By Thomas Gerbasi
Fighting spirit. It’s a vague term, one not easily defined, but you know it when you see it.
Yoshihiro Kamegai has it. It’s why when people talk about his June 2014 bout with Robert Guerrero, they rarely discuss the outcome, only that it was a great fight. And when you put on great fights, it doesn’t really matter if you drop one here or there, and promoters will always bring you back.
“It’s important to win, but I have to have that fighting spirit,” Kamegai said through translator Nobu Ikushima. “Even if I win, if I don’t show that spirit, you may not get another fight. So it’s important for me to show that in the ring.”
It’s the most “warrioresque” approach to business you will find in this sport, and it’s why he will be headlining Golden Boy Promotions’ latest Fox Sports 1 card on Friday in Indio, California against Alfonso Gomez. On paper, it looks like an all-action fight that will only add to Kamegai’s growing reputation, and he’s not about to dispute that.
“I don’t think it’s pressure, but I think it’s going to be that type of a fight,” he said with a chuckle.
Owner of 22 knockouts among his 25 pro wins, the 32-year-old Kamegai can obviously crack, but it was in his distance fights with Guerrero, which he lost by unanimous decision, and Jorge Silva, who he drew with in October of 2012, where he showed the chin and grit that all fight fans can appreciate. Gomez has the kind of style that meshes well with Kamegai’s, so does he have to approach a fight differently when it looks promising that it will ultimately go to the judges’ scorecards?
“I have a few fight plans - Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and so on – but the fighter that I’m facing this week is a good technician, he has good footwork, and I guess it all depends on how he comes out,” he said. “I have to make adjustments after seeing how he comes out fighting.”
Kamegai can box and counter, but like most action heroes, once he gets hit boxing takes a back seat to brawling. Again, that’s job security when it comes to television dates, and the Tokyo junior middleweight is fine with the way fans see him.
“I work hard and getting that type of reputation is a motivation for me,” he said. “I think I will put on a fan-pleasing fight on Friday.”
It’s about as close to a sure thing as you can get in this sport, and while life as a flyweight or bantamweight may have guaranteed Kamegai plenty of home games in Japan, as a fighter competing at 147 or 154 pounds, he has to take the trip across the Pacific to get the matchups he needs. Not surprisingly, he’s enjoying the reception he gets in the United States.
“It’s more fun for me to fight here,” he said. “There’s still more that I can improve, but every time I fight here, I get better and better at adjusting and I get more familiar with how to adjust. So I have room to improve, but it gets easier with every fight.”