Earlier today at the Korakuen Hall Japanese fans got a treat as the heavy handed Keita Obara (14-1, 13) retained the OPBF Light Welterweight title with a brilliant 6th round TKO win over Yuya Okazaki (11-8-1, 4).
On paper the bout was a mismatch, it was supposed to be a walk in the park for the champion. Things however weren't that easy for Obara who was dragged into a bit of a slugfest with his southpaw challenger offer much more of a challenge than first expected.
From the opening moments it seemed clear this wasn't going to be the easy defense we, and many others, had expected. Okazaki seemed capable of holding his own at times and although he was usually coming off second best he did manage to land a number of dangerous looking southpaw left hands that seemed to land very flush. Despite the success of Okazaki it was impressive to see Obara remain calm.
After 4 rounds the cards read 40-37, twice, and 39-37, they were fair scores though didn't really reflect the competitive nature of the bout.
In round 5 Okazaki managed to find a home for his left that began finding Obara more and more regularly. By the end of the round it seemed like Obara's reign was under threat. It seemed like Okazaki was growing from his success and in round 6 he went all out seeking the upset. Unfortunately for the challenger it back-fired and Obara returned the fire with interest forcing the referee to stop a wobbly Okazaki.
For the champion it's clear he's no longer 100% at 140lbs and in his post fight interview he made it clear that he was hoping to make a move to Welterweight, a division that will suit his muscular frame much better than the Light Welterweight division. This was the second defense by Obara and if he is to move up to Welterweight it would open the door to a potential war with Yoshihiro Kamegai or a domestic title fight with Suyon Takayama, both of which would be fantastic tests, in very different ways, for the exciting puncher.
As for Okazaki this is a loss that will do him no harm at all and in fact if he can get a Japanese title fight with Hiroki Okada he may well find himself in a bout that he could win. If anything that should be his next target and it would be another thrilling contest. If Okazaki can't get Okada then bouts with Shamgar Koichi or Shinya Iwabuchi would also make for enoyable bouts.
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