We kick off a new year with this series and focus on a controversial Japanese fighter in the form of Koki Kameda (33-2, 18), a man who truly split Japanese fans. He had his lovers, he had his haters, and he had little between. Although a controversial figure he gave Japanese boxing a real boost and helped TBS to some of their best ratings of the 21st century. He also managed to win world titles in 3 weight classes, albeit with some WBA madness in the Bantamweight division and scored numerous notable wins.
Whilst never the out and out best in any weight class Kameda was a key figure from Light Flyweight to Bantamweight. He was a fighter who drew massive TV audience, and the desire some fans had to see him beat helped make him a big star, as did his general attitude, his arrogance and his loud mouth. He was the man Osakan fans needed after Joichiro Tatsuyoshi's career at the top came to an end, and he was one of the men at the forefront of Japanese boxing in the 00's.
Like him or hate him, Koki Kameda was a major figure in lower weight boxing, a force in Asian boxing and a massive player in Japanese boxing, and with that said let us bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Koki Kameda!
Noel Arambulet (November 26th 2005)
An obvious first choice for Koki Kameda's first significant win was his June 2005 win over Saman Sorjaturong and it was in contention here, however when put into some perspective it was a rather meaningless win. Although Saman was a huge name in the lower weights in the 1990's by 2005 he was shot to pieces and had picked up just 1 win in the previous 4 years, whilst losing 4 bouts. He was a shadow of himself. Venezuelan fighter Noel Arambulet on the other hand had been a world champion in 2004, losing WBA the belt in a competitive bout to Yutaka Niida, in their second bout. Not only was Arambulet relevant at the time Kameda beat him but he had never been stopped, and had a number of wins over Japanese fighters. This wasn't Kameda picking on a faded name to beat up but was a relevant contender that he stopped in 7 rounds silencing the critics who complained about his first 8 bouts coming against Thai foes. Notably Arambulet remained a notable fighter right through to 2008, when he fought for the final time, making this win a stellar one for Kameda that aged well.
Juan Jose Landaeta I (August 2nd 2006)
Less than a year after proving his value against Arambulet we saw Kameda get his first world title fight, and take on another Venezuelan opponent, as he took on Juan Jose Landaeta for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight title. The talented Landaeta had never won a world title but was very much a world class fighter, and hadpreviously held "interim" honours. He proved to be a huge step up for Kameda, dropping the Japanese fighter in the first round and then giving as good as he got through a very hotly contested 12 round fight. At the final bell it seemed like Kameda was set to suffer his first loss, but got the run of the green and took a split decision victory. The result sent Japanese boxing fans, and media in to an outrage, and saw fans apologising to Landaeta through the embassy.
This win was as controversial as they come but saw Kameda winning the WBA Light Flyweight title, his first world title and boosting his profile massively. The controversy lead to an immediate rematch, which Kameda easily won, but still left a bad taste in mouth of local fans. This was the win that put Kameda's name at the forefront of everyone's mind in Japan and it's really hard to over-state how huge this win was, despite the massive black cloud cast by the decision.
Daisuke Naito (November 29th 2009)
Kameda's stay at Light Flyweight was a relatively short one, with his only world title defense being the rematch with Landaeta. He then vacated the title and moved up in weight to chase a second world title. He finally got his shot in 2009 in a massive all-Japanese bout with the then WBC Flyweight champion Daisuke Naito.
The bout had everything going for it. Not only did Naito have the WBC title but he also had a huge win over Koki's brother Daiki Kameda, a win that had seen Daiki come close to getting disqualified in the final round for a variety of fouls, that had been encouraged by Koki and their father Shiro.
Despite the animosity between the two fighters the bout was actually a surprisingly tame affair with Kameda using his younger, fresher, faster legs to easily out box the slower, older, Naito. At the time Kameda was 23 whilst Naito was 35, ancient for a Flyweight, and the age difference showed. Kameda won, but put on one of his least exciting performances, knowing that a win here was more important than putting on a show. This wasn't the best bout Kameda was in, but was, for us at least, his biggest and best win. It was a win that saw him claiming not just the WBC title but also the Lineal championship, and it was the first time he faced a fellow Japanese fighter.
Due to the build up and expectations regarding the bout the fight managed to draw an average of 43.1% of TV audience and peaked at a frankly staggering 51.2%, making it the most viewed broadcast of anything in Japan in 2009!
Alexander Munoz (December 26th 2010)
Sadly for Kameda his reign at Flyweight was even shorter than his reign at Light Flyweight, losing the belt in his first defense to Thai legend Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. He then skipped Super Flyweight all together, until his final career bout, and campaigned at Bantamweight. His first fight at 118lbs saw him take on the big punching Alexander Munoz for the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. For Kameda it was a chance to become the first Japanese "3-weight" world champion, but to do so he would have to get past a man who had developed a reputation as a Japan Killer.
Munoz, the third Venezuelan on this list, had beaten the likes of Celes Kobayashi, Eiji Kojima, Hidenobu Honda, Nobuo Nashiro, Kuniyuki Aizawa and Katsushige Kawashima in Japan. He had never lost on Japanese soil. That was until Kameda beat him, dropping Munoz in round 12 en route to a clear decision.
