By Jake Donovan
Another Koki Kameda fight, another close decision.
The trend has far too often become the norm for the three-division champ, but was once again a reality with which he was forced to contend. Kameda fended off a brave challenge from Thailand's Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogy to earn a split decision win Sunday evening at Bodymaker Colosseum in Osaka, Japan.
Scores were 115-113 and 115-114 Kameda, and 116-113 for Kaiyanghadaogym.
Kameda entered the fight on the heels of his controversial split decision nod over Hugo Ruiz last December, fighting Sunday with the mindset of wanting to leave no doubt.
The strategy allowed for the defending champ to jump out to an early lead. Body shots were key in wearing down Kaiyanghadaogym (nee Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym) in the first half of the bout, though Kameda was forced to contend with a bloody nose which he suffered during the middle rounds.
Just when it appeared that Kameda would hit cruise control, Kaiyanghadaogym made a fight of it in the second half. Kameda appeared to slow down, allowing the Thai challenger to take the lead, putting together a strong three-round stretch to create nervous moments for the champion.
Kameda rallied in the 10th, though both fighters were fending off exhaustion at this point. The surge may have been enough to mathematically put the fight out of reach on two of the cards for Kaiyanghadaogym.
It came right on time for Kameda, who was running on fumes in the championship rounds. Kaiyanghadaogym had the hometown fighter badly hurt in round 11, to the point where Kameda was forced to hold on in order to clear his head.
Both fighters had their moments in a free-swinging 12th round, but it was Kameda who dug deep and shook off the stinging from the previous round to close strong enough to leave the ring a champion.
The win marked eight in a row for Kameda, who advances to 30-1 (17KO). Kaiyanghadaogym's stock soars even in defeat, though the official result means his own eight fight win streak comes to an end with his record now at 36-2 (19KO).
Physique-wise, bantamweight looks to be the best fit for the elder Kameda. However, the string of close decisions is indicative of his inability to dish out sustained punishment at the higher weight. The wild southpaw was never a knockout artist, but struggles to keep opponents at bay more so than when he reigned as a junior flyweight tiltist and his brief tour as lineal flyweight king.
The near-loss to Ruiz was indicative of the uphill battle he faces at bantamweight, though the decision was hardly unique. Kameda equally struggled in an earlier title defense against David de la Mora, though ironically it was an early knockdown that made the difference on the cards. de la Mora went on to get dominated by Anselmo Moreno in his next title shot.
As long as fights are close, Kameda's critics will continue to insist he is benefiting from home cooking. But much like baseball's New York Yankees, his sizable fan base is rivaled only by that of the number of detractors he is often forced to disprove.
Sunday's result may not have been clear-cut, but enough to retain his place among the best bantamweights in the world.
More than a year ago, Sonny Boy Jaro was viewed as little more than a Filipino journeyman granted one too many title shots.
Three fights later, Jaro has proven his mettle, despite going 1-2 over that stretch. The latest defeat came in Sunday's co-feature, dropping a close but clear unanimous decision to Hiroyuki Hisataka, whose own career ups and downs are extraordinarily similar to that of his opponent.
Scores were 98-94 (twice) and 96-94 in a competitive fight throughout, but one where Jaro seemed to remain just a step behind. The loss is his second straight, falling to 34-12-5 (24KO). The bout was his first since losing the lineal flyweight championship to Toshiyuki Ishagara last summer, a crown he won with the biggest upset of 2012 in knocking out future Hall of Famer Pongsaklek Wonjongkam more than a year ago.
Hisataka improves to 22-10-1 (10KO). The local journeyman continues to prove to be a tough out for most fighters in and near the flyweight division.
Sunday's win followed a decisive loss to former strawweight Oleydong Sithsamerchai, having also dropped a decision in a failed title bid versus Hugo Cazares in Oct. '10. His biggest feat to date was a win over Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, avenging an early career defeat in becoming the only fighter to defeat the Thai challenger prior to his falling short in Sunday's main event against Kameda.
Both bouts aired live on TBS Japan.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox