By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Crafty southpaw speedster Rikki Naito (23-2, 8 KOs), 140, successfully kept his OPBF (Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation) super-lightweight belt as game compatriot Yusuke Konno (16-5, 9 KOs), 140, retired on the stool because of his pain on the neck and left shoulder after the ninth session on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. Naito, making his fourth defense, took the initiative with more accurate combinations to the taller challenger Konno who had once captured the WBA Asia 140-pound belt by a spectacular eleventh round knockout of highly regarded Chinese Baishanbo Nasiyiwula in Shanghai in March of the previous year.
Naito displayed his cleverness in outmaneuvering the taller and aggressive Konno with more accurate counters to the face and the midsection. Konno was in command in round five, when he connected with crisp rights to the belly and took a point. As the contest progressed, it became apparent that Konno might suffer an inconvenience at the left shoulder and could neither raise his left hand nor use it at all. After the eighth, the open scoring system indicated Naito leading on points—78-74, 79-73 twice all in favor of the southpaw defending champ. Naito accelerated his attack in the ninth, battering him almost at will, which caused Konno’s corner to signal a wise surrender then and there.
Young and fresh hard-punching prospects, Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7 KOs), 129.75, and Shuma Nakazato (10-1-3, 7 KOs), 130, exchanged a knockdown each once and battled to a well-received draw (all 75-75) over eight see-saw rounds. Shuma is the son of former world 122-pound challenger Shigeru Nakazato (24-8-1, 18 KOs), a popular left hooker, who failed to win the WBC belt from Oscar Larios twice in 2003 and 2004. Shuma decked Kimura with his father’s legacy left hook in the closing seconds of the fourth, while Kimura floored Nakazato also with a left hook in the seventh.
Promoter: Dangan Aoki Promotions.
Attendance: 520 (because of the JBC’s regulation).