The eldest of three boxing brothers, who are popular and respected but not liked in Japan, Koki Kameda burst onto the world scene with his brash ways and flashy skills. Kameda, who is very un-Japanese in his outgoing manner, is a polarizing figure in his homeland.
He collected his first world title, the WBA 108-pound title, in just his 12th fight inside three years as a pro. The result was hotly contested, many believing he lost to Juan Landeata only to be on the winning end of a split decision, which was met with derision by the Japanese media. He elected to do an immediate rematch, this time winning a just unanimous decision.
Making 108 pounds was too much for Kameda who soon vacated the crown and moved up to flyweight (112 pounds). It was to be another three years and eight victories before he met Daisuke Naito for the WBC 112-pound title. The interim fights had clearly allowed Kameda to improve and mature as a fighter as he posted a wide decision win over his countryman.
His first defense saw him meet iconic Thai veteran Pongsaklek Wongjongkam who had previously held the WBC laurels for the better part of a decade only interrupted by a loss to Naito. Many believed this to be a changing of the guard with Kameda’s youth and size aiding him, but as it turned out it was to be Pongsaklek’s final stand as he won a majority decision that saw him win both the WBC and vacant RING magazine belts in handing Kameda his first and to date only loss in the pros.
Kameda’s next step was to head all the way to bantamweight (118 pounds) where he won the WBA belt by outpointing former 115-pound titleholder Alexander Munoz. (Editor’s note: Anselmo Moreno is the WBA titleholder recognized by THE RING, not Kameda. Moreno was “upgraded” to “Super Champion” status by the WBA, thus creating the vacancy for Kameda to snatch what most fans and media call the “regular” title.)
Kameda has tallied six successful defenses with a mixture of solid performances and decidedly average outings. He looks to extend that run on Tuesday when he takes on Filipino John Mark Apolinario in Tokyo.
At times the 26-year-old southpaw has flattered to deceive at times but what can’t be denied what he has achieved. So far he’s 30-1 with 17 stoppages; 10-1 in world title fights and has won major belts in three weight classes.
Anson Wainwright: You meet John Mark Apolinario of the Philippines on July 23. What are your thoughts on the fight and what Apolonario brings to the fight?
Koki Kameda: This fight is a very important fight in my boxing career. Apolinario is Filipino boxer and all Filipino boxers have high motivation from the influence of (Manny) Pacquiao.
AW: It will be your first fight in nearly two years in Tokyo. Your last four fights have taken place in Osaka and Yokohama. What does it mean to you to be appearing in Tokyo again?
KK: Osaka city is my home town and we like it very much. Recently, many my fights were held in Osaka. I wanted to fight in Tokyo city but there weren’t opportunities to fight in there. This time I am very happy to fight in Tokyo.
AW: In your last fight you won a very close split decision over Thailand’s Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym. Can you tell us about that fight?
KK: It was the worst for me. I was not strong when I fought with Panomuloonglek. I’m training harder than before. So I can make good my condition now.
AW: Sometimes people criticize you, believing you are, perhaps, arrogant. What would you say to them?
KK: Of course there are many opinions. Since I am professional, such a thing will continue.
AW: How popular are you in Japan?
KK: I don’t know why I am popular. I appear on some commercials.
I am not on chat shows but I do charity work when I can do it. When my promotion runs an event, we always run as a charity event.
AW: What was it like for you growing up in Osaka as a child? Were things tough for you?
KK: We have practiced with my father. My father’s dream is that all three brothers will be world champions. My father’s training was the running every morning and very hard training in the evening. This continued every day except Sunday. All training was training for all our three brothers to become world champions.
In the history of boxing, three brothers being world champions (at the same time) has never happened.
AW: How did you first become interested in boxing and then take it up?
KK: The influence of my father.
AW: Of course, your two younger brothers Daiki and Tomoki are also professional boxers. Can you tell us about your relationship with each one?
KK: We are brothers, friends, and sometimes rivals. The relationship between the three of us is good and peaceful.
AW: You’re only 26 but you’re already a three-weight world champion. What other goals do you have in boxing?
KK: I don’t have any problem with weight at bantamweight or even super flyweight (115 pounds). Therefore I want to win the super flyweight world title if there is a chance for me.
In the future I would like to win world titles at super flyweight and super bantamweight (122 pounds). My final aim is conquering five weight classes.
AW: What do you think of the bantamweight division and the current champions: (WBC) Shinsuke Yamanaka, (WBA “Super”) Anselmo Moreno, (IBF) Jamie McDonnell and (WBO) Paulus Ambunda?
KK: I think that they are each splendid boxers because they are all champion.
AW: What are your thoughts on Yamanaka, that would be a very rare all Japanese world title fight unification that would be huge in Japan? What do you think of that? How possible is that?
KK: I think Yamanaka is great boxer. It may be destined that we fight if the chance for conflict with him comes. But a new champion may be born in this class. It is my younger brother Tomoki Kameda. He is a splendid boxer with talent that is better than me.
AW: Away from boxing, tell us about your life?
KK: I am interested in various businesses. My life after I retire from the boxing is longer than my career. I have a family and my second baby will be born soon.
Not only the boxing but also the future should be well thought out.
AW: In closing do you have a message for the bantamweight division?
KK: The bantamweight class is said to be in a golden age in Japan. I am proud that I have defended this title six times in this division.
Photos / AFP, Koichi Kamoshida-Getty Images