For this week's Closet Classic we reach back to 2007 for a real hidden gem of a war from Korakuen Hall. The bout features a Closet Classic series regular, in what was his career first title before going on to become a 2-time world champion, and a man who would come up short at world level just a few months after this bout. This is a big more of a hidden gem than some in the series but boy what a good one it is!
Kohei Kono (17-3, 7) vs Teppei Kikui (21-4, 4) III
Before we speak about the two fighters we'll begin by discussing the history between the two men. In 2003 a then 22 year old Kohei Kono had take a split decision over the then 24 year old Teppei Kikui. In 2005 Kikui got revenge, beating Kono with a close decision win of his own. In 2007 they clashed for the third, and final, time in what was a really hotly contested and personal bout between the two.
Just 9 months after beating Kono we had seen Kikui win the Japanese Super Flyweight title, beating Kuniyuki Aizawa. As the Japanese champion Kikui had made a single defense, dominating Masayuki Arinaga, and moved towards a world title fight. Entering this bout with Kono the talented and skilful Kikui wasn't just the Japanese national champion but also had top 10 rankings with the WBA and WBC. Although not a big puncher Kikui was a talented fighter who had rebuilt well from two losses in 1998 and had only been stopped once, way back in his 9th professional bout.
As anyone who follows this series will know, Kohei Kono made for fun fights. His battles were regularly great wars with the "Toughboy" being a very fan friendly warrior. Kono was incredibly tough yet basic fighter who got in the ring to fight. He wasn't the most polished or skilled fighter but made up for that through sheer bloody mindedness, will, toughness and world rate. Anyone who faced him knew they would be in for a hard night, and that would later lead him to becoming a 2-time WBA world champion. This was, however, his first title bout.
From the opening bell this was crazy. This wasn't "round 1" of a fight, but round 17 of their rivalry and Kono fought like he was desperate to take Kikui out straight away. Within 2 seconds it seemed like Kikui had been hurt and he was dropped within 15 seconds. Despite the champion being dropped he composed himself quickly and Kono was down himself seconds after the restart, albeit from a slip. Kikui realised he was in with a raging bull and tried to spoil, hold and slow down Kono, but was shake again in the middle of the round.
After a thrilling opening round it was clear that things couldn't continue at that tempo forever. No one told Kono however and he fought like a man possessed through round 2. He was a little bit more calm and composed than he had been in the first 3 minutes but was still forcing a high tempo on to the champion, who was using his feet smartly to create space. The space that Kikui created only ever acted as a chance to breath before Kono got close and forced a thrilling exchange between the two men.
Round after round Kono would race forward. For the most part he got the better of things, but he kept himself open, took some huge bombs from Kikui and certainly got punished for his aggression, needing to rely on his granite chin and incredible gas tank. Kikui might have been down early but he wasn't going to go away without a real fight.
If you like Kono fights, and this is his third in this series, you'll know what to expect here. If not, sit down, give yourself 50 minutes and enjoy a real hidden gem from 2007!
There aren't too many fighters who will get multiple mentions in this series, but today's Closet Classic features one man's third entry and one man's second. The bout featured two true action men in the ring and it was clear, as soon as the bout was signed, that we would be getting something special. We would be getting warriors beating lumps out of each other and we would be getting the Wonder Boy and the Tough Boy.
Rex Tso (21-0, 13) Vs Kohei Kono (33-10-1, 14)
Local Hong Kong star Rex Tso seemed to be edging his way towards a world title as we headed into winter 2017. The all action "Wonder Boy" had the backing not just of local promoter DEF Boxing but numerous sponsors, who were all putting money behind Tso to try and get him a shot at the WBO world title. As we entered this bout he had climbed to the verge of a title shot and had wowed fans with thrilling bouts against the likes of Hirofumi Mukai and Ryuto Maekawa. Although not the most polished of fighters Tso was more skilled than people seemed to give him credit for. He just often abandoned his skills to have a fan friendly tear up instead, and often went toe-to-toe with fighters, bringing out the most fun to watch bouts he could. He was an action fighter and at 30 years old it seemed 2018 was going to be the year that he broke into the big time.
