This one was personal, the kind of nasty fight normally precipitated by another dude insulting your mother, hitting on your special lady friend or—no he didn’t!—eating the last damn slice of pizza.
In a full-contact grudge match, 115-pound champ Kohei Kono (31-8-1, 13 KOs) successfully defended his title against countryman Koki Kameda (33-2, 18 KOs) in an all-out brawl where both guys hit after the bell, clashed heads and ran their mouths (the ref told each fighter to shut up at one point).
If that wasn’t enough, both combatants racked up a number of fouls not seen since the NBA’s Hack-a-Shaq days and seemed determined to imperil the ability of the other man to sire future children (more on that later).
On a chilly autumn Friday evening in Chicago where the temperatures strayed below 50 degrees, the fists flew with the volume and velocity of a massive flock of geese heading south for the winter.
In a scintillating clash that marked the first time that two Japanese fighters battled for a world title on U.S. soil, both fighters shot out of the gate like thoroughbreds, attacking each other like the other dude owed him money.
Each targeted the body early, and in Round 2, this seemed to hurt Kono, who clutched at his midsection as Kameda hammered away. But Kameda then belted Kono low, and the ref gave Kono time to recover.
As soon as Kono got back up, he got his revenge via a short, sharp right hand that sent Kameda down for only the second time in his career.
Kameda’s repeated crotch shots would cost him dearly in the very next round, when he was twice docked a point for straying below the beltline.
But even though Kono was never penalized for low blows like Kameda was, he threw his share below-the-equator shots, and the referee seemed to acknowledge as much. In a rare and bizarre move in Round 7, referee Celestino Ruiz called a timeout, sending both fighters to their corners to seemingly cool off for a bit, then convened them in the center of the ring to tell them that the fight would be ended upon the next low blow.
That didn’t happen, but in Round 9, Kono was docked a point for pushing Kameda’s head down.
Fouls aside, each fighter dug to the body like they were mining internal organs. Both threw a massive amount of power punches, trading heatedly in the center of the ring throughout the night. In all, 679 punches were landed, the second highest in CompuBox history in the 115-pound division.
In Round 9, Kameda staggered Kono with a hard left hook, landing perhaps the best shot of the latter half of the fight. But his stamina seemed to fade as the bout progressed, and Kono took advantage of that, clubbing Kameda with overhand rights.
When the 12-rounder concluded, Kono emerged victorious with a unanimous decision (115-109, 116-108, 113-111).
“If we had fought using movement, he probably would have beaten me. But he decided to trade punches with me, and that gave me a chance to win,” Kono said. “My jab was superb tonight, and my uppercut rarely missed.
“Early in the fight I wasn't sure I could take his power. But after he hit me a few times and I was still there, I started getting confidence.”
Following the loss, a disconsolate Kameda acknowledged that his career might be over at age 28.
“I trained very hard for this fight. I'm very disappointed,” he said. “I was going to make a decision on whether to retire or not based on my performance. I feel it might be time for me to retire.”
Despite Kameda’s words to the contrary, here’s hoping they do it again.
For complete coverage of Kono vs Kameda, check out our fight page.