By Joe Koizumi
WBC#13 Kengo Nagashima (37-3-2, 17 KOs), 135, barely kept his OPBF lightweight belt as he looked sluggish from the outset, came off the canvas in the ninth and managed to eke out a split decision (114-113, 115-112 and 115-116) over OPBF top ranked Korean champ Heejae Jo (14-3, 8 KOs), 134.75, over twelve close rounds on Saturday in Koga, Japan. The 33-year-old Japanese southpaw looked like another person than who outboxed and outlegged hard-punching Filipino Randy Suico to acquire the vacant OPBF throne this March. After the eighth, the open scoring system showed a split interim verdict: 78-74 for the champ, 78-77 for the challenger and 76-76. Then, in the next ninth, Nagashima absorbed a good one-two of Jo, twelve years his junior at 21, and downed on the seat of pants to make his local adherents gloomy, sensing the champ would lose his belt. Nagashima, however, displayed his heart and good combinations to dominate the last three to barely keep his regional throne. Promoter: 18 Koga Promotions.