By Jake Donovan
Christmas came early for Koki Kameda, who was rescued by the judges against Hugo Ruiz in their bantamweight title fight Tuesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
Ruiz was awarded a 117-113 score on the one judge’s card that best reflected the fight. Tallies of 116-113 and 115-113 trumped that card, as well as any semblance of logic.
The fight was by far the toughest for the 26-year old Kameda since moving up to the bantamweight division. The former flyweight king has shown flashes of power and brilliance in this his fourth weight class since turning pro nearly nine years ago.
Against Ruiz, Kameda showed little to convince anyone – least of all his opponent – that he had the firepower to measure up against the division’s big guns. Ruiz exploited this from the opening bell, fighting like a man who traveled all the way from Mexico and of the knowledge that he had to win big in order to win at all.
That game plan was fought to near perfection through the first five rounds, which saw Kameda take repeated right hands and body shots. The southpaw’s only saving grace seemed to come when he was struck with low blows, which produced unofficial time outs and thus, disrupting Ruiz’ attack.
Kameda’s first good round of the fight came in the sixth, when he found his desired distance without going in full-blown retreat. It was the first round in which he convincingly outfought his opponent, and also saw Ruiz hit the deck albeit it from a slip. The dirty side also came out of Kameda by rounds end, nailing Ruiz with a straight left well after the bell.
Ruiz went back to work in the seventh, scoring big with body shots against the house fighter. Kameda went into retreat mode without any real response, though managed to make his presence felt in subsequent rounds. The three-division champ landed several combinations upstairs that finally got the attention of his challenger, none bigger than when he rallied in the tenth.
The sequence provided the necessary rally to give Kameda a fighting chance to defend his title. Confident that he could take his opponent's best punch, Kameda finished strong down the stretch. Both fighters had their say in give-and-take action in the championship rounds, but it was the judges whose final words spoke loudest.
No knockdowns were scored in the bout, a rare occurrence for Ruiz who previously dropped or stopped all but two of the 28 different opponents he’s faced over 32 career bouts. A knockout proved to be his only fair chance at victory on this night.
The first card of 117-113 for Ruiz suggested the possibility of fair play the majority of the ringside panel. The two cards that followed instead produced a reminder of boxing’s ugly side.
Kameda picks up his seventh straight win as his record improves to 29-1 (17KO). Meanwhile, Ruiz suffers his first loss in over five years, falling to 31-2 (28KO) after having won 22 straight.
With the disputed victory comes the fifth successful defense of Kameda’s bantamweight title reign, the third division in which he’s claimed championship status.
Kameda enjoyed his first title stay when he won a 108 lb. belt in just his 12th pro bout, though also in controversial fashion in taking a 12-round split decision over Juan Jose Landaeta in their Aug. ’06 bout which was viewed by more than 50 million fans in his native Japan. The rematch four months produced a more credible result, taking a clear unanimous decision in his lone title defense.
The two fights came before and after Kameda’s 20th birthday, thus outgrowing the division and into a full blown flyweight. He proved his worth with a points win over Daisuke Naito to win the lineal flyweight crown in Nov. ’09, but the reign was short-lived as he lost four months later to the belt’s previous claimant, the excellent Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
In the evening's chief support, former 115 lb. titlist Daiki Kameda picked up his fourth straight win after soundly outpointing James Mokoginta of Indonesia.
Scores were 100-91 across the board for the 23-year old Kameda (26-3, 16KO), who is now campaigning in the 122 lb. Mokoginta watches a five-fight unbeaten streak come to an end just days after his 22nd birthday as he falls to 24-9-2 (12KO).
Tomoki Kameda scored the most impressive outcome of the evening with a 4th round stoppage of Rey Las Pinas (17-7-4, 11KO).
Kameda won every round before forcing the Filipino to wilt at 1:23 of round four. The 21-year old is the only unbeaten fighter among the fighting Kameda brothers, as he advances to 26-0 (17KO). A title fight is on the horizon for sometime in 2013, presumably against countryman Shinsuke Yamanaka.
All bouts aired live on TBS Japan.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox