Naito survives knockdowns, barely keeps OPBF 140lb belt

By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda

Former OPBF middleweight champ Cassius Naito’s son, Rikki Naito (20-2, 7 KOs), 140, very barely retained his OPBF super-lightweight belt as he was lopsidedly leading on points after the tenth, but suffered damaging visits to the canvas in the eleventh and twelfth rounds and breathlessly earned a majority decision (114-112 twice, 113-113) over Filipino titlist Jheritz Chavez (8-3-2, 6 KOs), 140, over twelve unbelievable rounds on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan.

It almost followed the outcome of Mike Weaver’s come-from-behind fifteenth-round victory over John Tate in 1980. The open scores after the eighth were identically 78-74 for the shifty defending champ Naito. The fast-handed footworker Rikki piled up a couple of more points in rounds nine and ten, leading no less than six points. But a trick happened then and there.

In the closing seconds of the eleventh the slower but sturdy Filipino beautifully connected with a smashing right to the button of the southpaw champ, who was sent sprawling to the canvas and wobblingly raised himself up to be saved by the bell. Naito took a fast bicycle in the final session, desperately circling from pillar to post. But Chavez caught up with him and again badly decked him to the deck.

His foot stopped, his hand speed fading and his body staying with his back to the ropes, Naito absorbed Jheritz’s recklessly incessant combinations although he covered himself up for the remainder of the final session. The bell came to his rescue. This is a simple arithmetic. Leading six points, he lost a 10-8 and a 10-7 rounds, eventually forfeiting five points. He narrowly won, but the bloodied champ Naito looked more like a loser than a victor. Jehritz logically deserves a rematch.

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