There are a number of fighters who are involved, regularly, in controversial bouts. We often see the same handful of fighters escaping a bout with a win they didn't deserve, and often hear about a fighter getting a home town decision. One such fighter was the biggest name in Japanese boxing during the 2000's and 2010's. Despite the controversy that followed him he remained a popular figure in his homeland among fans, though the boxing authorities certainly weren't fans.
Koki Kameda (28-1, 17) vs Hugo Ruiz (31-1, 28)
Whether you like him, hate him, or are indifferent to him it's hard to deny that Koki Kameda was a star in Japan. He drew TV audiences that fighters since him would do anything to match. He was a legitimate star, with a mix of people who wanted to cheer him and to see him lose. In 2010 those who wanted to see him lose got their way, as he lost the WBC Flyweight title to Pongasaklek Wonjongkam. That loss then lead him to move up to Bantamweight, skipping the Super Flyweight division all together.
Up at Bantamweight Kameda would win the WBA "regular" title, beating Alexander Munoz, and go on a reign that was rather terrible, if we're being honest. On paper some of his opponents were good, but others weren't. He would make 8 defenses of the title, with wins against the likes of Mario Antonio Macias, Noldi Manakane, John Mark Apolinario and Jung Oh Son among them. The one opponent that really stands out during this reign is Hugo Ruiz, a world class Mexican who he faced in 2012 in what was his 5th defense of the title.
Coming into the bout Ruiz was a 26 year old puncher boasting a 31-1 (28) record. He had won 22 in a row, with 19 of those coming inside the schedule. They had included wins against the likes of Francisco Arce, Yonfrez Parejo, the ever durable German Meraz and Alvaro Perez. These wins had seen Ruiz claim the WBA "interim" title and make 4 defenses of it before travelling over to Japan to take on Kameda.
Not only was Ruiz in good form, and would later become a world champion at Super Bantamweight, but he was huge at Bantamweight, towering over the naturally smaller Kameda. He had power, size, skill, and a good boxing brain.
Sadly for Ruiz this was his first fight outside of Mexico and came in Osaka City, the place that Kameda was from. The knowledge that he could be robbed had to be on his mind, and would be exactly what ended up happening.
The opening round saw the two men feel each other out whilst an audible "Koki" chant filled the Bodymaker Colosseum. Despite the loud chant the actual action was minimal through the first 3 minutes. Kameda was ultra negative, getting on his toes and making Ruiz follow him for the most part. When Kameda did rush forward to attack he had mixed success, often being countered.
In round 2 we saw Ruiz put his foot on the gas slightly, landing some nice body shots very early on, and countering Kameda's rushes well. The powerful right hand of Ruiz looked dangerous, even if he wasn't having massive amounts of success with it. Ruiz was cautious but still seemed to out box and out land Kameda in another quiet round. There was no intensity or fire to Kameda's work, and it looked much like the early stages of his bout with Noldi Manakane.
Round 3 was another tame one from Kameda, who got caught low at one point, as Ruiz's body work slipped slightly low. Despite the one shot slipping low the Mexican continued targetting the body, looking to take the legs away from Kameda who moved more than he punched. Every time Kameda came forward he took a body shot, though did try to steal the round late on. It was too little too late though.
It wasn't until round 4 that we really began to see Kameda letting his hands early in a round. Sadly though the early activity of the Japanese fighter didn't continue for long and his tempo soon slowed, as he continued to be countered. The speed advantage was with Kameda but the timing of Ruiz, added to his long reach, neutralised much of that speed. Towards the end of the round the tempo picked up notably, with Ruiz pressing the action, and tempers flared in the final seconds
Going in to round 5 it was hard to give Kameda anything, and that didn't change in rounds 5,6, 7 or 8. During those rounds Kameda continued to move, stay on the back foot and fight as if he was almost scared of Ruiz. In fairness Ruiz didn't do a lot himself, but it didn't seem like he needed to as he was still doing significantly more than Kameda, landing the better shots and pushing Kameda back. Almost all the highlights shown on TBS between rounds were from Ruiz's work and the venue was nearly silent at times. The early chants of "Koki, Koki" were gone, only appearing late in round 6.
The only real moment for Kameda and his team to get excited about was a slip in the corner by Ruiz mid-way through round 6. Technically it looked like Kameda forced Ruiz to touch down, but it was more a cuffing push than a clean punch.
With Kameda in a huge hole as we entered the later rounds it was clear he had to turn it on if he was going to try and retain his title. That however didn't really happen until round 10. Even then it was late in the round when Kameda finally came alive. It was the same in round 11, Kameda really did little for the first part of the round, before finishing very strongly, taking risks, and showing glimpses of what he could do. It was a brilliant finish to the round, and he managed to hurt Ruiz, but it really was just the final minute of the round that we saw that hunger.
With Kameda ending rounds 10 and 11 really well it was nice to see him actually starting round 12 with some hunger and fire and he took the fight to Ruiz in the final round. Had he done this through out the fight there wouldn't have been any controversy. In fact had he done this through the bout we suspect he genuinely could have ended up stopping Ruiz and making a statement. He genuinely had Ruiz in trouble at times in the final 2 rounds. But that was 2 rounds, of a 12 round fight.
After 12 rounds it seemed almost certain the WBA Bantamweight title was heading to Mexico. Ruiz had won most of the fight based on Kameda doing nothing. Kameda showed what he was capable of in the later stages, but that was not enough for us, and for most watching.
Of course it was enough for two of the judges. One judge had Kameda winning 116-113 and the other hand it 115-113 to Kameda. The only dissenting judge was Stanley Christodoulou who had the bout 117-113 to Ruiz. He was the only one close to reflecting what had happened.
For us Ruiz had won the first 8 without debate and lost the last 2. Rounds 9 and 10 there was some argument over, but even they felt they belonged more to Ruiz than Kameda. There was simply no way we could get to a card that had Kameda winning. He had blown the bout, but been given the win. His WBA title reign continued, and he would make 3 more defenses before vacating the title, when he was ordered to face Super champion Anselmo Moreno. It seemed even the WBA had had enough of his reign.
Kameda would go on fight for a Super Flyweight title, but lose to Kohei Kono in an historic bout that saw two Japanese fighters face off for a world title on US soil, the first time had ever happened. Ruiz would go on to win the WBC Super Bantamweight title, but lose it in his first defense to Hozumi Hasegawa, in a much better bout than this one.
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