Whilst boxing fans in the West know all about the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry they may not realise that Asia has some similarly interesting rivalries with great history and great match ups. One such rivalry is the long-standing Japan v Thailand rivalry which had been one of the standout rivalries in world boxing.
If you've followed the rivalry you'll be well aware that Thailand is really dominant on home soil. Japanese fighters have had one worst records in world title fights when they've had to travel to Thailand and whilst the rivalry is a good one it's been hugely one sided when a Japanese fighter has travelled.
When it's been the Thai fighter travelling however the rivalry is much more interesting with a more even spread of results.
The next chapter in this great rivalry comes on March 26th when Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (62-3-1, 26) travels over to fight Japan's teak tough Kohei Kono (29-8, 12) for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title, a belt both men have previously held in one form or another.
Of the two it's Kaovichit with the longer and more established career. He began boxing way back in 1996 and quickly established himself on the Thai scene winning the PABA Flyweight title on his debut. After running up more than 20 straight wins he then fought Eric Morel in a world title fight. Morel proved to be too strong for Kaovichit but it was clear that the Thai was, one day, going to become a world champion.
Around 5 years after Kaovichit lost to Morel he returned to the world level and came incredibly close to claiming the WBA Flyweight title when he fought to a draw with Takefumi Sakata. A rematch with Sakata the following year, 2008, finally saw Kaovichit becoming a world champion aged 32.
The Thai's reign was somewhat short lived with him losing the belt 14 months later to Daiki Kameda after 2 successful defences against Japanese fighters, including Kameda before losing a rematch to him.
Amazingly since losing to Kameda back in 2010 Kaovichit has racked up 14 wins from 15 bouts, including a notable split decision victory late last year over Japan's Nobuo Nashiro for the WBA interim Super Flyweight title. That victory over Nashiro saw Kaovichit taking his record against Japanese fighters to 4-1-1, a shocking figure considering how many fights he has had in his long career.
Aged 33 Kono hasn't had a career nearly as long as Kaovichit but it has been a career full of ups and downs and numerous tough, hard fights.
The Japanese fighter began his career in 2000 and surprisingly he lost on debut and he lost again in his 10th pro bout to drop to 8-2. By that point few would have expected Kono to emerge as a force on the world stage though the hard man from Tokyo kept with the sport and made sure he improved rather than accepted that he wasn't going to ever be that good. His improvement paid off in 2007 when he claimed the Japanese Super Flyweight title with a victory over Teppei Kikui and later added the OPBF title to his collection with a victory over Eden Sonsona.
Kono's short burst of success came to an end in 2008 when he lost in his first world title fight, dropping a very close decision to Nashiro in a bout for the WBA Super Flyweight title. Although Kono lost he proved he was around the world level and just 2 years later he had earned himself a shot at the WBC Super Flyweight title. Unfortunately for Kono he came up short a second time, losing to Tomas Rojas, despite dropping Rojas in the final round.
Fortunately for Kono he managed to win a world title in his third shot, upsetting Thailand's Tepparith Kokietgym for the WBA Super Flyweight title. It had taken him 3 attempts but finally he had climbed the summit and his hard work had been rewarded. Sadly for Kono his reigned lasted just a few months before he lost a thrilling battle with Liborio Solis of Venezuela.
With Kaovichit we have a fighter who is experienced, obviously, though not one with much power. A problem at the world level where he had never stopped a world class fighter other than Sakata. He has instead relied on his speed, movement and combinations to get as far in the sport as he's gotten. It's obviously worked for him in his prime but at 37 he's slowing and his stamina doesn't allow him to carry it off for 12 rounds any more. He showed his age in the Nashiro bout where he started very well but looked completely spent in the final few rounds and against another pressure fighter he could well have come undone completely.
In Kono we have an aggressive fighter who fights very well by bringing the pressure, relying on his toughness and mentality of trying to grind fighters down. His biggest win, the stoppage over Tepparith, proved that Kono can bang but usually he forces opponents to be dragged into battles of attrition something that should really work in his favour against Kaovichit, as long as he can cut the ring off and make the early rounds hard.
Stylistically we can't see Kaovichit beating Kono, especially not in Japan with their careers where they are right now. In their primes this would have been a genuinely interesting match up though we do feel that right now Kono has a lot left in the tank than the Thai who is ancient for a fighter in the lower weights. We expect this to be similar to the Kaovichit/Nashiro fight though Kaovichit's feet and work rate drop earlier and Kono starts to turn up the heat quicker than his country man did. We're expecting that Kono's work rate will pay off with Kaovichit being stopped in the championship rounds after some thrilling exchanges.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
What once seemed an impossibility for Japanese boxers, could amazingly happen twice inside just a few weeks.
