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Thursday. September 22. 2022

Lightly regarded Chiba stops Kurihara to become new OPBF bantamweight champion

Lightly regarded Kai Chiba of Yokohama Hikari Boxing Gym stopped champion Keita Kurihara of Ichiriki Boxing Gym in the final round and wrested his Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation bantamweight title on Sept. 22 at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.

The technical knockout of the scheduled 12-rounder came 50 seconds into the round when Chiba connected with rapid left and right combinations to Kurihara’s head, prompting the referee to step in to stop the fight without bothering to count. Kurihara, who appeared to be staggered, dropped to the canvas immediate after the referee’s stoppage.

It was the 29-year-old Chiba’s second crack at the OPBF title following his unsuccessful challenge to Kazuki Nakajima of Ohashi Boxing Gym in May last year.

After the fight, Chiba, ranked 12th by the OPBF bantamweight division, said, ‘’Ever since I started boxing, wearing a championship belt was my dream. So, it was a dreamlike moment. While it was my second challenge to the title, I thought it would be my last chance, and it paid off. I want to aim at going for the top of the division.’’

While Kurihara, also 29, controlled the early part of the fight by sticking out left jabs with occasional rights, the tight-guarded Chiba began to rally from around the sixth round by landing left-and-right hooks to the head and body.

All three judges had the fight even at 76-76 at the end of the eighth round. Kurihara tried to land his vaunted left uppercuts and right-hand punches, they lacked accuracy and few landed Chiba.

With the victory, Chiba improved his record to 15 wins, including five KOs, against four losses. For his part, Kurihara, who failed in his first defense of the title he won from Nakajima last October, fell to a 16-7-1 win-loss-draw tally with 14 KOs.

In the day’s chief chief supporting card, Kurihara’s stablemate and OPBF super lightweight champion Akihiro Kondo stopped sixth-ranked Japanese super lightweight Tatsuya Yanagi of Banryu Boxing Gym in two minutes and five seconds into the sixth round with a right-hand counter to the head in a scheduled eight-round nontitle bout. The referee stopped the fight when Yanagi tried to struggle to his feet.

With the win, the 37-year-old Kondo improved his record to 35 wins, including 20 KOs, against 10 losses and two draws. For his part, Yanagi, 32, impaired to 18-8-2 win-loss-draw tally with seven KOs.