was a boxing contest, and responded with another choke hold. Another headlock followed later in the round with the referee responding by warning Casimero, who immediately got put into another headlock. And then another. The choke holds and headlocks dominated round 5, which again saw Amnat putting some in some form of a judo and some other random throws, and even hitting Casimeroo when he was down. It should be noted that all of this was happening with out any sort of admonishment from the referee who seemed to think he was in charge of an MMA bout not a boxing bout.
Actual boxing action was scarce with Casimero being held and fouled when ever he was close, and Amnat trying to put in an audition tape for some MMA organisation, rather than proving himself as a world level boxer.
We'll not cover the entire fight, as genuinely some of this needs to be seen to be believed, but in round 6 Amnat tried to throw Casimero out of the ring, and in round 8 he mounted him and looked like he was ready to go for a ground and pound. Oh and the hilarious thing, after 11 rounds of fouling Amnat was finally deducted a point. Something that he had been told could happen at the end of the opening round. Doggett however didn't take that point until Casimero had been "dropped" for a second time, from what looked like a trip.
Unsurprisingly Amnat would take the win with a decision, however the controversy later lead the IBF to order a rematch, which took place on neutral soil in China. Thankfully justice was served in that rematch with Casimero stopping the Thai in 4 rounds to help right the wrong of this bout.
Thankfully this appears to have been the final bout refereed by Larry Doggett, who likely realised he was in the wrong profession at this point.
For those who have ever wondered about worst refereeing performances, we nominate Larry Doggett and this fight. This is atrocious to say the least.
A few weeks ago in this series we covered a foul fest that saw the right guy winning a clear decision. That was a bout where the man committing the fouls managed to rile everyone up, and whilst he had fouled through out the bout it was really a final round melt down that highlighted the contest. Today we look at a different type of foul fest. One where the fans are well and truly behind the man breaking the rules, and where the man breaking the rules, is getting away with it.
Amazingly this isn't just a foul fest, but also a bout where the judges seem to be in on things as well, with some questionable score cards, a referee that seems scared to take points and a local favourite who seems to know he can get away with anything.
Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) vs McWilliams Arroyo (15-1, 13)
Before we get to this bout we need to get to the back story of this one and go back to 2013. That was the year that Moruti Mthalane twice saw bouts with Silvio Olteanu fall through. After those bouts collapsed Mthalane was ordered to take on the then unknown Thai Amnat Ruenroeng, who had been a good amateur but done nothing as a professional. The purse bid for Mthalane Vs Ruenroeng was pathetic, but their was no money in the bout. As a result Mthalane gave up the belt, rather than travel to Thailand for pittance.
In December 2013 McWilliams arroyo was also having problems. He had seen his scheduled bout with Rocky Fuentes be delayed, then was cancelled all together in January 2014 when Fuentes failed to get a visa. That was supposed to be a world title eliminator.
With those bouts falling through we ended up getting a make shift bout in January 2014 that saw Amnat defeat Fuentes for the IBF Flyweight title, in a bout that was put together on very short notice. It wasn't a great bout, but was a big win for the Thai who was now the new world champion. Amnat followed that up by travelling to Japan and beating Kazuto Ioka, in a massive win.
Having seen his bout with Fuentes fall through Arroyo would fight in June 2014, in an IBF Flyweight world title eliminator, where he beat Froilan Saludar to set up a clash with Amnat for the title.
So overall it took us around 10 months to get to this bout but we got there in the end....and the wasn't worth it. At all.
The bout started slowly, both men trying to figure out what the other hand and eased their way into the contest. There was nothing spectacular to begin with, as both men pumped out their jabs. It looked like Arroyo was the stronger fighter whilst Amnat was the slightly quicker, but there wasn't much in it at all early on. Amnat probably did enough to the take first round but did better in rounds 2 and 3 as he established an early lead.
Then the bout started to fall apart. Arroyo had a very good round 4, as Amnat began to try and protect his lead, rather than extend it. He began holding, excessively. Every few seconds in round 4 the Thai smothered, held and did his best cuddly octopus impression. The holding didn't really help slow down Arroyo's pressure and the challenger's success grew, dropping Amnat in round 6 to completely get rid of Amnat's early lead.
It was following the knockdown that the bout totally fell apart.
The clinching became more and more regular, with Amnat trying to sap the ambition and fire out out of Arroyo. Referee, Pat Russell, repeatedly told Amnat to stop, but didn't take any points from the Thai. In fact not only did he refuse to take points but it wasn't until round 10 that he even gave a firm warning. Even after the warning the messy tactics, holding, spoiling and wrestling continued from Amnat, who was warned but never saw a point being taken.
After 12 rounds the bout could have gone either way. Arroyo defintely tried to make the fight, and had real success in the middle of the bout, but the good start by Amnat and the ugly frustrating end of the bout saw him neutralise Arroyo well. But it had been completely ruined by the holding, poor refereeing of Pat Russell and the refusal to take points, in an effort to clean things up.
When we went to the judges the they all turned in scores of 114-113, twice, to Amnat and once to Arroyo to give Amnat the decision. It wasn't a terrible score, but certainly seemed to be influenced by the judges and location of the fight. A single point deduction, which is the least we would have expected, would have seen the turn in a split draw but in reality Amnat could have had 2 or 3 points taken for the repeated holding.
Annoying had we managed to avoid all the clinching, and the very messy portions of the fight, this would have been a brilliant fight. There was a lot of exciting back and forth to talk about, but that was massively over shadowed by the negativity of Amnat between the exciting bursts of action.
