Earlier this month we reported that Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) [栗原 慶太] would be returning to the ring on December 24th to face off with Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) [小林佑樹] in a bout for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title at the EDION Arena Osaka.
Today that bout was officially confirmed, with the Mutoh Boxing gym not just announcing the bout but also the rest of their show for Christmas Eve, a show that will feature bouts involving two hotly tipped prospects as well as the OPBF title bout.
The OPBF title became vacant recently when Mark John Yap (29-13, 14) decided to retire, following a close loss to Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) [井上 拓真] in a WBC Bantamweight world title eliminator.
According to Takashi Edagawa, the head of the Mutoh gym, Yap retired after the loss and went back to the Philippines, hence vacating the title, in what a really surprising move from the Filipino given that he had seemingly secured his status as a top contender. We suspect that Yap will return from retirement down the line, but if not it's a shame his career ended so abruptly after such a close loss and it appears that even Mr Edagawa was surprised by the decision.
Update - On Social Media Yap himself has stated that he's not retired but that his contract with Mutoh gym has expired and that he has returned to the Philippines for the next chapter of his career. His parents are ill and he will be in Cagayan de oro City. It would seem like there is some miscommunication between the two, as the Japanese promoter doesn't seem to be aware that the contract has expired and stated that Yap had complained about neck pain, told he he was returning to the Philippines and retiring.
At the press conference along with Kobayashi and Mr Edagawa was Rio Kuwabata (1-0, 1) [桑畑凜生], who has sent a request to change his ring name to a rather unique one. Kuwabata, who debuted in China back in September, will be up against 34 year old Yosuke Taniguchi (7-5-1, 2) [谷口陽祐] in an interesting 6 round contest.
One other highly regarded prospect on this card is Middleweight hopeful Riku Kunimoto (2-0) [国本陸], who is stepping up to 8 round bouts to face off with Toshihiro Kai (6-10-2, 2) [甲斐斗志広].
The card, dubbed "You will be the Champion 9", seems almost certain to be the final Japanese card before Christmas.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today Japanese fight fans in Osaka had the chance to see the debut of promising former amateur stand out Riku Kunimoto (1-0) [国本 陸], as he took on a Korean visitor, we believe to have been Kyung Wook Kwon (4-6-1).
The Japanese fighter had the perfect start to his professional career, as he dropped Kwon in the opening round. The Korean however showed his toughness to get back to his feet, but never really looked like he could get himself into the 6 round bout with Kunimoto being too sharp, too accurate and too good through out.
Kwon's chin served him well, but after 6 rounds Kunimoto had take a shut out over the visitor, winning with scores of 60-54 and 60-53, twice.
On the same card OPBF and JBC ranked Kota Fujimoto (8-2-2, 2) [藤本耕太] fought to a split decision draw with Tatsuya Terada (6-3-2, 1) [寺田達弥] over 8 rounds, Yosuke Taniguchi (7-5-1, 2) [谷口陽祐] scored a notable upset against OPBF ranked Shachihoko Dragons Keita (8-6-4, 1), stopping him inside the opening round.
The main event of the show saw WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight champion Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) [坂本真宏] score a 5th round TKO win over Korean visitor Ki Chang Go (6-3, 2) in a non-title bout. This was Sakamoto's 5th stoppage win since a 2016 decision loss to Sho Kimura and it's pretty clear that he's hunting a rematch with Kimura for the future.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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