March 27th 2010 was always going to be a huge day for boxing, with several title fights, the Super 6 fight (Abraham v Dirrell) and the return for Erik Morales. Though for me it was the start of the day that was most important, well actually it was midday my time, as the unbeaten Japanese fighter Koki Kameda and reigning WBC flyweight champion was to face the former title holder and legendary Thai Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. For the flyweight division this was the biggest fight in an awfully long time.
Wonjongkam was going in with a record almost unheard of in the modern era, he was 74-3-1, a former long term WBC champion at the weight he had lost the title in 2007 by a close unanimous decision to Daisuke Naito. By then Wonjongkam was just weeks shy of turning 30 and was seen as being on the slide. After defending the title 5 times Naito was out pointed by Kameda, a young raw and hungry Japanese fighter with an accurate hard and fast counter punching style who was unbeaten. Kameda had won the title in November of 2009 and he was to defend against Wonjongkam in his first defence. It was seen as an Asian super fight with two of the sports biggest names in the Orient facing each other for a world title.
Going in it was though that the biggest telling points would be either the age of the fighters or the experience. Although it was Wonjongkam’s 79th fight it was only Kameda’s 23rd but on the flip of this Pongsaklek was 32 whilst Kameda was 23. It was felt that youth would see Kameda take the fight on speed and work rate against the much older man.
The problem with being an English speaker watching a Japanese stream with no English commentary is that we miss things and can end up being confused by things. However this was a fight where language barriers mattered little, it was about the two warriors who put on one heck of a fight. The first round was brilliant, close but yet brilliant almost impossible to split. It was a round that the champion likely got just for being at home and the champion. The second round was much cagier with neither fighter really looking that comfortable with either man looking more for the openings. The following few rounds were all one way traffic, Pongsaklek was out working and out speeding the champion who seemed lazy in the ring, maybe even suspicions that he had struggled to make weight.
The 4th round was where the confusion first came in, the WBC’s open scoring was shown on the screen with scores of 38-38, 37-39 and 36-40…problem was they seemed to be favouring the man in blue, who was Kameda. Later thoughts were that the TV company had picked the colours on the scores, but as neither man’s name was written on the screen viewers were confused. Further confusion struck in the 5th for those unfamiliar with the WBC’s rules. Kameda had suffered a cut from an accidental clash of heads, in a WBC fight this sees the “offender” (in this case Wonjongkam) deducted a point leading. Had the cut ended the fight there and then it would have been a draw.
The cut seemed to spur on Kameda who seemed to become more active winning the 5th and 6th and possibly stealing the 7th with a blazing end to the round. By now I had the scores as 66-66 with the point deduction and Kameda seemed to be swiftly coming back into it, father time had perhaps struck Wonjongkam at last. Though Kameda’s success was short lived, Wonjongkam staggered the champion early in the 8th and dominated the round, one of the clearest rounds of the fight but the WBC’s open scoring again lead to more confusion. The scores were 76-75 to one man and 75-77 and 74-77 to the other, confusion in chatrooms with no Japanese speakers wondered why the scoring seemed to favour Kameda when he was surely not 3 rounds up. It became apparent the colour system the TV company was using was the flaw, though this wasn’t apparent until after the fight.
The 9th saw Wonjongkam take it with relative ease before the 10th saw Kameda probably nicking a tight round. The 11th saw the best punch of the fight land onto the body of Kameda who seemed shook up but recovered well, it was a close round though it’s hard to remember anything that Kameda did to try and take the round. The 12th saw the champion really try and win the fight and catch Wonjongkam repeatedly through the rounds though never really hurt him.
It was tense with both men celebrating a close and exciting fight, although it seemed through out that Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was much faster, sharper and active. With people like myself who understand very little Japanese it was hard to tell what was going to be announced as the result. Was Wonjongkam going to be robbed in his opponents back yard? Were the judges happy to inflict Kameda’s first loss? After what felt like an eternity the referee raised the hand of the NEW champion. Wonjongkam was again re-united with his old belt and now a 2-time champion.
Although the fight was huge in Asia it’s unlikely that many in the US or even Europe will have paid it much attention, a huge shame as the two showed fantastic skills and heart and for far too long Wonjongkam has been ignored by the American market, hopefully they will catch him just once before he retires. A really special boxing star.