By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 9th, one of the most anticipated fights in the Japanese scene takes place, as Keita Obara takes on Alvin Lagumbay for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title.
Keita Obara (19-3/17 KOs) began boxing at the Iwate Prefectural High School, earning the 3rd place at the 2004 National High School Championships. After turning 18, he joined Tokyo University where he won 2 national tournaments, in 2006 and in 2008 respectively.
After a successful amateur career, he made his pro debut in 2010, at 23 years of age. Despite losing, against the way more experienced Kazuyoshi Kumano (23-9*), he quickly bounced back, stopping his next seven opponents, before winning the vacant Japanese Super Lightweight title. Obara defended his belt twice, over So Takenaka (18-6*) and Tetsuya Hasunuma (7-4*). In 2014, he faced his first international challenge, in Philippino standout and former WBO Asia Pacific champion Jay Solmiano (17-2*), for the vacant OPBF Super Lightweight crown. The Japanese fighter proved to be too much for Solmiano, as he knocked him out in the fourth round, thus gaining another prestigious championship.
Obara continued to impress the fans by knocking out his next four opponents, including former Japanese champion Shinya Iwabuchi (23-4*). In November of 2015, he was set to make his US debut against Walter Castillo (26-3*) in an IBF title eliminator bout. Both men went back and forth in an exciting encounter, which ended in a draw. A rematch was to be made in order to determine the #1 contender, but since Castillo refused to compete, Obara was given the spot and the opportunity to fight the undefeated IBF/IBO World Super Lightweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0*) in Russia. Things didn’t go as planned, as Obara got smashed in the second round, failing at his first world title challenge.
The former Japanese/OPBF champion, made his return to Japan, 7 months later, but this time, moving up a class, as he entered the Welterweight division, besting Larry Siwu (24-7*). In August of 2017, Obara won his third title, as he KOed former WBC International and Asian champion Narong Bunchan (26-2*) to win the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight championship.
After a successful first title defense over Shusaku Fujinaka (16-7*), Obara was already ranked amongst the top 10 Welterweights by both the WBO and IBF and was on his way for another world title match. However, the unexpected happened, when he came face to face with the unheralded Alvin Lagumbay (9-2*) in April of this year. The Philippino was clearly the underdog in this encounter, with only 11 pro bouts in total as well as no significant victories on his record. Obara was dominating the fight, up until the second round, where both boxers rocked each other hard, resulting in a rare double knockdown. Lagumbay got on his feet first, while Obara was still stunned on the ground, unable to answer the 10 count. In the end, the referee declared Lagumbay the new champion, in what it must be one of the biggest upsets of 2018.
Fast forward 4 months, the rematch is set as Obara looks to exact his revenge and not only regain his championship but also to put himself in world title contention once more. Was it a fluke or could Lagumbay be the breakout star of 2018 ? This question will be answered in less than 10 days at Korakuen Hall !
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
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