By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On July 13, Tomoki Kameda returns to the US, after 4 years, to clash with Rey Vargas for the WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship.
The younger brother of Koki and Daiki Kameda, Tomoki belongs in one of the most successful families in the history of boxing, with all 3 siblings eventually winning the big one. Unlike most Japanese fighters who stay and train in Japan, Tomoki moved to Mexico when he was just 15 years old, in order to learn more about the sport and to hone his craft. He managed to reach the finals of the Guantes de Oro Tournament (Mexican for Golden Gloves) but lost, ironically enough, to Rey Vargas. Because of his young age, he wasn’t allowed to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games, so instead of waiting, Tomoki decided to turn pro.
Tomoki (36-2 / 20 KOs) became quite popular in Mexico, since he spent the vast majority of his career there, earning the nickname El Mexicanito. His style of fighting used to be quite aggressive, which was evident by his KO ratio. Prior to winning the world title, he finished 18 of his 27 pro bouts. Some of his early career big victories included numerous world title contenders like Eduardo Garcia, Marlon Marquez and Noldi Manakane, plus securing the WBC Silver Bantamweight title.
On August 1st 2013, Tomoki made history on multiple fronts when he defeated Paulus Ambunda, who was 20-0 at the time, for the WBO Bantamweight World championship, in the Philippines. Not only did he become the first ever Japanese boxer to hold a WBO World title, but also after Daiki’s world title victory in September of the same year, the Kamedas earned a place at the Guinness World Records for “most siblings to win boxing world titles”.
As World champion, he adapted a more technical style, a “safer” style, in comparison to his former much wilder approach. El Mexicanito marked 3 successful title defenses, against Immanuel Naidjala, interim champion Alejandro Hernandez as well as former World champion Panya Uthok. Out of all 3, his bout with Uthok was the toughest. With 46 wins on his record and only 2 decision losses, the Thai boxer kept rocking Tomoki in every round, stunning him on multiple occasions throughout the match. The tide turned during the 7th round, when Kameda started nailing Uthok with a couple of uppercuts, thus creating an opening to throw a devastating liver shot that dropped the former champ down for the count. That was the first time Uthok has been stopped in his career. Tomoki was declared “fighter of the month” (July 2014) by the WBO, after that performance.
In May of 2015, Tomoki was scheduled to face the WBA (Regular) Bantamweight Champion Jamie McDonnell, in a unification bout. However, since the WBO wouldn’t sanction the fight, he relinquished his belt so he could compete for the WBA championship. Despite dropping McDonnell in the 3rd, the Japanese challenger didn’t do much in the rest of the fight, thus failing to capture the gold. Their rematch in September saw both men in a very close encounter, going back and forth, in an exciting affair. Tomoki could have been crowned the new champion but McDonnell made sure he was leaving Texas with his belt when he scored a knockdown in the last round, swaying the judges in his favor.
When Tomoki returned to action, after a 13 month hiatus, he decided to move up to Super Bantamweight. In his match with Daniel Noriega (May 2018) we saw glimpses of the old Mexicanito, fighting in a much more aggressive pace, even dropping Noriega in the 5th round. After going 4-0 at this new weight class, he was involved in an interim WBC title fight, this past November, with the EBU European champion Abigail Medina. Kameda controlled the pace from the get go, punishing his rival with fasts jabs, strong hooks and some perfectly placed body shots. In the end, Tomoki earned himself a unanimous decision victory and the interim WBC strap. Now he will finally have the opportunity to meet Vargas in the ring again, for a shot at the gold.
Rey Vargas (33-0 / 22 KOs) has spent the majority of his life boxing. During his amateur days, he accumulated 7 national titles as well as the 2009 Pan-American championship. A year later, he made his pro debut. He was still 19 at the time.
Much like Tomoki, he used to be much more tenacious in the ring. Up until 2016, he had finished 22 out of his 28 fights, including stoppages over former world title challengers like Silvester Lopez, Christian Esquivel, Cecilio Santos and Juanito Rubillar. His speed and reach advantage were enough to give him the edge over most of his opponents.
Vargas’ 1st major win was against former 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Alexander Munoz, in September of 2016. The young Mexican star dropped the veteran four times within five rounds, twice with the right hook, once with an uppercut and finished the job in the 5th with a straight right to secure the WBC International Silver title and the #1 contendership.
