By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda
In an OPBF title twinbill, Japan’s Rikki Naito (19-2, 7 KOs), 140, impressively acquired the vacant OPBF super-lightweight belt as he lopsidedly battered Filipino Jeffrey Arienza (16-7-1, 10 KOs), 140, and finally halted him at 1:14 of the ninth round on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
Also, OPBF 130-pound champ, Filipino battler Carlo “Ferocious” Magali (22-8-3, 11 KOs), 129.25, kept his regional belt when he hammered Japan’s Masatoshi Kotani (22-3, 15 KOs), 130, all the way en route to a fine stoppage at 0:50 of the tenth session in a scheduled twelve.
Rikki, 26, is the son of former OPBF middleweight champ of 1970’s, Junichi “Cassius” Naito who lost to such future world titlists as Koichi Wajima and Jae-Do Yuh (four times) but used to be a talented athlete with a US African-American father and a Japanese mother. Void of power-punching as he is, Rikki is an excellent speedster as shown in this OPBF title-winning triumph.
We still remember a famous episode on Cassius Naito, who once received a warm suggestion from Muhammad Ali upon his visit to Japan, saying to the youngster, “While you are using my name Cassius, you won’t be able to go beyond me. You’d better change your ring name.” But Naito stuck to his name of Cassius. Ali foresaw his future, and he couldn’t become world champ, having dropped important fights on some milestones of his career. Rikki’s father’s overall credentials resulted in a mediocre mark of 27-10-2, 13 KOs despite his good ledger of 22-0-2 in his first 24 outings.
His son Rikki was once Japan’s 130-pound national champ, who, however, yielded his belt to future IBF ruler Kenichi Ogawa in 2015 and failed to win it back in their grudge fight next year. Naito, a speedy southpaw, moved up two categories to the 140-pound division, which eventually welcomed a success in gaining the vacant OPBF belt.
Naito took the initiative from the outset, utilizing his fast jabs and quick combinations upstairs and downstairs, steadily piling up points. Arienza, with a handicapped left leg, admirably fought hard, but apparently was unable to cope with Naito’s speed on hand and foot, absorbing much punishment. After the eighth the open scoring system disclosed the interim tallies—80-72, 79-73, 78-74 all in favor of the Japanese lefty.
His acceleration of furious attacks prompted the third man Katsuragi to wisely declare a halt to save the loser from further damage, which was well-received by the audience. His father Junichi was truly delighted to see his good son’s coronation.
The first OPBF title go was a one-man show of the Filipino defending champ Carlo Magali, standing only 5’5” with sturdy physique and muscular shoulders. Despite his awkward appearance Magali was good at precision in catching up with the hard-punching Japanese challenger who had been unbeaten since 2013, decking six dynamic knockouts in twelve victories. Magali dominated middle rounds and dropped Kotani twice with a well-timed left hook and then with a left-right combination. Having returned to his corner with his shaky legs, he gamely came out fighting only to be stopped by the ref Fukuchi upon his absorption of a vicious right that almost toppled him to the deck. The ref was a good catcher of the loser’s falling body.
A supporting eight stunned the crowd when unbeaten 130-pound prospects (both formerly amateur boxers in universities) squared off each other with Hironori Mishiro (5-0, 2 KOs), 129.75, flooring hard-hitting and highly expected JBC#3 Shuya Masaki (9-1, 5 KOs), also 129.75, in the second to pound out an upset unanimous verdict (78-74 twice, 78-74) over eight. It’s a final of A-class tournaments in the super-feather division, and the victor Mishiro’s future seems bright with his remarkable reflexes and good physique. Mishiro is worth watching.