The 36 year old Kohei Kono was dubbed the "Tough Boy", he was rugged and had only been stopped once in 34 bouts, by Naoya Inoue. As a 2-time world champion he had proven his ability at the highest level and even at 36 years old he had a great engine, a solid chin and a desire to always give his all. Although not a major star he had a real cult following that had expanded outside of Japan with fans knowing Kono could provide fun bouts, and that was notably shown in the US when he faced off with Koki Kameda in the first ever all-Japanese world title to take place in America. Past his best, and with losses in 2 of his previous 3, he was expected to be too a good name for Tso to get on his record and wasn't expected to have the legs and energy to push the Hong Kong local too hard here.
Straight from the off it was clear Kono had more in the tank than many had anticipated. He was on the front foot straight away and trying to cut the ring down, taking the legs of Tso away and pressing the local star. To his credit Tso shows that he could respond to the pressure by both moving, or fighting fire with fire.
It was the "fighting fire with fire" that we were hoping to see, and as the bout went on, and as Tso's legs began to slow, there was a growing amount of fiery action, hastened in part to a headclash in round 2 that had damaged the eye of Tso. The damage, originally, wasn't too bad but it would later get worse and ended up as a grotesque swelling around the eye.
As the swelling got worse it forced Tso to stand and fight, and also gave Kono a real target to attack. This was where the fight, and action began to go through the gears, with desperation striking both men.
Sadly the ending was rather inconclusive, and left a tarnish to the fight that the action didn't deserve, but what we'd had to get to that point had been enthralling, from the first bell to the last.
Sadly the injury that Tso suffered kept him out of the ring all together for a long stretch of time, before resurfaced as an amateur fighter, and began to try and make his way to the 2020 Olympics. As for Kono he would fight just once more before hanging up the gloves after 46 professional bouts.
A few weeks ago we looked at a great fight featuring Venezuelan fighter Liborio Solis and Daiki Kameda. Today we return to the Closet Classic for a different Solis fight as he again fought in Japan and fought in an amazing bout, this time with the always fun to watch Kohei Kono. Entering the bout the two men were part of the political title mess the WBA had created with their "regular" and "interim" titles, but in the ring the two men gave us a show for the ages, and a totally enthralling must watch from back in 2013.
Kohei Kono (28-7, 11) Vs Liborio Solis (14-3-1, 7)
The first it's self was a WBA "regular" and WBA "interim" Super Flyweight unification bout pitting 32 year old Japanese veteran Kohei Kono against unheralded Venezuelan Liborio Solis. Coming in Kono was the WBA world champion, having won the title 5 months earlier from Tepparith Kokietgym in a huge career best win for his and having come as the third win in a row. Solis on the other hand had entered the bout on the back of 5 wins, including victories over Rafael Concepcion and Jose Salgado, but was fighting in Asia for the first time.
At the age of 32 Kono was a proven quantity of sorts by this point. Win or lose he'd always come to fight, he had proven his great chin, fantastic engine but also shown his limitations. He could be out boxed, out sped and out moved. In fact it wasn't much before this fight that he had been beaten by the then 2-0 Yohei Tobe, with that loss being a third straight defeat following set backs against Tomas Rojas and Yota Sato. Despite his losses he had always shown himself to be a warrior, someone who entered the ring looking for a proper war.
Despite having less than half the fights that Kono had Solis was also no youngster, in fact he was 31 at the time and despite debuting way back in 2000, his career took a long of time to really get going, with more than 5 years away from the ring from 2002 to 2007. Coming in to this he was on a role, with his 2 best wins, a 5 fight winning run and he had picked up wins in Panama, Mexico and his native Venezuela.
When the men got in the ring they both had a steel determination to shine and that showed from the opening round, with Kono trying to take the fight to Solis and Solis responding with clean shots on the advancing Kono. By round 2 the bombs were coming thick and fast and, with big right hands being thrown with bad intentions. A huge counter right from Kono would buckle Solis' knees, which was scored a knockdown, and from then on the touch paper was well and truly alight. Solis would get revenge a few rounds later, dropping the tough Kono with a left hand, and from then on the two men battled hard, each knowing there was little to separate them.
This was, sadly, one of 2013's most over-looked wars, but we'd suggest you all take the opportunity to enjoy this amazing war now, a little over 6 years after Kono and Solis beat the snot out of each other.
