By Jake Donovan
Koki Kameda has been here before, in every sense of the phrase. A historic title bout, fighting in the United States, a win away from entering the record books – none of this is new to the eldest of the fighting Kameda brothers heading into his super flyweight title challenge versus Kohei Kono.
The two collide on Friday, October 16 at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Ill, serving as the chief support to a light heavyweight clash between Andrzej Fonfara and Nathan Cleverly. Both fights will air live on Spike TV in the United States.
The venue played host to Kameda’s last fight and his stateside debut, which took place last November in an intended rust-shaker following nearly a year away from the ring. Despite the bout being just his second in the span of 23 months, Kameda still feels good about chances of becoming the first fighter ever from Japan to win a major title in four weight classes.
“I am in the best shape of my entire boxing career right now,” insists Kameda (33-1, 18KOs). “I spent five weeks in Las Vegas training with Ismael Salas and that was best thing I could have done. I didn't do anything but prepare for this fight.”
The Kameda family is in dire need of a win. Younger brothers Tomoki and Daiki are a combined 0-3 on the year, including losses by both on the same show in September.
Tomoki’s unbeaten record and bantamweight title reign ended in a loss to Jamie McDonnell this past May in Hidalgo, Texas, also coming up short in their September rematch in Corpus Christi. The latter show saw Daiki return following a 21-month hiatus, only to suffer an upset loss to Victor Ruiz.
The run of bad luck in the Kameda family as of late, coupled with Koki’s inactivity, has Kono (30-8-1, 13KOs) feeling good heading into his stateside debut. The 34-year old from Tokyo looks to make the second defense of his second tour as champion. His previous outing nearly saw two consecutive one-and-done title runs, as he was held to a draw versus unheraled Norberto Jimenez last December.
“Kono promised the Japanese press and his fans that he would knock me out... that's about the last thing that is going to happen in this fight. I find that funny,” quips Kameda, who also refuses to get lost in the historical angles that come with the bout.
In addition to his pursuit of becoming Japan’s first-ever four-division champ – having previously reigned at junior flyweight, flyweight and bantamweight – the Spike TV-televised co-feature also marks the first time two fighters from Japan meet in a world title fight in the United States.
Two years ago, Kameda was more of a spectator as his brothers put in the work to twice get the family into the Guiness Book of World Records. Tomoki’s title win over Paulus Ambunda in Aug. ’13 marked the first time ever three brothers won titles at separate points in their career. One month later came a title win by Daiki, making it the first time ever three brothers held belts at the same time.
Daiki and Koki both saw their bantamweight title reigns comes to an end by year’s close. Daiki dropped a split decision to an overweight Liborio Solis in Dec. ‘13, with both fighters eventually abandoning the division. Conversely, Koki made his final bantamweight title defense that same month before deciding to drop down in weight to super flyweight.
A ban at home in Japan forced the family to seek opportunity in the United States. The eldest Kameda made his debut last November, scoring a knockout win on the undercard of younger brother Tomoki’s 12-round win over Alejandro ‘Payasito’ Hernandez in Chicago.
Now returning to the very same venue, Friday – despite all that it represents from a storyline perspective – is yet another night at the office for the confident southpaw.
“This is the first time two Japanese have fought for a world title in the United States, but I don't have any special feeling about the historic nature,” insists Kameda, who turns 29 in November. “This is just another fight for me because every single fight I'm in is equally important to me. Even a four-round fight is (life-and-death) for me.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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