Have fist, will travel: Tomoki Kameda leaves his native Japan to build his career in the hard-knock Mexican ranks

He left the nest and his homeland in a single, 7,000-mile leap of faith in his fists. When Tomoki Kameda was but 15 years old, he departed his native Japan and relocated to Mexico, where he’d earn the second of his two nicknames.

Tomoki Kameda

Unbeaten 118-pound champion Tomoki Kameda left his native Japan as a teenager to pursue a boxing career in Mexico.

The first: “Kameda-ke Saishu Heiki,” which translates to “The Ultimate Weapon of the Kamedas.”

The second: “El Mexicanito” or “The Little Mexican.”

The former is a testament to his eminent status in one of boxing’s most eminent family of fighters, with two older brothers who are former world champions.

The latter, maybe even more telling, underscores the degree to which he’s been able to distinguish himself from said family, embracing the boxing tradition of a country that has embraced him right back.

For Tomoki Kameda, 23, it all began eight years ago, when he moved halfway around the world to build his boxing career in earnest.

“I just decided with my father that I wanted to be different,” he says. “My other two brothers did their whole careers in Japan, and I really wanted to take on something more challenging." 

“In the weight class I was in, there was a ton of talent in Mexico,” he continues, “so I thought it would be great to go over and learn Mexican schooling, which is some of the best in the world, and combine it from what I know from Japan.”

Kameda did so impulsively, with little-to-no knowledge of what he was getting himself into.

Not only did he jump off the deep end, he did a cannonball on the way down.

“I knew nothing of Mexico,” Kameda says in Spanish, speaking through his advisor and translator Luis DeCubas Jr. “Obviously it was very different—the culture, the language, everything. I didn’t speak one word of Spanish. So things were very difficult for me, but as I got used to the culture and got used to the people and started to speak Spanish, I just filled that hole.”

The fighter that Kameda has since developed into is a synthesis of the styles of the two countries he divides his time between: He possesses the technical boxing prowess and peerless conditioning often associated with Japanese fighters, but he works the ring with the aggressive, attacking manner that’s long been a proud Mexican trait.

“They’re two great styles that I do well,” Kameda says. “But I like to do a little bit of everything. There’s a little bit of American style in my game. I also work with a Cuban coach, so I get a little bit of Cuban schooling. I’ve always been very open to try different arts.”

It’s worked thus far: Kameda remains undefeated at 31-0.

Already a popular fighter in both Japan and Mexico, Kameda is now working to build a name for himself here.

His next bout, against fellow 118-pound titlist Jamie McDonnell on May 9 in Hidalgo, Texas, which will air live on CBS at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT, will make three U.S. fights in a row for him.

Third in birth order among the Kameda brothers, he says that he intends to become first in name recognition.

“It’s a real exciting time,” he states. “I plan on being a superstar.”

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