Kenshiro Teraji doesn’t have to look very far to find the motivation to advance his own career.

The lineal and unified WBC/WBA junior flyweight champion is generally viewed as among the best fighters in the world, though just outside the top ten of most pound-for-pound lists. He is currently among a loaded field of talented boxers all massively behind Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford (40-0, 31KOs) and Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22KOs), both of whom are universally regarded as the top two fighters on the planet however you rank them.

“I think It’s Inoue at number one, “Teraji told “Right now, he’s just a really strong fighter against the rest of the world. I also want to be as strong as Inoue but I still have a long way to go.”

Humility aside, Teraji (21-1, 13KOs) continues to plead his own case and with room to expand on his current standing.

The two-time champ from Kyoto, Japan entered 2022 on the heels of his lone career defeat, a stunning tenth-round knockout at the hands of Masamichi Yabuki to end his first WBC junior flyweight title reign. Teraji previously tested positive for Covid and was forced to delay their September 2021 meeting by twelve days. It was theorized that he never fully recovered, further supported by his brutal three-round beatdown in their rematch last March 19 in Kyoto.

Teraji then picked up his best win to date, a stunningly one-sided, seventh-round stoppage of unbeaten countryman Hiroto Kyoguchi in their unification bout last November 1 in Saitama, Japan.

The hope was to add the WBO belt to his collection but defending titlist Jonathan Gonzalez fell ill and was forced to withdraw from their scheduled April 8 unification bout at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. Teraji went on to face unbeaten Anthony Olascauga, whom he stopped in the ninth round to retain his championship.

The next challenge for Teraji comes in a dangerous title defense versus WBC mandatory challenger and former two-division champ Hekkie Budler (35-4, 11KOs). Their September 18 bout takes place at Ariake Arena. It remains to be seen if a win will advance Teraji in a pound-for-pound sense, though the 31-year-old all-action fighter believes time is still on his side.

“It’s still too early for me to be considered among the very best,” admitted Teraji. “Maybe when I move up and become a [multi-division] champion down the road.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox