An attempt to further unify the junior flyweight division is now at the mercy of at least one sanctioning body prepared to order a mandatory title defense.
BoxingScene.com has learned that a multi-belt junior flyweight unification bout is being explored between lineal/WBA/WBC champ Kenshiro Teraji and WBO titlist Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez. However, both will likely have to file for an exception to avoid an ordered title fight against their respective number-one contenders.
A ruling during the Mandatories portion of the annual WBC convention on Wednesday in Acapulco, Mexico called for Kyoto, Japan’s Teraji (20-1, 12KOs) to next face number-one contender and former two-division titlist Hekkie Budler.
The fight will be due to take place by next March, one year from the date when Teraji regained his WBC 108-pound title. The ruling comes barely two weeks after the WBO declared that Gonzalez—the sanctioning body’s junior flyweight titlist—will be due to make a mandatory title defense. However, such a fight was not yet ordered as the WBO still must identify an available mandatory challenger.
Both declarations bookended the latest wins posted by both fighters.
Teraji is coming off a terrific seventh-round knockout of then-unbeaten countryman Hiroto Kyoguchi (16-1, 11KOs) to win the WBA title and defend his WBC strap on November 1 in Saitama, Japan. The same show saw Gonzalez (27-3-1, 15KOs) defend his WBO belt for the second time following a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Tokyo’s Shokichi Iwata (9-1, 6KOs).
The fights were on the same card by design, with hopes of meeting next spring.
Gonzalez has held the WBO title since dethroning Elwin Soto via twelve-round decision last October 16 in Fresno, California. Prior to his win over Iwata on the road in Japan, the 31-year-old southpaw from Caguas, Puerto Rico defended his belt in a more partisan atmosphere with a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Mark Anthony Barriga on June 24 in Boricua-friendly Kissimmee, Florida.
As it relates to bypassing the mandatory title defense phase, Gonzalez has a much stronger case given the absence of a confirmed and available WBO mandatory challenger.
The current WBO number-one contender is Mark Vicelles, who was ordered to enter talks with The Philippines’ Regie Suganob in an IBF-ordered title eliminator. Budler is number two in the WBO and in position to disrupt plans either way, while former secondary titlist Carlos Canizales is number three but also coming off a knockout loss.
The more plausible scenario would be for the WBO to order a final eliminator, if not a box-off to determine the next challenger.
Teraji will likely have to show proof of such a fight already in play, in light of the WBC confirming Budler as the mandatory challenger in waiting. However, the fight was not yet formally ordered as the sanctioning body stated plans to call for the fight to next take place.
Budler (34-4, 10KOs) earned the number-one position the hard way, hitting the road for his latest win. The former WBA strawweight and WBA/IBF junior flyweight titlist outpointed former WBO beltholder Elwin Soto over twelve rounds in their WBC title eliminator on June 25 in Mexicali, Mexico.
The win was the second straight for Budler following a New Year’s Eve 2018 tenth-round stoppage loss to Kyoguchi in the first attempted defense of the WBA/IBF belts. He won the belts in a twelve-round, unanimous decision over Ryoichi Taguchi in his May 2018 title bid in Tokyo.
Teraji regained the WBC junior flyweight title in a third-round knockout of Masamichi Yabuki on March 19 in Kyoto. The win avenged his lone career defeat, a tenth-round knockout to Yabuki in their Fight of the Year contender last September 22 also in Kyoto. The loss ended Teraji’s first reign, dating back to May 2017 and with eight successful title defenses. He is now 11-1 with seven knockouts in twelve career title fights.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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