On Wednesday night, Kameda Koki won the WBA light flyweight belt in Yokohama on a 2-1 judges decision. A brief glance at the morning papers, Yahoo! polls, and blogs, and it appears that nearly every single Japanese person believes the fight was a fix. Kikko received 13755 emails out of 13767 stating that Kameda clearly lost.
His defeat has become such an obvious fact that the dialogue has shifted towards the sources of bribery. Was it TBS who bribed the judges for ratings? Was it the boxing association in order to crown a new star and raise viewer involvement? Is there a web of intrigue between the fight’s pachinko sponsor, the Korean peninsula, and the Korean judge who ended up giving the match to Kameda?
Professional fighting — whether wrestling, Pride, and K-1 — is well-known to be mob-linked and tends to emphasize the entertainment spectacle over authentic sportsmanship. Everyone loved Rikidozan — and maybe no one had any idea that all his fights were fixed at the time. But Rikidozan actually looked like he won!
The Kameda fix was so poorly played off: The concept was eerily similar to the Rikidozan model — bringing familes together again to watch Japanese fighters battle the world on their home TVs — but they left too much to athletic realities. Kameda could not keep up his side of the bargain by actually appearing to win. And it is a lot to ask of a viewing public hot off the Olympics and the World Cup — true battles based on international standards — to go back to the hybrid fantasy-sports sagas of the past. Instead of crowning a new king by silent sinister manipulation, they ended up pulling out the big guns and sinking the ship.
Thirty years ago, an obvious fix may have led to small grumbles on commuter trains and in office cubicles, but now the suspicious can go online and find thousands of others with the same doubt. No matter if TBS can align their subsidiary publications to their side of the story: this controversy will rage in the online world. The sports papers and shukanshi will add fuel to the fire. The mainstream media is powerless to slow down the momentum.
If anything, this episode further rejects the ridiculous notion that the Japanese public — somehow different from their peers around the world — want to be lied to. But it is only when the fix is so clear that the doubts can be aired and indignation is embraced. When things go 15% smoother, the criminals get away with their chicanery and lingering skepticism gets put aside.
A common declaration of the disaffected is, “This is embarrassing for Japan.” Fans do not see this as a problem of the boxing federation and its affiliate parties: everyone understands that yaochō and bout-fixing is not acceptable on the world stage.