One of the best fights of 2022 is just days away.
Next Tuesday, arguably the two best Jr. flyweights in the world will lock horns in Saitama, Japan (ESPN+. 4:30 AM EST). 30-year old two-time WBC titlist Kenshiro Teraji (19-1, 11 KO) and 28-year old Ring Magazine/WBA titlist Hiroto Kyoguchi (16-0, 11 KO) has felt like a natural clash for a few years. A stunning upset of Teraji last September left the potential clash uncertain but correction was swift.
Teraji rebounded from a tenth-round stoppage loss to Masamichi Yabuki with immediate revenge in March, avenging the loss in three frames. Kyoguchi was just as impressive this year, detonating contender Esteban Bermudez in eight. Both camps made the wise decision not to waste any more time.
Unification is signed, sealed, and soon to deliver at 108 lbs.
When the bell rings, fans will be treated to the latest chapter in a short but satisfying history of unification bouts in the division.
To be sure, unification hasn’t been a norm in the division. After the WBC crowned the first titlist in the division in April 1975, it was non-existent for well over a decade. The WBA added their strap months after the WBC and the IBF joined them upon their birth in 1983. There were some fantastic fighters who made bones at Jr. flyweight over the years. Yoko Gushiken, Hilario Zapata, Jung-Koo Chang, and Myung-Woo Yuh are all in the Hall of Fame.
None ever had the chance to unify in the division.
Despite all the belts, it took a pair of special talents in the right place at the right time to dare to be more than just another guy with a belt. For fans of the division, it was worth the near twenty-year wait.
On March 13, 1993, 1988 US Olympic Silver Medalist and IBF titlist Michael Carbajal came off the canvas twice to knock out WBC beltholder Humberto Gonzalez in a pay-per-view clash. The epic encounter had been years in the making, its buzz sustaining despite a shocking upset of Gonzalez by Rolando Pascua along the way. It won Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year and Carbajal earned honors from the magazine as Fighter of the Year as well.
Every unification bout at Jr. flyweight since, and forever more, will be measured against the standard set by Carbajal-Gonzalez I. None have quite met its drama and thrills but heading into Teraji-Kyoguchi, the track record says there hasn’t been a bad fight in the bunch.
The two titles unified in Carbajal-Gonzalez eventually splintered again and the next time two reigning titlists faced off was on December 13, 2003. The occasion was one that can be forgotten as the fight didn’t air in the US until later as a cable replay, occurring off television as part of a pay-per-view card.
The card was that loaded. One of the last of the marathon Don King cards of old that stacked big fights and attractions on top of each other, the unification clash between Rosendo Alvarez (WBA) and Victor Burgos (IBF) struggled for attention on a night that headlined by Bernard Hopkins-William Joppy with support from a unification welterweight clash (Cory Spinks-Ricardo Mayorga) and a contest between John Ruiz and Hasim Rahman.
Alvarez was favored in the fight heading in but Burgos gave a spirited effort throughout the contest. At the end of twelve rounds, both fighters settled for a draw and the big fights later in the night had an entertaining act to follow.
The next time unification arrived at Jr. flyweight, fans were treated to something almost as good as Carbajal-Gonzalez. Master boxer Ivan Calderon started August 28, 2008 as the undefeated lineal, Ring Magazine, and WBO Jr. flyweight king. He ended it as one half of Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year, a blistering classic that pitted Calderon’s skill against the blunt force of WBA titlist Giovani Segura.
Calderon rocked Segura in spots but it was the power and physicality of Segura that ultimately settled their affair. In the eighth, Segura’s body attack and uppercuts forced Calderon to his knee in the corner. He stayed there for the count of ten.
The last time boxing was treated to a clash of Jr. flyweight titlists was December 31, 2017. WBA tilist Ryoichi Taguchi entered the bout having made six defenses of the WBA crown. Melindo had defended his IBF belt twice and was coming off a big win over Hekkie Budler. In the most one-sided of these unification clashes, Taguchi outfoxed Melindo for the biggest win of his career.
If the pattern holds, every other unification at Jr. flyweight has been a classic and there hasn’t been a bad fight in the bunch. They may not happen often, but the track record says Teraji-Kyoguchi should be up to the task of maintaining the standard set for them.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
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