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.
One of the most requested fighters for this series has been Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. The Thai great is a legitimate modern day legend and his control of the WBC Flyweight title at the turn of the 21st century is something we doubt we'll see again any time soon.
Sadly away from boxing it's hard to find much about many Thai's, like Wonjongkam, though given the requests we have tried to come up with some interesting details about the Thai great as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
1-Wonjongkam's parents owned a garage, and he actually worked there occasionally as a child.
2-Prior to turning his hand to boxing Wonjongkam had fought in Muay Thai. From his Muay Thai career he reportedly ran up a 28-13-1 record, though proved to be a better puncher and promoters noted his punching power, and recommended that he should try boxing.
3-Between December 1994 and July 2007 Wonjongkam lost only 2 of his first 67 fights, as he compiled an excellent 65-2 (33) record. Both of those losses came to Filipino Jerry Pahayahay, who became the first man to beat Wonjongkam, in 1995, and the first to stop him, in 1996. Interestingly a third meeting, in 1998, saw Wonjongkam finally notch a win over Pahayahay.
4-Wonjongkam was the 30th Thai to win a world a world title, doing so when he beat Malcolm Tunacao in 2001.
5- Wonjongkam still holds the record for the shortest world title bout in the division's history, a 34 second win over Daisuke Naito. Interestingly that was the first time the title had been defended inside a round, with the 3 previous opening round victories all seeing the title change hands....including Wonjongkam's own title win over Malcolm Tunacao.
As an aside Interestingly Wonjongkam's technical draw with Hirofumi Mukai, at 47 seconds, was the second time the WBC Flyweight title had been defended in the opening round and is, at the time of writing, the only time a Japanese fighter has avoided a defeat in a world title bout in Thailand.
6--Wonjongkam's lengthy reign as the WBC Flyweight champion wasn't just notable for the length of reign, which was 17 defenses a divisional record, but also the men he beat. In his first reign defended the title against Luis Alberto Lazarte, Daisuke Naito, Gilberto Keb Baas and Tomobu Shimizu before reclaiming the title and beating Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, giving him wins over 5 men who would later win world titles! When we then then add in former or the reigning world champions, Malcolm Tunacao, Julio Cesar Miranda, Koki Kameda and Edgar Sosa we do spot just how impressive Wonjongkam's career was, going 10-2-1 (4) against men who held world titles.
7-Through his entire 98 pro fight career there was only 2 men Wonjongkam didn't manage to beat, and strangely he faced them in back to back fights. The first of those was Hirofumi Mukai, who he had a technical draw with in December 2011, and the second was Sonny Boy Jaro, who he lost to in March 2012. That means Jaro is the only man to hold a win over Wonjongkam and never suffer a loss to the Thai.
8-Wonjongkam's biggest purse came in 2010, when he faced Koki Kameda in Japan, The bout saw Wonjongkam, at the age of 32, roll back the clock and outpoint the 23 year old Kameda, who was 22-0 (14) at the time. He was paid around $300,000 for the fight.
9-Following his retirement Wonjongkam has worked as a trainer at Evolve MMA in Singapore, but is now back in Thailand and has helped train Knockout CP Freshmart, alongside Chatchai Sasakul.
10-In 2018 Wonjongkam returned for an exhibition-style bout with Koki Kameda at the Korakuen Hall. The bout was regarded as an unofficial 6 round Bantamweight clash by the JBC, and saw Kameda stopping Wonjongkam in the second round.
Extra Fact 1 - As of 2015 Wonjongkam was living with his wife, and had no children
Extra Fact 2 - Wonjongkam was regarded as the WBC Boxer of the Deace for the 00's
Extra fact 3 - It was reported that Wonjongkam was paid almost ฿1000000 for his rematch bout with Koki Kameda
The second in our "Top 5 Wins" features looks at another modern icon, as we look at Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (9-15-2, 47). The Thai is a criminally over-looked fighter who is often remembered unfairly as a fighter who only fought in Asia against weak opposition, but the reality is that he fought a lot of fighters who were a lot better than fans realise. In fact of the men he beat numerous ones went on to win world titles in the years that followed, and the way he essentially monopolised the WBC Flyweight world title in the 00's and early 10's is incredible.