Over the past week or so the Super Flyweight division has come to the attention of fans world wide. In the UK fans saw a much touted and previously unbeaten fighter come up short against a world class but unheralded African world champion whilst fans watching a stream from Macau got the chance to see an all-action war courtesy of TopRankTV. Despite these two memorable event over this past weekend many still suggest the division is a weak one. The reality however, is that the division is one of the toughest and most packed out there.
The Japanese Renegade-
Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) The oldest of the Kameda brothers is the current #2 WBA ranked fighter in the division and is the mandatory challenger to Kohei Kono with the WBA demanding the two men negotiate or face purse bids in a few weeks time. Kameda's resume is highly impressive with title reigns at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight though he wants a Super Flyweight title to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion. Sadly he is a divisive figure, similar to Adrien Broner, with many in Japan turning on him. Among those who have gotten sick of him and his brothers are the JBC who have banned him from fighting in Japan, though he has since made a very powerful ally in the form of Al Haymon who is likely to help make Kameda a big name in the US.
The tricky African champion-
Zolani Tete (20-3, 17) The first of two non-Asian that we're going to mention here is IBF champion Tete who impressed last week when he derailed the hopes of the previously unbeaten Paul Butler in the UK. Tete won the title last year, when he out pointed Teiru Kinoshita, and his fight with Butler was his first defence. Tall, rangy and with an educated southpaw jab Tete is a nightmare to fight and made both Butler and Kinoshita look clueless in their bouts with him. His biggest worry as a Super Flyweight will be out growing the division, a possibility given his frame, but for as long as he can made 115lbs he's going to be an avoided opponent. Most worryingly for his future opponents, he seems happier fighting on the road than he does at home.
The Mexican champion-
Carlos Cuadras (31-0-1, 25) The remaining champion in the division is WBC champion Teiken managed Mexican boxer-puncher Cuadras who won his title last year when he over-came Srisaket Sor Rungvisai via a technical decision. The talented Cuadras is a fighter who can box or brawl, electing to do what suits him best for each fight. Unfortunately for Cuadras recent bouts have been marred with headclashes though it's hard not to be excited when we see Cuadras in the ring. Thankfully we won't need to wait long to see him back in the ring with Cuadras set to fight Luis Concepcion on April 4th in what looks likely to be an absolutely enthralling contest.
Images courtesy of:
Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi's facebook
The year really got going in March with a lot of action building on the momentum from February.
The month kicked off with two very interesting cards on March 1st. In Japan we saw Middleweight titles unified as Akio Shibata defeated Daisuke Nakagawa to add the Japanese title to his OPBF belt. Sadly for Nakagawa he would retire after this loss. As for Shibata he has defended the unified crown twice, including a very recent win over Makoto Fuchigami.
In the Philippines on the same day Genesis Servania showed his class as he stopped former world champion Alexander Munoz in 12 rounds. This win saw Servania continuing his rise through the ranks and it now looks likely that he will kick off 2015 with a WBO world title bout.
The busy start to the continued on March 3rd when Japanese boxing fans had “Women's Day” and saw a trio of female world title bouts at the Korakuen Hall. These bouts saw wins for all 3 of the Japanese champions in action with Momo Koseki, Naoko Shibata and Ayaka Miyao all retaining their world titles.
On March 4th we had more title action with a Japanese title double header. These saw Hiroki Okada claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title with a decision win over Masayoshi Kotake and Takayuki Hosokawa upsetting Tadashi Yuba for the Light Middleweight title. For Okada this was his first decision win after starting his career with 7 straight stoppages whilst Hosokawa's reign was a short lived one and he had to give up his title before making a single defense.
In Thailand, also on March 4th, we saw one of the most controversially scored bouts in Asia this year as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep retained the WBA “interim” Flyweight title with a highly debatable majority decision over Japanese visitor Takuya Kogawa. Kogawa appeared to out work and out fight Yodmongkol though was unable to convince Wan-Soo Yuh, Derek Milham or Pierluigi Poppi that he deserved the win. Sadly the judging over-shadowed what had been a genuinely fantastic and hard fought contest.
After the insanely busy start to the month it was a few days before we saw another Asian fighter in a major bout. This came on March 8th as Nihito Arakawa returned to the US following his thrilling loss to Omar Figueroa, sadly however he was unable to claim a win here either as the Teiken managed Jorge Linares clearly defeated “The Baby Faced Sniper” in a WBC Lightweight eliminator.
