Chicago - Japan's Kohei Kono survived a punishing low blow in the early rounds to retain his WBA super flyweight title Friday with a unanimous 12-round decision over countryman Koki Kameda.
Kono (31-8-1, 13 knockouts) knocked Kameda down with a straight right hand in the second round of the action-packed fight at the UIC Pavilion venue. Kameda (33-2, 18 knockouts) was penalized by the referee Celestino Ruiz in the third round for low blows, forcing Kono to take a knee at one point.
Ruiz's patience seemed to wear thin in the seventh as he threatened to halt the bout if either of the fighters committed any more fouls.
Kono pressed the attack in the final two rounds, which impressed the judges who awarded him the bout by scores of 115-109, 116-108 and 113-111.
He lost world title fights in 2008 and 2010 before his breakthrough in 2012 with a fourth-round knockout of Thailand's Tepparith Kokietgym for the WBA crown.
Venezuela's Liborio Solis took the title with a majority decision in 2013 but Kono reclaimed it last year with an eighth-round knockout over Thailand's Denkaosan Kaovichit.
Kameda, a 28-year-old southpaw nicknamed "The Fist of Osaka," had won 11 fights in a row entering the Chicago matchup.
"I trained very hard for this fight. I'm very disappointed. 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," Kameda said.
"My stamina wasn't what it should be in the later rounds. I got caught in the second round because I made a mistake I shouldn't have made. He fought very well and I was surprised by his power. I think it's time for me to retire."