When Koki Eto defeated Kompayak Porpramook in a thriller on August 1st Eto became the first Japanese born fighter to win a world title fight in Thailand.
On September 3rd, just weeks later, Nobuo Nashiro (19-5-1, 13) looks to repeat the trick as he travels to Bangkok to take on Thai veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit (61-3-1, 26) for the WBA "interim" Super Flyweight title.
Although both men have very different looking records they are both former world champions and have both only ever lost in bouts for world titles, a rather staggering fact.
The Thai, a former WBA Flyweight champion, is by far the more experienced fighter. He not only has 65 bouts under his belt, but he has been a professional since 1996 and fought in a staggering 536 professional rounds. Like many Thai's however many of those bouts have come against weak opponents as he's traded on quantity of opponents as opposed to quality.
On his debut Kaovichit claimed the PABA Flyweight title and after defending it for almost 6 years he fight in his first world title bout. Unfortunately for Kaovichit he had to travel to the USA to face then then WBA Flyweight champion Eric Morel. Despite putting up a good challenge Kaovichit was stopped in the penultimate round by the Puerto Rican after being dropped earlier in the round.
Kaovichit would have to wait 5 more years for his second title bout. This time he'd be controversially denied a victory as he fought to a draw with Takefumi Sakata, against for the WBA Flyweight title. Although many had Kaovichit winning he was deducted a point with just seconds left that saw him held to a split decision draw.
It was 3rd time lucky just a year later as he faced Sakata in a rematch and stopped the Japanese fighter in 2 rounds for the title. After a couple of close defenses Kaovichit would lose the title to Daiki Kameda and suffering his second defeat.
Since the loss to Kameda, Kaovichit has faced limited opponents with the only one of note being Luis Concepcion, a man who genuinely destroyed Kaovhicit in a WBA interim title bout. Kaovichit was dropped 3 times in just 90 seconds before the referee waved off the contest.
Nashiro is significantly younger in every which way than the Thai. He's 5 years younger in terms or "real age", with just 25 professional contests he's had less than half of the bouts of Kaovichit and with just 190 rounds to his name there is more than 340 rounds of difference.
Despite the relative "inexperience" of Nashiro he's a certified world level fighter. He was rushed to a world title world title fight and amazingly won the WBA Super Flyweight title in just his 8th contest defeating the experienced Martin Castillo for the title.
Unfortunately Nashiro's reign didn't last long and he would lose the title in a notable upset to Alexander Munoz less than a year after winning it. Despite the loss to Munoz it wasn't long until he reclaimed the title winning the vacant belt in a narrow victory over Kohei Kono.
Sadly Nashiro's second reign was no better than his first and he would lose the belt in his 3rd defense being beaten by Hugo Fidel Cazares of Mexico. Since the loss to Cazares, Nashiro has lost 3 more world title fights being out pointed by Tomas Rojas, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Tepparith Kokietgym. Unfortunately those 3 losses have been only notable bouts following the Cazares bout.
At Flyweight Kaovichit was a strong willed fighter, as most Thai's are. He wasn't the cutest in the ring or the biggest banger but he had enough power to hurt opponents if he caught them clean and had the tenacity to grind down opponents. Unfortunately as well as lacking KO power he also lacked the world class durability that could well have helped to make him a star. Offensively he was reckless, especially with his right hand but you seemed to always be in for some excitement when he was in the ring.
Unfortunately Kaovichit, as we found out against Concepcion, is starting to pay for his long career with diminished punch resistance. Concepcion is, admittedly, one of the hardest hitters in the lower divisions but every punch seemed to send Kaovichit in to panic mode, perhaps signalling that he's a done fighter in, and around the world title scene.
Nashiro is one of boxing's enigma's. At his best he's a nightmare for anyone. Hard working, impossible to discourage and he hits hard enough to make any fighter think twice. He can be out boxed and out worked but he will never be out toughed, in fact it'll be a long time before anyone can out tough him.
Whilst Nashiro is prototype hard man in the ring he does have several notable issues. He's flat footed, his hands aren't the quickest and he can be made to look one dimensional by a pure boxer type. He won't give anyone an easy night but he also lacks the concussive power to make his own nights easy at the world level.
Whilst Japanese fighters have always had poor fortunes in Thailand it's hard to see Nashiro losing to this version of Kaovishit. In their prime it would have been a great fight but right now a naturally bigger, stronger, younger, fresher Nashiro just seems too likely to wear down Kaovichit. The way to beat Nashiro is by using your legs and movement to stay away from him, and at 36 it's hard to imagine Kaovichit's legs having the spring and energy in them to keep him safe for 12 rounds.
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