On March 11th Japanese fans got a treat as the heavy handed Koji Numata fought to a thrilling draw with Takehiro Shimokawara. The bout was a 12 round war that was incredibly close leading to a split decision draw. A rematch between the two later in the year saw Numata stopping Shimokawara for the title before Numata announced his retirement, incidentally he had also announced his retirement after this draw.
Our “Prospect of the Year”, Kosei Tanaka, fought his first bout of the year on March 16th as he defeated Filipino foe Ronelle Ferreras. Ferreras entered the bout as a world ranked foe though never came close to genuinely testing the Japanese youngster who lost a round en route to a clear 8 round decision win.
Also on March 16th was “The Bloodbath of the Year” as Takuya Watanabe give an-in ring blood donation in his loss to Jaesung Lee. Watanabe was cut early in the bout and although blood was going everywhere the referee was happy for the bout to continue it's 10 round schedule. By the end of the bout Lee's shorts were covered in claret and it was a mystery as to how Watanabe had managed to continue the distance despite leaving much of himself in the ring.
A day later Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama recorded a narrow defense of his title as he only just over-came Tetsuya Suzuki. Takayama would defend the belt once more, later in the year, and again seemed fortunate to keep the belt with it being very clear that he was one of, if not the, weakest domestic champion in the country.
On March 22nd we got one of the months biggest upsets as Merlito Sabillo was battered by the then unknown Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sabillo, defending the WBO Minimumweight title, was never really in the bout as his young Mexican foe was too good, too strong and too big. Going in to the bout it was widely seen that Sabillo was taking on a weak foe, oh how wrong we were and Rodriguez was one of the year's genuine revelations, also scoring a win over Katsunari Takayama later in the year.
Just a couple of days after Sabillo's loss we saw another Filipino come up short in a title bout as Vinvin Rufino suffered an 8th round TKO at the hands of Hisashi Amagasa, the OPBF Featherweight champion. On the same show Hidenori Otake retained the Japanese Super Bantamweight title with a narrow decision win over Takafumi Nakajima. Fans in attendance here would almost certainly have been surprised if they were to be told that both Otake, against Scott Quigg, and Amagasa, against Guillermo Rigondeaux, would fight in world title bouts before the year was out.
Staying with disappointment for Filipino fighters we saw Richard Pumicpic come up short in an OPBF Bantamweight title bout against Ryosuke Iwasa. Pumicpic really did give Iwasa a nightmare for 12 rounds though was unable to do quite enough to take the win over “Eagle Eye” who hinted that he had had problems making the 118lb weight limit. Before the year was out however Iwasa had agreed to an IBF Bantamweight world title eliminator, suggesting he was making a little bit of an excuse for a below par performance.
It wasn't all bad for Filipinos however and on the same day Jonathan Taconing claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title which had been vacated by Naoya Inoue. Taconing took on fellow Filipino Vergilio Silvano and the two men were involved in a full on brawl with Silvano eventually being stopped in round 11. The bout was regarded by many in attendance as one of the year's best contests in the Philippines though sadly full fight footage doesn't seem to have emerged.
On March 26th it was the turn of Thai's to feel disappointed as veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit was stopped by Kohei Kono in a bout for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title. Kono dropped the Thai in round 4 before finishing him off in round 8 to begin a second reign as a world champion. Sadly for Kono he has been inactive since this win with problems regarding mandatory challenger Koki Kameda delaying any chance of Kono to really build on his momentum. Thankfully however the champion will be back in action on December 31st. For Denkaosan this was the start of a forgetable year which also saw him suffer a KO loss to the exceptionally talented Ryo Matsumoto in September.
On March 29th Russian “Krusher” Sergey Kovalev defended the WBO Light Heavyweight world title with a clear win over the out matched and negative Cedric Agnew who was stopped in 7 rounds after being thoroughly dominated.
The final notable bout of the month saw Ryuji Hara claim the OPBF Minimumweight title with a narrow decision over Filipino Donny Mabao. Mabao failed to make weight though still couldn't defeat the then unbeaten Japanese fighter who took a majority decision over the tough and experienced Filipino who had a 5lb weight advantage on the scales.
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