Whilst becoming a "3 weight champion" was impressive the win also saw Koki and Daiki both holding world titles at the same time, becoming the first Japanese brothers to hold world titles. This was a major achievement and was later followed by Tomoki winning a world title, to leave all 3 Kameda's as world champions and put them in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Jung Oh Son (November 19th 2013)
Our final choice will likely raise a few eyebrows, as Jung Oh Son was certainly not the biggest name that Koki Kameda beat during his WBA Bantamweight world title reign. It was also not his biggest win as a Bantamweight world champion, especially given beat the talented Hugo Ruiz. The bout however is a massively significant win from an historic point of view, and we do love history in this series. The bout saw Kameda travel to South Korea to defeat the relatively Son, who dropped Kameda in the 10th round but didn't do enough to dethrone the Japanese fighter. The bout, which strangely used the 1/2 point scoring system, saw Kameda narrowly retain his title in what was his final defense of the belt.
What made this win so significant is that it was only the fifth time a Japanese male world champion had retain a title on foreign soil, making him the fourth man to achieve the feat, and the second in Korea.
The win was followed by the WBA ordering Kameda to face "Super" champion Anselmo Moreno. Kameda wasn't a fan of that bout, and decide to vacate the title, before out of the ring issues curtailed his career for almost a year. He would returning in November 2014 to score his final win before losing to Kohei Kono in 2015, in the first ever all-Japanese world title bout on US soil. Following that loss retired from professional boxing, though has remained a notable figure within the sport.
Although we do now have fights there is a lot of fights still left to cover in our "Fights We wish we had" series. As a result this series will continue in some form, potentially moving from a bi-weekly series into a monthly, or sporadic series. When we started we had a good list of bouts we wanted to cover in mind, and we want to get through some more of those before we stop.
With that said lets have a look at another potential all Asian fighter we could have had, and we'll also explain the big stumbling block of this one, which would have potentially made it even bigger, if the hurdle could have been over-come.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Koki Kameda
Although some of the other fighters we have in this series are more logical ones, and much more competitive ones, we always liked the idea of the then WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka up against the then WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Koki Kameda. We full appreciate this wouldn't have been the best fight, the most competitive of fights or the more exciting, but it would have been one we'd have still absolutely loved.
For this bout to be at it's biggest it would require both men to be holding world titles, and we are accepting Kameda's WBA "regular" belt here. With that in mind we are probably looking at this fight taking place in 2012 or 2013.
Interestingly Kameda won his WBA title in December 2010, to become a 3-weight champion, whilst Yamanaka had to wait 11 months longer to pick up the WBC title. In the window where both were champions Kameda made 6 defenses, including one just weeks after Yamanaka won his title. Yamanaka on the other hand made 5 defenses before Kameda vacated. That's a good, solid window for this fight.
In Shinsuke Yamanaka we have a viciously hard hitting Japanese southpaw who was a natural Bantamweight. He was a boxer-puncher, who loved to work at range, get full extension on his shots and quickly became one of the faces of Japanese boxing with with his explosive power, charming personality and exciting bouts. Although he wasn't regarded as the best in the division early in his reign he did become the top man at Bantamweight, in the eyes of many, before he was dethroned in 2017 by Luis Nery in the first of two controversial fights between the men.
Fighting out of the Teiken stable Yamanaka was able to take wins over a real who's who of the division at the time. That included wins against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. He also had a notable Japanese title reign that included a brilliant win over Ryosuke Iwasa.
Although Yamanaka was the more exciting fighter and the bigger puncher Koki Kameda was, at least early on, the much bigger name. Kameda had won the title to become a 3-weight world champion, adding the title to a collection which had included the WBA Light Flyweight title and the WBC Flyweight title. He wasn't a big name due to his WBA "Bantamweight" title but due to his brash attitude and charisma. Those who watched him were mixed between those wanting him to win, and those wanting him to get the comeuppance for his loud mouth and cockiness. It made him a figure of major interest in Japan and the big star of Osaka.
Style wise Kameda was a quick, speedy fighter but one with a tight guard, swift foot work and lovely hand speed. At times he could get very lazy, he could get handcuffed easily and could sleep walk though contests. When he got going however he was a joy to watch. Sadly at Bantamweight the general pattern of his fights was to be lazy, be defensive and then try turning it on late, when his opponents tired. This was something that resulted in a lot of very close wins during his Bantamweight reign.
How would we see it playing out?
Lets begin with the obvious. The crowd here would be amazing. The pro-Yamanaka fans were some of the best, the pro-Kameda fans were often loud and boisterous. Big all Japanese bouts don't happen a lot and that would have poured fuel on to an already loud and excited fan base. This would have been massive news. It would have taken a long build up, with NTV and TBS both needing to sort a deal that made sense, but when that was done we would have one of the biggest fights in Japanese boxing history.
