By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Perennial contender, 36-year-old veteran Valentine Hosokawa (22-6-3, 9 KOs), 139.5, wrested the Japanese 140-pound belt as he dethroned his close friend and defending champ Koichi Aso (22-8-1, 15 KOs), 139.75, by a hairline verdict (95-94 twice, 96-95) over ten hard-fought rounds on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. Valentine previously failed three times to acquire a belt, losing to Shinya Iwabuchi, Man-Wook Kim and Hiroki Okada. But he displayed a great determination to win the national belt in scoring good points in the second half, while the shaven-skulled Aso’s vision seemingly deteriorated with bad bleeding from the third round onward. Valentine’s long efforts finally paid off.
WBO Asia Pacific welterweight ruler Keita Obara (19-2-1, 17 KOs), 146.2, proved too strong and powerful in keeping his regional belt by dispatching compatriot Shusaku Fujinaka (16-8-2, 11 KOs), 147, at 2:19 of the fifth round in the main event. Prior to an impressive knockout Fujinaka fought well with the official tallies after the fourth—38-38 twice and 40-36 for Obara. The taller champ, however, exploded his trademark rights and badly dropped him twice to score a fine triumph. Obara once had an ambitious crack at the IBF junior welter belt against Eduard Troyanovsky only to be demolished in the second session in Moscow, Russia, in September of the previous year. Sicne then, the hard-punching Obara won three bouts straight with two within the distance. He is gunning for his second shot at a world throne either in the 140-pound or 147-pound categories.