The Premiere Boxing Champions aired on SpikeTV this past Friday, October 16th with an exciting card of boxing. The live event took place at Chicago´s UIC Pavilion, and the main event saw Andrjez Fonfara and Nathan Cleverly duel for twelve rounds. That Fonfara is Polish and Cleverly British should not be lost to the general public, as ¨PBC¨ would seem to be presenting a global vision for the sport.
The co-main event flashes Al Haymon’s global strategy again. With the WBA World Super Flyweight title on the line, Japanese champion Kohei Kono met fellow countrymen Koki Kameda in a match that saw Kameda heavily favored.
It is well documented that Koki and his two brothers Daiki and Tomoki were all signed by Al Haymon and have re-located to stateside. All three have held world championships, with Koki recognized as the most decorated of the trio. When they signed with Haymon, they were already major media stars in Japan, and money-wise, that made them a very hot and lucrative commodity.
Haymon’s signing was a coup. And a lot of thought must have gone into the move by the Kameda clan, who are guided by father Shiro. Japan has a robust but insulated boxing community, and signing with Haymon could literally mean that the Kameda’s can’t just go back to Japan. The break with Japanese boxing gave them all the more attention in Japan.
Kameda was (33-1) entering the match, and he had held World Championships in three weight classes. Defeating Kono would give him a title in a fourth weight class, which would make him arguably the greatest boxer to hail from Japan. The win over Kono would cement his legacy in the sport.
But then it didn’t happen. Kono came in determined, and he fought back from being hurt to drop Kameda. The fight turned into a brawl as the men fought in close, and Kameda was deducted several points for fouls throughout the fight. He really appeared to lose his composure, while the veteran Kono stayed “stoic”, for lack of a better word. Afterwards, all the judges gave the fight to Kono.
For Kameda, the emotion must have been overwhelming. The Japanese press almost immediately reported his retirement. At 28 years old, that may just be spur of the moment, but the news broke in Japan right away.
Now Kameda is still a major name in Japan, and it is there where this story takes a decidedly twenty-first century turn.
Several high-powered figures from the Japanese Mixed Martial Arts world have already emerged, and there is serious interest in making Kameda an offer, possibly for this coming New Year’s eve extravaganza. Though the Japanese MMA scene has shrunk since its glory days 15 years ago, there are a lot of power players that remain and what is commonly thought of as missing is a cross-over star. Enter Kameda. Though he may not be that guy in the long run, it would make for one big payday.
One of these players is a man named Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Formerly the President of Japan’s high powered PRIDE organization before the UFC absorbed the group in 2007, Sakikabara was reported back in April of this year to be planning a return to the Mixed Martial Arts scene.
And phone calls have been made already the Japanese media is reporting. Sakikabara was attending and MMA event called DEEP, and from there several agents from the Japanese scene were contacted.
If it sounds like a gong-show, you are not taking into account the nature of the business in the 21st century. Kameda may be an outsider already in Japanese boxing and unable to return, but a cross-over to MMA will see him receive an offer likely to be in the multi-millions. And that is something that people are going to listen to.
So the notoriously shadowy Al Haymon may be picking up his phone sometime soon and find himself talking to a man every bit his shadowy equal, Nobuyuki Sakakibara. That is may be part of the evolution of combat sports in the 21st century.