Kenshiro Teraji understood the importance of regaining his WBC junior flyweight title. (photo by Naoki Fukuda)
It meant avenging his lone career defeat, which he did so in emphatic fashion with a third-round knockout of Masamichi Yabuki earlier this year. Of at least equal importance to the 30-year-old from Kyoto, Japan was putting back in play the possibility of a long-desired title unification bout with countryman Hiroto Kyoguchi.
“I’ve always wanted this fight and his WBA belt,” Teraji told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “Right after the rematch with Yabuki was over, I wanted this unification match.”
The wish was granted, much to the delight of hardcore boxing fans around the world. Teraji (19-1, 11KOs) will attempt the first defense of his second WBC title reign, while Tokyo’s Kyoguchi (16-0, 11KOs) puts his WBA ‘Super’ title on the line for the fifth time as they meet this Tuesday at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan (ESPN+ (US), 4:30 a.m. ET/Amazon Prime (Japan) 5:30 p.m. PT).
The bout marks just the second-ever unification bout between reigning titleholders from Japan. The lone other occasion came more than ten years ago, when then-unbeaten WBC strawweight titlist Kazuto Ioka edged then-WBA champ Akira Yaegashi in their memorable June 2012 slugfest in Osaka, Japan.
Teraji did his part to restore the domestic superfight with his win over Yabuki on March 19 in his Kyoto hometown. The rematch came six months after Teraji suffered a stunning tenth-round knockout defeat in their hellacious battle last September 22 in Kyoto. The defeat ended his four-plus year WBC title reign, having made eight defenses.
The first fight with Yabuki was delayed by twelve days due to Teraji testing positive for—and believed after the fight to have never fully recovered from—Covid. He was at full strength for the rematch, which was brief and one-sided as Teraji once again pleaded his case as the best junior flyweight in the world.
Based purely on merit, Kyoguchi is the only other fighter with a strong argument. The two-division titlist has held the WBA 108-pound title since New Year’s Eve 2018, most recently defending in an eighth-round knockout of Mexico’s Esteban Bermudez in their June 10 WBA title consolidation clash on the road in Guadalajara.
Teraji is unbothered by the level of competition in their highly anticipated showdown.
“This is a fight I’ve always wanted because of what he has,” stated Teraji. “Other than that, I don’t have any real thoughts on Hiroto. He just feels like a normal opponent to me.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox