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.
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