So lets have a look at the 5 top wins of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
5-Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (October 28th 2010)
In Pongsaklek's first defense of his second reign he took on the then 14-3-1 (4) Suriyan Sor Rungvisai. At the age of 33 Pongsaklek was seen as being on the way out, and although Suriyan hadn't made his mark on the sport by this point, something he would do impressively in the coming years, though the then 21 year old left a great impression here. Pongsaklek was pushed all the way by a talented, tough, determined foe who came of age. Suriyan would put up an amazing effort, using his youth, energy and toughness. The challenger even threw up at one point yet still continued to press and push Wonjongkam in a bit of a forgotten classic. This was a great fight, a hotly contested battle and in many ways the start of the end for Wonjongkam, who would only defend the WBC title 3 more times. It was also a bout that put Suriyan on the map, before he won the WBC Super Flyweight title
4-Edgar Sosa (October 21st 2011)
A year after beating Suriyan we saw Pongsaklek take on excellent Mexican fighter Edgar Sosa. Sosa was 43-6, 2 years younger than Wonjongkam, a former long reigning Light Flyweight champion and a very, very good fighter. He had lost just once in his previous 32 bouts, and that was a very controversial loss to Rodel Mayol, on paper this looked a huge ask for the the ageing Pongsaklek, and Sosa was in great form. What we ended up seeing here was Pongsaklek out boxing, out thinking, out moving and out fighting the Mexican in what turned out to be one final great performance by Pongsaklek. Amazingly this would be his last win at world level. Sosa on the other hand remained a contender until quite recently, losing to Roman Gonzalez in 2015 and Donnie Nietes in 2016.
3-Malcolm Tunacao (March 2nd 2001)
Of course the win that puts a fighter on the map always belongs on any top 5 list, and that's exactly what we got when Pongsaklek took on WBC Flyweight champion Malcolm Tunacao in 2001. The unbeaten Tunacao was 11-0-1, 7, and had taken the title the previous year with a TKO win over Medgoen Singsurat and had made a defense in Japan against Celes Kobayashi. For Pongsaklek this was supposed to be the first real test, the first time he was facing someone of known quality and the first time the then 23 year old Thai was supposed to be in there with a top quality opponent. Pongsaklek made this look incredibly easy, surprisingly so in fact, as he dropped the Filipino champion just over a minute into the fight and set an incredible all out tempo. Tunacao got to his feet but was dropped a second time not afterwards and then dropped again. He was done within a round. This win kicked off a great reign for Pongasaklek and was one of only 2 career stoppages for Tunacao, the other coming more than 12 years later, in 12 rounds to Shinsuke Yamanaka. This was a huge win, and an incredibly impressive one when we look back over out.
2-Koki Kameda (March 27th 2010)
After losing the WBC Flyweight title to Daisuke Naito in 2007, in their third bout, it seemed like Pongsaklek was on his way out. He was "only" 29 at the time but had had 65 bouts and seemed to be on the slide. Over 2 years later however Pongsaklek would become a 2-time world champion, upsetting the then 22-0 Koki Kameda in a notable upset win. Kameda had been one of the stars of Japan, he was a controversial figure, but a huge star and at only 23 years old he was seen as one of the top rising stars, and was already a 2-weight world champion. Kameda had taken the title from Naito, and yet was unable to over-come the then 32 year old Pongaklek. The Thai legend pressed, pushed, forced the tempo and our worked Kameda, who had the edge in speed, but didn't do enough. This was a great win for Pongsaklek and was a huge win at the time, against one of the biggest names in Asian boxing.
1-Daisuke Naito (Apri 19th 2002) I
When a fighter sets a record that stands more than 17 years later, and does so against a future world champion it's worth making a note of. Especially when the fighters go on to have a very storied rivalry. That is part of what elevates Pongsaklek's first win against Daisuke Naito to the #1 place here. Entertaing the bout Naito was 19-0-2 (14), aged 27 he was seen as being in his physical prime and was a a legitimate title challenger. Despite Naito being a really good challenger, Wonjongkam managed to take him out with 1 powerful straight left hand after just 34 seconds. This blow out win is still the quickest win in a world title bout, one of the all time quickest in world title bouts, and was the only stoppage loss for Naito, who would later go 1-1-1 in a trio of rematches with Wonjongkam. For the historical context of this win, it takes the #1 place in our list of Wonjongkam's top 5 wins.
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).