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Friday. April 9. 2021

Obara struggles to retain Japan welterweight title by decisioning tenacious Sakai

Japanese welterweight champion Keita Obara of Misako Boxing Gym hammered out a close but unanimous decision over fourth-ranked Shoki Sakai of Yokohama Hikari Boxing Gym on Apr. 8 at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.

While there were no knockdowns during the 10-round bout, all three judges scored the fight 96-94 in favor of Obara, who is ranked sixth in the division by the International Boxing Federation. It was Obara’s first successful defense of the title he won from Yuki Nagano of Teiken Boxing Gym in February last year.

While the 30-year-old Sakai came to close quarters with Obara from the opening bell, Obara tried to keep his distance by sticking out left jabs.

Obara, 34, targeted Sakai’s body with his straight rights and hooks from around the middle round since Sakai managed to dodge many of the champion’s punches to the head well. But the eighth round was Obara’s best round as he momentarily shook Sakai with body blows and uppercuts.

But tenacious Sakai, who has never been knocked down in his career, rebounded strongly in the ninth stanza by landing left jabs and hooks to the head. Both ended the fight almost evenly in the final round.

With the victory, Obra improved his record to 24 wins, including 21 knockouts, against four losses and a draw. For his part, Sakai, who made his debut in Mexico and fought most of his bouts in the country or in the United States, fell to a 25-12-2 win-loss-draw tally with 13 KOs.

Sakai returned to Japan last year and fought two bouts in Tokyo, winning both of them.

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