By Nick Skok
The Ring Magazine Fight of the Decade between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello almost didn’t happen in November of 1982 because a determined mandatory opponent from Japan took his underdog status and used it to his advantage with a surprisingly effective attack in the opening stanza just months earlier. A shock knockdown from a 5’11 southpaw by the name of Akio Kameda sent Aaron Pryor to the canvas in what would later become Pryor’s fourth successful WBA junior welterweight title defense, though not without some difficulty.
On the second floor of a building in Omiya, a city about thirty minutes north of Tokyo, sat Akio Kameda inside a Thai restaurant, closed to the public for the next two hours while he shared his story to No Sparring about that night in Cincinnati.
The very limber 62 year old demonstrated the one-two combination he was looking to actually connect with that he assured me would’ve put Pryor to sleep for good. A snapping speed in his jab-hook told me he could still rather easily shut down any would-be bare knuckled hooligan that stepped to him.
The fight itself between Pryor and Kameda started off fast and heavy with Pryor storming out of the corner and throwing windmills. The activity didn’t stop after Kameda landed his three straight shots that sent Pryor to the canvas either. Pryor popped up and pushed Kameda into the ropes while ignoring the mandatory eight-count, drawing ire from the ref and the visiting corner. It was the third time to date that Pryor would be sent down in the first round, proving his reckless behavior wasn’t a sound strategy.
Pryor would respond in the second with a straight right that he literally wound up before throwing, and knocking Kameda down. Kameda would recover and land several lefts to the chin of Pryor who again began throwing wildly against the first southpaw he had ever faced to date. With only five seconds left in the round, “the hawk” as Pryor was known by, would send Kameda to the canvas once again after a flurry of shots. Ending the round it was evident that it didn’t matter that Pryor or any media beyond the Japanese in attendance hadn’t seen a single piece of footage on Kameda beforehand. Pryor would do what Pryor was famous for.
Between rounds Pryor would stay on his feet with his corner telling him to end it in the third. Entering the center of the ring with his guard down and looking for a finish, Pryor would get pegged by another left from the visiting challenger that again almost sent Pryor down. A slip and Kameda was on the ground though Pryor got away with hitting him while he was down. Kameda responded in turn with a solid right once back on his feet and then threw Pryor to the ground, showing him he wouldn’t be bullied or intimidated.
Solid straight shots from Pryor would wobble Kameda who defied logic and stayed on his feet. After a tie-up and some posturing, pure exhaustion saw Kameda tumble to the floor a couple seconds after two more shots, that while solid, lacked the zest of what he was stunned with just before.
A case could be made the corner should’ve stopped the fight at the point or when Pryor hit Kameda with two more power rights to start the fourth. Kameda though would fight back with what little he he left in the tank, but against accrue heavy damage. Pryor was throwing wildly and gassed himself out in the latter half of the round instead of measuring his soon to be finished opponent. The chin and heart from Kameda combined with the still mildly erratic style from Pryor got him through the rear of the round.
In the fifth, Kameda regained some composure and put together some nice combinations before an accidental head-butt stymied both fighters. Kameda kept searching for the big shot while Pryor continued throwing wildly, apparently bothered by the previous head-butt. The round ended and gave the fans in Cincinnati more time to enjoy their holiday watching their hometown hero.
An unusual scene played out in the sixth with Pryor hitting Kameda behind the head and Kameda in turn squatting down to avoid the shots. Neither his glove nor his knee touched the floor but the referee nonetheless counted it as a knockdown and gave Kameda the mandatory eight, totally ignoring the previous illegal shots from Pryor who now looked frustrated. Once Kameda got to his feet he was met with a powerful right to the chin that this time led to a legitimate knockdown.
Kameda would get to his feet after what was now officially five knockdowns. Another hard right from the championPryor stirred the referee call the fight in the sixth. The combination that Kameda was looking for never came, and Pryor would wind up going on to face Alexis Arguello five months later. Long after his career ended. Pryor told Soichi Hayashi in the book “The God’s Ring” a chronicle of that night and the two fighter’s reunion twenty-six years later, that Kameda, not Arguello, was the toughest opponent of his career.
Stories that could only stay at the table this evening, continued from the former pugilist and gave this writer tremendous insight into how a fighter lived during the sport’s more popular era in Japan. Kameda would let me share that he believes that Naoya Inoue is a special talent in Japanese boxing today that can’t be stopped, including by the Japanese banned Luis Nery, who some say is his only credible threat at bantamweight.
Kameda’s also offered insights that were more specific including a review of another big fight in Japanese boxing. The two of us rewatched Hiroto Kyoguchi defeat Hekkie Budler and win The Ring Magazine title as he keenly dissected Kyoguchi’s technique while offering probabilities on how the new junior flyweight boss could improve his power and defense.
From being a karate advisor at Teikyo University to spending time with his family, Kameda-san stays busy and still has goals he wants to accomplish.
The respected old-timer has a vast knowledge of the human body and uses that information to treat cancer patients with a form of moxibustion; a practice where one can can burn aromatic plants onto infected areas of the patient or insert them via acupuncture. Kameda hopes to use his personalized Japanese style of medicinal talent in the U.S. in the near future. While he didn’t need to showcase this particular technique tonight, he did say my body looked tired and proceeded to snap my back in three different places in just a few seconds.
When asked if he had any regrets about his career that included a second title shot against Terry Marsh, Kameda adamantly said no. His reflections were warm and sincere as his experience in the ring led him to positive roads outside it as well. The legends of boxing folklore continue to spread one dinner at a time.