Today's Closet Classic isn't a fight that we expected many fans have seen, but it is replayed in Japan quite regularly as part of a series shown on Fuji's sister channels as part of their "Diamond Glove Golden Legend" series. It features a man who would later become a cult favourite fighting in his first title bout and taking on a determined domestic champion. The bout pales compared to some bouts that one man would feature in, but is certainly a very, raw and exciting bout that is well worthy of a watch.
Yoshihiro Kamegai (14-0, 12) Vs Yosukezan Onodera (20-1-1, 8)
In later years Yoshihiro Kamegai would become one of the sports best value fighters. When he was in the ring you knew you were going to get excitement with his incredible toughness, impressive stamina and brilliant will to win. When he got in the ring you knew leather would be thrown and his two wars with Jesus Soto Karass were both instant classics, worthy of rewatching any day. Before he began to make a mark on the US scene he was, of course, a Japanese domestic fighter and the action and thrills he gave Japanese fans in these early stages were still there. In April 2010 he got his first title fight.
In the opposite corner to Kamegai was Japanese 140lb champion Yosukezan Onodera. Although Onodera would never make a mark outside of Japan. He was a really good domestic fighter with his only loss at this point coming to Hiroshi Nakamori in early 2007. Since that loss he had gone 5-0-1 (2) with a very notable win over Norio Kimura for the Japanese Light Welterweight title in April 2009, ending Kimura's 5 year reign. He had defended the belt twice, beating Yuji Wauke and Akihito Nishio before facing Kamegai in spring 2010. In the ring he was aggressive, fun to watch and tough with a real fun style.
Despite what fans in the West know of Kamegai now, being a face first brawler, that wasn't always the case. He was never a defensive genius, but there was some nous to what he did at times, slipping on the inside and even using a shoulder roll. Yes, we know how alien that concept is to those who saw Kamegai's later career fights. With that in mind it should be noted he does show some nice defensive touches. Despite those defensive touches he's still Kamagei and he still gets inside but it's not all none stop work from him in the opening round and instead Onodera seems to out work Kamegai at times on the inside. Despite Onodera's work he gets put down in the opening round. That seems to set Kamegai off as we end up with an all out war to finish the round.
Having realised he could hurt the champion Kamegai was again willing to have an inside fight with Onodera, who kept marching forward and looking to have a war with the unbeaten, but untested challenger. In round 2 Onodera was down again, and once again the knockdown resulted in the round finishing in spectacular fashion with Kamegai looking desperate to get an early finish and Onodera weathering the storm and firing back.
We won't ruin the fight any further, but for those who love Kamegai's later career and want to see some of his earlier bouts, this is a genuinely great war. He wasn't quite as raw as he would later become, when he attempted to break into the hearts of Western fans, but he's certainly nothing like a pure technician. In Onodera he had the perfect foil for a brilliant fight and this proved to be something very, very fan friendly. It's not always pretty but it's always fun and action packed!
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