In 2017, he fought Gavin McDonnell for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight crown. Despite taking a lot of damage in the later rounds, he managed to survive that and come out with the World championship. Since then, Vargas has defended his title 4 times against Ronny Rios, Oscar Negrete, Azat Hovhannisyan and Franklin Manzanilla. Even though his speed and head movement were still there, his aggressiveness wasn’t. In all of these last 5 bouts, he was content to keep his competition at bay and to just win on the judges scorecards. No doubt this will be the strategy for his upcoming fight too.
All in all, it’s safe to assume that Tomoki vs. Vargas will not be a crowd pleaser. Yes, we are talking about 2 really skilled boxers, with a lot of finesse and technique, but both lack the explosiveness that once made them popular. Vargas is most likely to walk out of California the victor as he’s going to use his reach and prohibit Tomoki from coming near him but if somehow El Mexicanito manages to close the distance, he might have a chance at officially becoming a 2 division world champion. We will find out for sure this Saturday night.
From April 2005 to April 2010 Hozumi Hasegawa (35-5, 15) was the star of Japanese boxing. He was the WBC Bantamweight champion, a pound-for-pound fighter and a man who oozed style and charisma. He wasn't quite the sensation that predecessor Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was, but he was still the star and the face of Japanese boxing. Since 2010 however things have been tough for the Hyogo man who has suffered 3 stoppage losses and has long looked like a fighter holding on to past glories.
This coming Friday we see Hasegawa back in the ring and looking to become a 3-weight world champion as he challenges WBC Super Bantamweight champion Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 32), a huge punching, aggressively minded fighter with a point to prove. He's defending his title for the first time, travelling to a country where he suffered a controversial loss and looking to add a huge name to his record, albeit a faded name.
At his best Hasegawa was a truly brilliant fighter. His record might not show it but he had venom in hands, as Veeraphol Sahaprom found out in their second bout, blistering hand speed and a lighting quick boxing brain. Hasegawa would do what so few can and draw a lead from an opponent, avoid it then counter with a flurry of hard shots.
Fight fans and opponents both seemed to think that Hasegawa was feather fisted but stoppages against the likes of Sahaprom and Vusi Malinga, who he stopped inside a round, showed that Hasegawa had power as well as speed. Sadly though as he got older he got slower and the split second timing that he had in his prime started to fade. As that timing faded his defense began to show cracks and he would go on to suffer stoppages to Fernando Montiel, Jhonny Gonzalez and Kiko Martinez. The loses to Montiel and Gonzalez weren't too painful but he was given a real battering by Martinez in what should really have been his final bout.
Aged 35 and with just 2 wins in the last 3 years ud wonder how Hasegawa has gotten a world title fight but it's clear he knows this will be his final chance.
Ruiz is much less distinguished than Hasegawa but at 29 he's in his prime, at 5'9” he's a huge Bantamweight and with an 82% KO rate he's a really dangerous fighter. It's fair to say he lacks in terms of notable wins, with his best victories coming against Julio Ceja, Yonfrez Parejo and Francisco Arce,but that is one of the very few criticisms that you can make of Ruiz.
The champion won his title back in February when he stopped Ceja in 51 seconds, avenging a 2015 defeat to his fellow Mexican. The defeat Ceja is one of only two losses that Ruiz has suffered in the last 8 years, with the other boxing a split decision in Japan to Koki Kameda, a decision that has left Ruiz wanting to prove a point on his return to Japan. Despite the loss to Kameda the visitor doesn't seem to be worried about the conditions in Japan and seemed to suggest that he wanted to return to defend his title in the country.
Although Ruiz is flawed, particularly in his defense, he is a very devastating and powerful fighter. He's the type of guy who hurts anyone when he lands cleanly and can't be taken lightly, as Ceja found out. He's heavy handed in both hands. Powerful, physically strong and well schooled. He's a little loopy with his shots but they have so much venom that fighters don't seem willing, or capable of, taking advantage.
Ruiz against a prime Hasegawa would have been a brilliant match up that we'd have looked forward too knowing that it could go either way. Against this Hasegawa however we can't see anything but a win for the Mexican who we suspect will be too big, too strong, too fresh,too heavy handed and too powerful for the Japanese veteran. Hasegawa might have his moments but we can't imagine him hearing the final bell here.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.