Unlike many of Kameda's Bantamweight opponents Yamanaka was a huge puncher, with only Hugo Ruiz really matching him there in regards to Kameda opponents, he was also a very skilled boxer, who could fight for 12 rounds when he needed to. We see those two things being big issues for Kameda, who would struggle with the power, tempo and size of Yamanaka. At range Yamanaka would control behind his straight left and his often under-used jab.
That's however not to say Kameda wouldn't be able to do anything. The Osakan is a smart fighter, he wouldn't just stand in front of Yamanaka but would move, have his tight guard up and make Yamanaka chase him. He would also look to land his counter right hook in the battle of southpaws. That shot could be an issue for Yamanaka, due to it's speed and the surprise element, but it would still be a risky shot for Kameda to throw as he would have to get close.
We suspect the low output nature of Kameda, in front of a big power puncher like Yamanaka would not be a great tactic. Whilst Kameda is defensively tight, and has got quick footwork, we see him being target practice at range, countered when he rushes forward and slowly broken down. In the middle rounds, or maybe a little bit later, we see Yamanaka lowering the boom and taking him out, likely beating the fight out of the smaller man rather than cleanly knocking him out.
Would history of been changed?
As with every All-Japanese world title unification bout featured in this series things would indeed have been changed.
Firstly we think that we wouldn't have seen the bout between Koki Kameda and Kohei Kono if this bout had happened. Had Kameda been flattened by Yamanaka there is little chance he would ever have faced another Japanese opponent. Notably Kameda only fought two in his career, the first was Daisuke Naito and the second was Kono. Had Yamanaka taken him out we're confident he'd have avoided a Kono bout.
Secondly Yamanaka would have been an even bigger star than he was, potentially even earlier than he was. Beating Kameda would have given him a massive rub and he'd have seen his profile boosted massively for beating Kameda, both domestically and internationally. This could, although it's not assured, have opened the door to fights in Las Vegas, as he often spoke about. That could, potentially, have included a bout with the then WBO champion Tomoki Kameda, who was fighting in the US in 2014 and 2015. If Kameda wanted revenge for his older brother's loss this would have been a great chance for Yamanaka to make his US debut.
It would also have, potentially, rushed his bout with Anselmo Moreno, rather than making us wait until 2015. It needs to be remembered that Kameda only abandoned the belt when he was ordered to face Moreno in 2014, so to have seen those titles unified before Moreno lost to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 would have been amazing. Had that happened there's a good chance that Payano would never have become a world champion...which could have denied us the iconic KO scored by Naoya Inoue against Payano in the World Boxing Super Series.
Looking deeper down the rabbit hole there is a lot of different ways history could have been changed, but the ones that seem most likely are that Kameda would have ended his career earlier and Yamanaka would have been a bigger star. Anything further than that really does depend on the machinations of the alphabet boys, and how much they would be swayed by the potential sanctioning fees that Yamanaka's bouts would pay
This past Saturday we saw the really surprising news break of a rematch between Koki Kameda (33-2, 18) and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (90-5-2, 47), with the bout scheduled to take place on May 5th. The fight seemed to be very much out of left field, despite Kameda talking about a ring return since the very start of this year, in what was said to be planned as a one off for the former 3-weight world champion.
Over the last 24 hours however things have been revealed in regards to both fighters, explaining that both have a motivation to take this fight, and that's the need for money.
For those unaware these two men fought back in March 2010, with Wonjongkam travelling to Japan and dethroning Kameda of the WBC Flyweight title, reclaiming a title that the Thai had held from 2001 to 2007. The Thai icon would hold the title, in his second reign, from the win over Kameda to 2012, when he was upset by Sonny Boy Jaro. He would goon to fight 8 times after that, going 7-1 (4) with a loss to Rey Megrino the only black mark on his record.
When he retired in 2013 Wonjongkam had fought 97 times in career that had began in 1994, at the age of 17. He had gone 22-2-2 (8) in world title fights and had scored notable wins against Malcolm Tunacao, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Daisuke Naito (twice), Gilberto Keb Baas, Tomonobu Shimizu, Julio Cesar Miranda, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Edgar Sosa.
Sadly reports in the Thai press suggest that Pongsaklek was having money problems as far back as 2013, with women and gambling. That lead some fans to give the former fighter some sympathy, but other in Thailand had little to give, stating his lack of discipline and blaming him for not investing wisely.
Kameda's last fight came in 2015, against Kohei Kono in the USA, and despite losing that 3 weight former world champion didn't look like a man who was shot. Instead he was just up against a stylistic nightmare in Kono, who was too busy, too tough and too strong for the more naturally gifted Kameda..
Given the financial issues both men have found themselves in it could be that this supposed one off bout, will not be a one off for either men. We have seen fighters return to the ring in later life in Thailand, with a recent Muay Thai bout between 45 year old Samson Dutch Boy Gym and 48 year old Veeraphol Sahaprom, and seeing Pongsaklek return again wouldn't be a surprise. For Kameda, who is 31, this bout may well kick start a fully fledged comeback going forward, if he financially needs to. He's a trainer himself at Kyoei but will be well aware that having one last run as an active fighter will be better financially than just training the likes of his brother Tomoki Kameda.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces