By Joe Koizumi
Hard-punching Japanese Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11 KOs), 118, acquired the vacant OPBF bantamweight belt as he dropped compatriot Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-8, 8 KOs), 118, four times, withstood his furious retaliation and emerged victorious with a unanimous nod (all 113-111) over hard-fought twelve rounds on Monday in Osaka, Japan.
The OPBF belt became vacant after former champ Mark John Yap, a Japan-based Filipino, lost to Takuma Inoue in a WBC eliminator this September. Kurihara, from Tokyo, had the local favorite on the deck in rounds one, two and five, but it wasn’t a lopsided affair because of Kobayashi’s persistent retaliatory attack. The twelfth and final session saw Kurihara floor the game aggressor with a vicious left hook—for the fourth time—in the closing second. Without the dramatic knockdown down the stretch it would have been a draw due to the loser’s admirable surge.