With Saul “Canelo” Alvarez headlining the bill, it was going to take something special to steal the show.
Tomoki Kameda managed to do just that against former world champion Pungluang Sor Singyu in support of Alvarez’s pay-per-view clash with Erislandy Lara in 2014.
In the seventh round, Kameda stamped an uppercut to his man’s forehead and tossed a curving left hook into Sor Singyu’s liver, immediately sinking him and producing one of the most savage knockouts of the year.
The victory marked the second defense of Kameda’s WBO world Bantamweight title. He originally lifted the strap from the undefeated Paulus Ambunda in 2013, joining his brothers, Daiki and Koki, in becoming the first trio of siblings in boxing history to simultaneously hold world championships.
Ahead of his next fight on March 10 in Japan, Kameda told Round By Round Boxing what it was like growing up in a successful boxing family.
“My brother [Koki] was the first world champion in my family,” said Kameda. “I learned a lot from him in my early days and now it is very important to have his support and advice during my workouts.”
Tomoki’s big brothers each retired in 2015. Daiki was a 112-and-115-pound titleholder. Koki did him one better, winning belts in three weight classes. He also recently took over the primary training duties of their 25-year-old brother, replacing their controversial father Shiro at the Kyoei Boxing Gym in Tokyo.
The brother tandem is preparing for ranked Super Bantamweight Mike Tawatchai (42-9-1, 25 KO) of Thailand. The matchup will be Kameda’s first fight in Tokyo in over seven years.
In 2007, Tomoki’s elder brothers were let go from the Kyoei gym along with their patriarch. The Japan Boxing Commission also suspended the three for employing dirty tactics in Daiki’s losing effort to Daisuke Naito for the WBC Flyweight title.
Tomoki had yet to turn professional. Shiro, who had been cautioned for ringside melees and threatening referees in the past, wanted to separate this youngest son from the chaos and suggested he hone his craft in Mexico.
So Kameda went, leaving his birthplace of Osaka behind. He was only 15.
“It was a great challenge for me to leave the comfort of Japan,” said Kameda. “But it was in Mexico where I grew up as a boxer and I became champion. I found a second home and met my wife.”
Kameda was consumed by the culture, in and out of the ring. He quickly learned Spanish, realized a fondness for enchiladas and relished in the kind of ferocious training methods only found in Mexican boxing camps. His assimilation coined the nickname “El Mexicanito.”
16 of Kameda’s first 25 professional contests took place in his new motherland, Tierra Azteca. An unblemished record earned the Japanese-born fighter a world title shot in 2013 and a stateside debut on the undercard of superstar Canelo Alvarez the year after that.
The Showtime Pay-Per-View introduced Kameda to thousands of boxing junkies, including one Al Haymon. The powerful advisor signed him that very next week.
Haymon is certainly a controversial figure among fight fans, but Kameda has no qualms about him.
“I am very grateful to work with Al Haymon,” Kameda said. “Now I have loyal fans in the US.”
Three fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner followed.
First was a mandatory defense over Alejandro Hernandez in Chicago. Then came two closely-contested decision losses to WBA champion Jamie McDonnell in Texas. The WBO refused to sanction the would-be unification match but that did not stop Kameda from challenging one of the world’s most calculated boxers.
Back-to-back defeats, however, meant change was in order and—much like when he was a teenager—so, too, was a trip to Mexico. This time in a new division.
Kameda made his official Super Bantamweight debut last October, squashing Edgar Alfredo Martinez by first-round knockout in Mexico City.
The 122-pound class presents new challenges and opportunities for Kameda. And he is confident that it is the right place for him.
“I feel stronger than ever,” said Kameda. “I’m excited to face the great boxers who fight in this division.”
For now, though, Kameda is focused on his scheduled opponent. Tawatchai, also known as Pipat Chaiporn, is a veteran of over 50 bouts and recognized by the IBF as a Top 10 Super Bantamweight. Making note of his opponent’s experience, Kameda hopes to deliver plenty of action while demonstrating his ever-developing skill set.
“Fans will see a stronger, faster and smarter Mexicanito,” promised Kameda. “I want to fight the best in the division, but now the most important thing is to win this March 10.”
Header photo by Esther Lin/Showtime
Andre Berto enthusiast | Bylines at Bleacher Report and Today's Knockout | Follow me on Twitter for live boxing streams