I have an admitted blind spot when it comes to knowledge of Japanese (and to a lesser degree, Asian) fighters, what with them rarely-to-never fighting anywhere but Japan. But there’s a fight in Japan Saturday that’s very important and I’ve been brushing up enough in recent months that I think it deserves a full preview and that I can manage it. Maybe the importance of Koki Kameda-Pongsaklek Wonjongkam is a little artificial; as title lineage goes, smart boxing people note, we should already have a flyweight champion, and it’s Kameda. But Ring magazine is the chief arbiter of such things, and as far as they’re concerned, Kameda-Pongaklek is for the lineal flyweight championship of the world. It will, at minimum, end the argument — nobody will think the winner of Kameda-Pongsaklek is anything other than the true lineal flyweight champion.
It figures to be a good fight, too. Kameda, the #1 flyweight according to Ring magazine, and Pongsaklek, the #2 flyweight in the world, are kind of like mirror images of one another in some ways. Not physically, in the way they look, but in some basic ways they fight. Both are southpaws who like to leap forward with 1-2s and lead lefts, but are also adept at planting and countering with hooks. Both are very sharp technicians, superb on offense and defense. Both had stirring battles with Daisuke Naito, and I think they’ll do the same against each other. It’ll probably be worth hunting down if you’re up early.
The way in which they are different, so very very different, is in their ages. Kameda is 23. Pongsaklek is 32. That conveys all the advantages and disadvantages you might expect. Kameda is very fast, while Pongsaklek is only moderately so — although, having not seen Pongsaklek’s fights from before the last couple years, maybe he was only ever moderately so. Pongsaklek hasn’t just had a long career for a flyweight, he’s had a prolific one with 78 total bouts. From 1996 to 2007, he didn’t lose a fight. There are some who say he has shown signs of that age. On the other hand, he’s got tons of useful experience, whereas Kameda has really only fought one or two top-notch opponents. Some of Pongsaklek’s opponents were typical Thailand cannon fodder, with four straight fights in 2008 and 2009 against opponents who had never won a pro bout, three of whom had never fought as a pro at all. But you don’t stay on top that long without being pretty good, and he had some quality wins along the way, like two defeats of the aforementioned Naito.
There are other differences. Kameda has solid power; Pongsaklek’s is borderline. Kameda has 14 KOs in 22 wins to 39 KOs in 74 wins for Pongsaklek. Both have some fodder in there, but I think of the two, Kameda’s the puncher. Kameda likes to pick off shots with his gloves; Pongsaklek tends to duck or move. But overall, we’re talking two quality southpaws here with lots of skills and good chins.
I’m going with the younger guy here, though — especially since the last time Pongsaklek fought Naito (for the fourth time) it was a draw and when Kameda fought Naito he beat him cleanly in a hard-fought bout. I think he’s going to beat Pongsaklek to the punch and outwork him, too, in what should be a skillful, hard-nosed affair that ends in Kameda winning a decision. And that would be two excellent scalps for the flamboyant, but ultra-talented, Kameda — maybe even enough to start throwing him into the pound-for-pound honorable mention category.
[The TQBR Prediction Game is in effect. Remember the rules.]