Zolani Tete won the IBF super flyweight title by beating Teiru Kinoshita in Japan on Friday.
The South African won the bout in Kobe by unanimous decision. An American judge, Chris Flores, and South African Deon Dwarte both scored it 118-110 and Japan's Katsuhiko Nakamura called it 119-109.
There were no knockdowns in the 12-round bout between two southpaws. Tete, the IBS’s top contender, kept sixth-ranked Kinoshita at bay with sharp left jabs, using his 11cm reach advantage.
"After two rounds, I was sure I could win. If I fought more aggressively. I might have won by knockout," Tete said.
Kinoshita said after his first crack at a world title: "I felt miserable as soon as the twelfth round ended. I could not find a breakthrough. Frankly speaking, Tete was so strong."
The two were fighting for the title that was vacated by another Japanese, Daiki Kameda, in March. Kameda lost a unification match against WBA champion Liborio Solis of Venezuela last December.
Despite his defeat, Kameda was allowed by the IBF to keep his champion belt as Solis had been stripped of his WBA title for being overweight. But Kameda finally renounced it amid simmering criticism against the IBF decision.
The 26-year-old Tete stretched his professional record to 19 wins, 16 by knockout, against three defeats.
For Kinoshita, 28, who works as a restaurant floor manager at a hotel near the tournament venue, it was his first defeat after winning 19 matches, three of them inside the distance, and drawing one.
Tete, with more accurate punches, never let Kinoshita upset his pace although the Japanese tried to fight at close range in the last two rounds.