Expressive as a stoned eggplant, Koki Kameda smiles approximately once over the course of a 20-minute conversation. His game face is on, and you’d need a scalpel to remove it.
When Koki Kameda (33-1, 18 KOs) does allow his features to soften a bit, it’s not an expression of mirth, but rather a knowing, “did-you-really-ask-me-that?” kind of grin.
The question that elicits this reaction: Koki, what do you think of your youngest brother, Tomoki, claiming that he’s the best boxer in a family of three celebrated sibling fighters?
He shakes his head, a gesture that says it all: Big brother is still No. 1.
In 2006, Koki became the first Kameda brother to become a world champion when he won a 108-pound title.
Six years later, Tomoki would follow suit when he picked up a 118-pound title.
Then, in 2013, the Kamedas made history when middle brother Daiki became a 115-pound champ, marking the first time ever in the sport that three siblings all held world titles simultaneously.
“That what’s our father trained us for as little boys, to become world champions,” Koki says matter-of-factly through a translator, sitting on a stool in the Las Vegas gym he’s been training out of prior to a workout, his near-shaven head as clipped as his words.
Having already made history with his brothers, Koki’s now looking to make some all on his own: When he challenges 115-pound champion and countryman Kohei Kono (30-8-1, 13 KOs) on Friday night in Chicago (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT), he will vie to become the first Japanese fighter to win a title in four different weight classes.
In his homeland, where he’s arguably the nation’s most famous fighter, Koki is known as a brash, charismatic presence, so much so, that he’s been known to ruffle feathers in the past for his lack of deference to his opponents.
Sitting across from him on a recent morning, though, one doesn’t get the sense that this is a byproduct of excessive arrogance or pride—it’s just that he’s been doing this for so long, at such a high level, that his conviction in his abilities manifests itself in an almost offhanded fashion.
Consider that this is a man who, at age 14, fought a world champion in an exhibition bout and, by all accounts, acquitted himself well when took on former 105-pound titleholder Hiroki Ioka in 2000.
He’s been in the spotlight in Japan ever since.
Now the goal is to make a name for himself on these shores, with his title clash with Kono being his second fight in America.
“I want to represent myself with the heart of a samurai here in the United States,” he says.
He’s on his way. Among the eight virtues of the samurai—rectitude, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honor, loyalty and character—putting on airs isn’t one of them.
Nor is smiling, for that matter.
For complete coverage of Kono vs Kameda, visit our fight page.