Today we get to go back to an old whipping boy in this series as we feature the third Koki Kameda fight in this series. This is one of the more forgotten controversies of Kameda's career, but one that certainly needs talking about in this series, despite not being one of the worst. It was one where he went in as a very big favourite against a relative unknown and was perhaps a little bit lucky to walk away with the win.
Koki Kameda (25-1, 16) Vs David De La Mora (23-0, 16)
Early in his career Koki Kameda had looked like a star in the making, and he quickly got the Japanese fans behind him. They began to question his ability when he refused to face domestic opponents, and then some began to turn on him when he won his first world title. It wasn't that they out and out disliked him, but saw him as a man taking an easy route. That was feeling intensified when fans saw him getting lucky in his first world title win, a very controversial decision over Juan Jose Landaeta. His reign at 108lbs was a short one, with Kameda quickly moving up to Flyweight and claiming the WBC title with his career defining win over Daisuke Naito, avenging Naito's win over his Daiki Kameda.
That win over Naito made people realise Kameda was a really good fighter. Like him or hate him, he was a very good boxer and deserved respect. Then he lost that title just 4 months later in a huge upset defeat to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Rather than pursuing a rematch with Wonjongkam we saw Kameda move up in weight, again taking an easy option, and winning the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title with a win over Alexander Munoz. In his first defense Kameda beat the limited Daniel Diaz before then meeting unbeaten Mexican challenger David De La Mora.
Boasting a 23-0 (16) record the 23 year old David De La Mora was a real unknown quantity. His best wins were against the likes of Luis Valdez and Jovanny Agdael Soto. He was unbeaten but seemingly rather untested, with very little on his record to suggest he deserved a world title bout. Sometimes however an unbeaten record can give an illusion that a fighter is better, or worse, than they really are. With De La Mora the numbers looked good, even if his competition didn't.
Although De La Mora seemed to have done very little to earn a shot at a world title the WBA had him #8 coming into this bout, a big step up from Daniel Diaz who was #14 adding to the legitimacy of De La Mora's challenge.
In the opening moments of the bout it was clear De La Mora had come to win, he was showing ambition straight away and took center ring. Despite the ambition from the challenger it was the crisp punching, skills and hand speed of Kameda that caught the eye through the first 3 minutes. Although De La Mora had put in a credible effort, but it was a round that Kameda deserved, despite needing to work hard for it.
Kameda took center ring in round 2 and looked to get the respect of the Mexican challenger who fired back with some solid combinations of his own and made Kameda cover up more than once. It wasn't always the prettiest of work but when De La Mora opened up he seemed to have Kameda second guessing himself. It was great to see the young challenger looking to make a point and fighting to win.
The real drama for the fight came in round 3 as one of De La Mora's bursts of punches hurt Kameda and forced him to hold on and left him cut. Sadly for De La Mora he got greedy and reckless and was dropped by a counter left hand from Kameda. The shot, around 2 minutes into the round, turned what was a very good De La Mora round into a 10-8 for Kameda.
Despite being dropped De La Mora seemed encouraged by his own success in round 3. That encouragement saw him putting his foot on the gas hard in round 4, despite some issues with his gum shield at the start of the round. The aggression of De La Mora lead to a brilliant moment for him, where he unloaded with Kameda on the ropes. He then had some success when the two traded in center ring and again later on, when he again got Kameda was on the ropes. Although the round had some moments where little happened, the three big highlights for us were all from De La Mora, who picked his spots and really made the most of them.
Through the middle rounds we saw De La Mora build on his success, simply out working Kameda, who seemed to slip into a rut. The pressure, the ou put and the aggression were being driven by De La Mora. Kameda looked the more talented man, but all too often seemed happier to move, and circle rather than let his hands go. The tactics of Kameda made it easy for De La Mora to win rounds, fighting with exciting burst and out landing the tepid Kameda.
By the start of round 8 the good start from Kameda was easily forgotten. He was letting the bout slip away, fighting far too reservedly, and seemed stuck in a low gear. He showed flashes of brilliance, but failed to maintain it and his excellent skills were being used more to negate the action than to win a fight.
Although there wasn't open scoring in play things were close. In fact the judges had the bout incredibly close, with scores of 67-65 on two of the cards, both to Kameda, and the third judge had the bout level.
Round 8 itself was brilliant with both men giving as good as they got. This actually saw the round being split by the three judges, with one giving it to Kameda, one giving it to De La Mora and the other having it even. It was a genuinely fantastic round with both men having their moments, and both seemingly hurt the other. Both guys let their hands go and matched each other really well in 3 minutes of brilliant action.
We saw the pace drop off again in round 9, though both men had their moments with Kameda boxing well and De La Mora having success with some of his eye catching flurries. It was another ultra-close round and another very entertaining one.
De La Mora came back strong in rounds 10 and 11 as he looked to make a statement late and he looked damned good during those two rounds as Kameda once again slowed down and began to look gun shy. These two great rounds from De La Mora likely sealed him the victory in the eyes of some observers, though Kameda game back strong in a very, very entertaining final round as he looked to retain his title and he dug deep.
After 12 rounds it was close, but it seemed to be one that De La Mora had done enough to get it, at least for us. For us Kameda just didn't do enough in the middle rounds but he started well and ended well. It was however super close, however you saw it.
In the end all 3 judges saw it for Kameda, giving him the win with scores of 114-113, 115-113 and 115-112. It wasn't a terrible decision, but was one of those where the local fighter gets a disputed close one.
This was certainly not Koki Kameda's biggest controversy, far from it, but it was a controversial one all the same. A good number of those in Japan thought Kameda had gotten a gift, though there was, of course, some anti-Kameda bias behind some of those comments. It was close, hotly contested and one of Kameda's best Bantamweight bouts to watch. Sadly many of his other bouts at the weight were rather dull affairs, but this one was genuinely a great fight and is well worth a watch, even ignoring the controversy around it.
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