By Carlos Costa
Another golden chance for a Filipino boxer to achieve glory will take place on July 23 when Pinoy fighter John Mark Apolinario (17-2-3, 4 KOs) of Sarangani Province climbs the ring in Tokyo, Japan, to challenge Japanese world champion Koki Kameda (30-1, 17 KOs) for the WBA regular bantamweight world championship.
The 12-rounder world title fight has been confirmed by the WBA Championships Committee Chairman Gilberto Mendoza Jr. from the WBA head office in Panama.
The judges for the clash are: Alfredo Polanco of Mexico, Pinit Prayadsab of Thailand and Wan-Soo Yuh of Korea. The referee is Gustavo Padilla of Panama.
For Koki Kameda, a 26 year-old 2-division world champion, the bout will be the 7th defense of the world title he captured in Saitama, Japan, in December of 2010. Prior to becoming the WBA bantamweight champ, the 5' 5½" Koki Kameda was briefly a WBC Flyweight champion.
Meanwhile, the 23 year-old John Mark Apolinario - handled by promoters Sammy G. Gello-Ani and Sampson Lewkowicz - will be making his third straight challenge for a world belt. His two previous tries for the interim WBA bantamweight title against former 2-division world champion Roberto Vasquez of Panama ended in a draw.
KAMEDA VS APOLINARIO: FIGHT ANALYSIS
Will the skillful Koki Kameda outsmart Apolinario to retain his title one more time... or will the shy Apolinario defeat the more accomplished Kameda to stun the boxing world and become a new world champion for the Philippines?
In the mind of many fight fans, to defeat Koki Kameda in Japan, needs to be by knock out. However, Apolinario's record of only 4 knockout wins in 22 fights with total of 160 rounds having only 18% KO power ratio, tells us that the Filipino might not be a hard-hitting fighter.
Nevertheless, the lack of power could be compensated with the good boxing technique, a technique that has improved. Indeed, Apolinario has learned much from his two 12-round title fights with veteran tactician Roberto Vasquez.
In fact, the two fights with Vasquez have helped Apolinario to prepare for his battle with Kameda as Vasquez is a technical southpaw, same as Kameda. During those two clashes - one in Argentina and the other in Panama - Vasquez, a world rated experienced fighter, tried to outsmart Apolinario. But couldn't. The younger Filipino found the way to hold his grown.
Last year I attended Apolinario's fight with Vasquez in Panama, and also, attended Koki Kameda's defense against the strong Nouldy Manakane in Yokohama, Japan.
My conclusion after seeing both warriors in world title action is that Kameda and Apolinario are good smart effective boxers, willing to win with skills, not by being a brawler that attacks in an all out war. This prompts to seriously consider that the fight might be a 12-round chess game with Kameda edging in experience and ring savvy.
I might be wrong, but today - 12 days before the fight - I think that the match will go to the limit.
Furthermore, it seems to me that Kameda used to punch harder when he was the glory-hungry younger flyweight. When he was a 112-pounder, his hand's power and speed seemed devastating, and that took took him to conquer the world title.
Is it possible that that punching power might not have accompanied Koki Kameda as he went up from flyweights to the bantamweights? Yes, it is possible. If so, that would play well for Apolinario.
Also, Kameda's last two fights - against Panomroonglek and Cuatito Ruiz - were razor thin split decision wins that could have gone either way.
I talked to Koki Kameda last year in Tokyo and got the idea that he is a nice, friendly young man and I got a good impression of him. But, according to my friend boxing reporter Kazuto Harada, in Japan not everybody likes Koki Kameda.
"Koki is well known. Everybody knows the Kamedas. Some Japanese like them and some would like to see them lose."
Other Japanese fighters like Uchiyama, Yamanaka, Kazuto Ioka and even Nobuo Nashiro seem to be more appreciated and Japanese fans like to see them winning. But the Kamedas are polarizing. Their father being suspended for bad behavior by the powerful Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) adds to the bad boys image. But some people love bad boys. In short, let's say about the Kamedas that you love them or hate them.
As for the Filipino, this is the third time in his young career that John Mark "The Iceman" Apolinario has been granted the golden chance of fighting to become a world champion.
His fans sure wish that he will seize the big day July 23, carpe diem! But that clash in Japan will not be an easy mission as Kameda is a crafty fighter who do not want to let go the precious crown.
Come July 23 and we will find out.