We're back with another Shocker this week and it's an interesting one that often goes overlooked by fans just a decade on, yet at the time it was a huge surprise and gave one the top Flyweights of the modern era a second chance to shine at the top of the division. It was, at the time, one of the most surprising results, and is still a huge shock when we look back at the results from 2010.
March 27th 2010
Ariake Colosseum, Tokyo, Japan
Koki Kameda (22-0, 14) Vs Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (74-3-1, 38)
Going back just over a decade now the Kameda brothers were the big story in Japanese boxing. Daiki Kameda and Koki Kameda were two of the biggest names in Japanese boxing and their younger brother, Tomoki, was starting to generate some buzz as a fighter in Mexico. The trio were regarded as the future of Japanese boxing and Koki was really looking like a star. He was a man who had strong support in Japan and also had enough haters in the country to have fans wanting to see him get beat. He was un-Japanese in many ways. He wasn't humble and respectful, but instead a loud mouth and someone who seemingly got his attitude from professional wrestling, rather than the roots of Japanese boxing culture. At this point he was 23 years old and had seemingly found his weight, having put in a solid, if dramaless, performance to beat Daisuke Naito for the WBC Flyweight title. A title he was expected to hold until he eventually out grew the weight.
Kameda's first challenge as the champion was a mandatory defense against Thai veteran Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. The Thai veteran was a legendary fighter by this point, but was assumed to be past his best. In fact at 33 and with almost 80 bouts to his name it was though he was losing to father time. He had lost the WBC title in July 2007 to Daisuke Naito and had failed to recapture the title in a rematch, their 4th bout, when the bout ended in a split decision draw. That loss to Naito had come almost 3 years before this bout and in the interim his only win of Note was an "interim"title fight against Julio Cesar Miranda. At his best Wonjongkam was something special. He was an under-rated puncher, as Malcolm Tunacao and Daisuke Naito would attest to, but also a talented boxer, who knew how to use the ring, he was smart and well schooled. At 33 years old however he was ancient for a Flyweight, and was the clear under-dog against the rising star of Japan.
Not only was Wonjongkam seen as old but was also up against things, travelling to Japan for the bout. Whilst judging in Japan for bouts like is done, typically, by neutral judges, it was still assumed that the atmosphere and occasion would still sway the judges to favour the unbeaten Japanese champion. Afterall, it had happened in the past, when Kameda beat Juan Jose Landaeta for the WBA Light Flyweight title in 2006.
From the off Wonjongkam pressed forward, taking center ring and being the aggressor whilst Kameda got on the back foot, circled on the outside of the ring and didn't really let his hands go much. When Kameda did open up he looked much quicker, but for much of the round seemed happy to be very conservative and negative, rather than making his youth count. There was very few in and out raids and he looked to be more focused on making Wonjongkam miss, rather than landing anything himself. The same pattern also seemed to be seen in round 2, though Kameda was certainly caught cleaner in the second than he had in the opening round and seemed to be holding on after a good single shot.
Kameda seemed to be off to a bad start and he really struggled to get things going. He was much quicker, but much more timid than Wonjongkam, who was doing enough to wins rounds, without doing a lot. His 33 year old legs weren't being forced to work hard, he wasn't needing to mov through the gears nor was he ever being backed up by Kameda who used a tactic that would become rather a regular thing with him. Ultra negativity. In round 5 however Kameda did get a break, as the WBC's accidental foul rule saw Wonjongkam being deducted a point after a head clash. It was however scant consolation for Kameda who still seemed like he hadn't woken up or realised he was being out boxed by a 33 year old who seemed to be fighting a reserved fight himself.
Thankfully after being cut, by the headclash in round 5, Kameda seemed to finally come awake. It was as if he was pissed off by feeling blood trickling down his face. Unfortunately Kameda really didn't keep his foot on the gas for long, and by the end of the round it was hard to give it to the local star. Kameda did however show more ambition in the middle portion of the fight, and made a legitimate attempt to swing things in his favour in rounds 7, 8 and 9. His best rounds.
Amazingly after 8 rounds one of the judges some how had Kameda leading, 76-75. The other two judges had it 77-75 and 77-74 to Wonjongkam.
After having a few solid rounds it seemed like Kameda was turning the bout around and, at last, making Wonjongkam work at an uncomfortable tempo. He was starting to push around the old man, who had gotten off to an early lead but was going to have to see out the second half of the bout. Amazingly however Kameda let the momentum slip away from him. Rather than keeping up the work rate he had shown after the midway point, and fighting in short but eye catching bursts, he went back to being negative and let the play slip away. It was similar to what we would become accustomed to over the years that followed from Kameda, who showed touches of genius, but lacked a champions mentality.
Instead of Kameda keeping the charge going and trying to pull the bout his way, he got negative again, waiting to counter punch Wonjongkam, who because of his own low output gave Kameda very few opportunities. Kameda managed to have moments, but there was nothing sustained and a good shot from Kameda was never followed up, with Wonjongkam managed to occasionally string his shots together. Even when it was very clear Kameda needed to do a lot more, he didn't. He made no effort to turn the bout around in the championship rounds. He was happy cruising, in the hope that the judges would some how find a way to score the rounds his way. It wasn't to be.
After 12 rounds we went to the scorecards. 114-114, 115-112 and 116-112. A majority decision...that went to Wonjongkam. It was the right call, even if Predrag Aleksic's even scorecard was one that left much to the imagination. The bout was never one that could have been scored even.
After this bout Wonjongkam went on a solid but short second reign, beating Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Takuya Kogawa, and Edgar Sosa before losing to Sonny Boy Jaro in 2012 before retiring in 2013. Kameda on the other hand would win WBA secondary honours at Bantamweight, becoming a "3 weight world champion" in the process, and later clash with Kohei Kono in a bout for the WBA Super Flyweight title, before retiring in 2015.
Remarkably in 2018 these two men got back in ring together for an exhibition which saw Kameda beat up the then 40 year old Wonjongkam in a bout the JBC refused to sanction as a professional bout. By then however it was clear Kameda just wanted a swansong to retire for good on, whilst Wonjongkam was likely happy for an extra payday as part of an exhibition event, even if he did get knocked out.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).