FOURTH time’s the charm for Luis “El Nica” Concepcion. After falling twice to Hernan Marquez and once to Carlos Cuadras in his first three attempts to capture a major title, the Panama City native finally achieved his dream of becoming a world champion.
He defeated Kohei Kono at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo on Wednesday night. The scores read 116-112 twice and 115-113, all for the new WBA World super flyweight World Champion.
“Hello, my people,” said El Nica on social media after the fight. “I fulfilled my promise and I’m bringing you the title, thank God.”
After shutting out Thailand’s Tanawat Phonnaku on April 27th of this year, the WBA immediately ordered Kono to defend his title against Concepcion, the interim beltholder. Due to both fighters’ fan-friendly style, the bout announcement was well received by fans of the lower weight classes. It was expected to be an all-action affair with Kono, prior to the fight, predicting that it wouldn’t go the distance.
While it certainly had its moments of brutality, with the fighters both suffering cuts and engaging in a handful of vicious exchanges, the bout turned out to be much more tactical than anticipated.
The Panamanian took control early with his timing and footwork, landing notable blows that marked up the champion. He didn’t cede his command of the match until he began slowing in the middle rounds. The change of pace created an opening for Kono to launch his signature high-volume attack and the Japanese champion was able to find some success in the later rounds. He bloodied his opponent in the eleventh but Concepcion’s lead, insurmountable by that point, held up with the officials.
The battered pair posed for a picture after the fight in a sign of sportsmanship. “Look how we ended up after the fight,” said Concepcion. “My respect to Kono for being a great champion and a great rival.”
The options for the new WBA champion, Concepcion, are now plenty. A return home to Panama this winter would be a sweet treat for his hometown fans but the opportunity to headline an event in the United States or Mexico against the winner of Roman Gonzalez-Carlos Cuadras may be too difficult to pass up. Talks of him potentially facing Takuma Inoue in a New Year’s eve matchup in Tokyo are also brewing, as is a meeting with Top Rank’s Rex Tso in Hong Kong.