Rather notably this wasn't the only controversial bout featuring Amnat, and we will certainly be discussing a much more controversial bout in the future. Though that's for the next future Controversial Clashes!
Typically this series has looked at bouts that have been controversial due to the man who deserved the win getting denied their victory. Today we're looking at something a little bit different. This time the right guy got the win, but the controversy wasn't easy to ignore. In fact the controversy was huge with implications that went beyond the scope of just who won and lost. It resulted in lengthy suspensions, laid the ground work to sell another bout on and had been a very personal battle for the two men.
Daisuke Naito (31-2-2, 20) Vs Daiki Kameda (10-0, 7)
In October 2007 Daisuke Naito was the WBC Flyweight champion, he had won the belt less than 3 months earlier, defeating Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in their third bout. Naito was supposed to then give Wonjongkam a rematch, which would be their fourth bout, however Kyoei had wanted to give Daiki Kameda a chance to become the youngest ever Japanese world champion.
As a result Naito's team, who had long targeted Daiki's older brother Koki Kameda, essentially paid Wonjongkam to step aside in the hope of securing a future bout with Koki Kameda, if Naito could get past Daiki.
With an agreement set the then 18 year old Kameda began promoting the bout with some rather scummy comments. He had called Naito a cockroach and generally been provocative in the media, hoping to get into Naito's head and draw more attention to the fight.
Naito was regarded as a good guy, he was well liked even if he wasn't the most charismatic or well known. He was seen as a stand up guy, a former bullying victim who, thanks to his win over Wonjongkam, had climbed the summit of the sport. The Kameda clan however were seen as natural heels, dislikable, loud, arrogant and appealed to a new generation. Whilst Naito was the old, man, the Kameda's were energetic, drawing a huge fan bases. That fan base was a mix of females, who thought the brothers were cute, fans from Kansai, who were getting behind their local star, and those who just found themselves drawn to the Kameda's and their anti-hero charm. Oh there was also plenty of people who just wanted to see the cock Kameda's being shut up and beaten.
Kameda's comments before the bout had seen interest explode in the contest and the feeling was that this was going to be something massive for Japanese boxing.
What ended up being a heavily hyped bout turned into a bit of a mismatch. From the opening round Naito was too sharp, too quick, too skilled and too good. Kameda pressed from the early stages with a tight defensive style that saw him pretty much trying to walk down Naito, but lacked the out put and energy needed to be competitive with the champion.
For the best part of 11 rounds Naito dominated the younger man. The bleach blonde Naito was trying to fight Naito, but had nothing to really challenger the more experienced and much better Naito. Even when Naito stood his ground and fought Kameda's fight he was getting the better of things. Kameda had spent more time headbutting, trying to thumb Naito, leading with the shoulder and landing low blows. Not only were the fouls from Kameda flagrant, and continous, but they were going unpunished by the referee, who gave repeated warnings but no deductions early on. There was not only fouls but taunting and typically scum like behaviour through out. He was playing the perfect heel. The man people want to see get beat...and he was getting beat.
With Naito well in the lead Kameda was showing an increasing level of frustration. This was seen notably in round 9, when he started to abuse some rough house tactics, including throwing Naito down which drew loud boos. Naito returned the foul with a cheap shot of his own later in the round, when he was deducted a point by Vic Drakulich. By this point the the crowd were rabidly against Kameda, who again bent the rules to near breaking point in round 11, with a headlock take down.
In round 12 things went from ugly and foul filled to something that didn't resemble boxing. Kameda was essentially sent out to fight Naito, taking him down, again, less than 30 seconds into the round. He was deducted a point, but that was just the start of a melt down. Moments later Kameda picked up Naito and tossed him to the canvas, and had 2 more points taken. Another tackle from Kamda followed, then a tackle from Naito before the two began to engaging in something of an MMA event on the canvas. There was some boxing in the round, but most of it was crude, street fighter stuff from Kameda.
After the 12th round there no doubting who had won. Naito had won the bout, and won the hearts of the Japanese fans. But the controversy spiralled on.
Kameda left the ring quickly after the final bell, not staying to give an interview. He didn't follow through on any promises to commit Seppuku, thankfully, but refused to not only speak to press but treat them with disdain at a post fight press conference. He stayed silent and then walked out.
Following the bout Kameda was given a lengthy suspension, his trainer and father Shiro was given a permanent ban from working the corner and older brother Koki Kameda was also reprimanded for his instructions. There was also speculation that Koki had to cancel an upcoming bout due to issues coming from this bout, though officially the reason was an opponent hadn't been decided on
In his next defense Naito faced Wonjongkam, in their fourth and final bout, and would go on to face Koki Kameda two years after this controversial, foul filled bout with his Koki's younger brother.
Koki would beat Naito, though lost the WBC title to Naito's old nemesis Wonjongkam, scrapping a chance of a rematch between Koki and Naito, which rather notably Naito's team had the contractual option for but without the WBC title there was no desire to enforce it.
Thankfully things bet Naito and the Kameda family have improved since this mess of a fight. Daiki has apologised for what he said and did, and Naito has accepted the apology and drawn a line under the matter. Now a days Naito, Daiki Kameda and Koki Kameda have retired from the ring and this dark bout in Japanese history is not something to be proud off, but is still a very important bout. It's also one of the very rare cases where a fighter was deducted 3 points in a round and not DQ'd.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features