In this NYF exclusive, WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji discusses overcoming adversity & facing WBA & Ring champ Hiroto Kyoguchi.
In what looks to be a very early boxing day for those on the east coast and even earlier in the west, ESPN+ will be streaming a special attraction on Tuesday live from the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro ‘The Amazing Boy' Teraji (19-1) will face WBA & Ring Magazine champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (16-0) in what looks to be a great fight within the world of the little giants. ESPN+ will begin coverage starting at 7:30 a.m. ET/4:30 a.m. P.T. on the morning of November 1st.
For those that aren't invested in fights that occur south of junior featherweight, Kenshiro has been dominating in the junior flyweight division since debuting back in October 2014. I have followed him from afar as his fights usually occur in Japan, and it has only been a few years now since significant platforms have been able to bring these types of special attractions to the masses.
An opportunity came up where I could get an interview with Kenshiro ahead of his fight, and of course, I wanted to bring it to this platform for all to enjoy. (Editor's note: Boxing writer Yuriko Miyata helped translate the answers for this interview.)
Getting right to it, I asked Kenshiro to give the NYF readers a bit of a bio blast, as many may not know who he is domestically. Kenshiro told NYF,” I have a brother two years older than me, and I used to play soccer and Judo. At the age of 15, I started to box. At first, I wasn't really interested in boxing but was luckily good at the sport my father (Former Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation 175 lbs. champion) was in. I needed it as my specialty to go to high school to use a system for students with unique talents to be admitted without taking an academic test, as I hated studying! That's interesting, as I would have never expected that being the dominant champion he has been all these years.
Speaking of being a dominant champion, Kenshiro became one in 2017 after being a pro for just three years. Success is funny in a way where too much of it, or a lot early on, can put you in a place of complacency where you may take things for granted. Those fall under the umbrella of life, and we are all human and make mistakes. It's how we learn from those mistakes is what makes us better human beings moving forward. In November 2020, Kenshiro had an alcohol-related incident, which he was certainly not proud of to this day. Months later, he caught COVID and then defended his title, which he lost by a tenth-round TKO. That is a lot for any athlete to handle, so how did Kenshiro manage to deal with all of this?
“The incident was in 2020, so I don't think it affected my loss to (Masamichi) Yabuki, which was in September 2021. The only trouble before the fight was the COVID infection that disrupted my training camp for about ten days. But, yes, I learned a lot from that period. One day in the summer of 2020, while COVID affected people's daily life, I got drunk with my friends and damaged a car parked in a gated property. The matter was settled already, but a magazine published it months later. That postponed the fight with (Tetsuya) Hisada scheduled for the end of that year. I was sorry that I hurt many people's efforts for that fight. I was sorry that I disappointed people and disappointed myself. That was why I was much more grateful for everything when my license was resumed, the fight was rescheduled, and I made my eighth defense in April 2021.”
After losing the title in September 2021, Kenshiro rematched Yabuki in March of this year and was able to score a third-round knockout to redeem his loss some months prior. What was it like getting his hand raised after going through all of those personal things in his life? Kenshiro said, “I've never got that emotional than that time when I was called a winner in the ring. That was the best moment for me to find myself. The whole thing had matured me. Until my first loss to Yabuki, I had never doubted myself in winning. That may be a little arrogant. Then Yabuki uncrowned me, and I really faced myself sincerely and got humbled. That's how I could be like ‘All-in' for the rematch. I could give it my all for the fight of my life.”
I respected his honesty and appreciated it because most would have ignored the question, but he chose to answer it and address it head-on. But now he has a tough task ahead as he faces Kyoguchi. Kenshiro admitted that prior to his loss, his goal was to break the Japanese record of thirteen consecutive title defenses, which Yoko Gushiken did in 1980. But since his defeat, the goal has shifted, and now it is to unify the titles in his division. Something he admitted to “motivating him a lot.”
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Training camp for this fight started in August, and he mentioned sparring around 150 rounds for this matchup. While incorporating some new techniques from his conditioning coach, which was to use more of his shoulders while boxing, Kenshiro feels as though he has added more power to his punches which is a scary concept given he was a handful already in the ring. Another part of his training camp was to come to the U.S. to get some of the best sparring available. “It was my first time in five years visiting L.A. for training. It is worth doing because I can find quality, hard-hitting sparring partners there. I faced different boxing styles and sparred with bigger guys like 112 lbs. & 115 lbs. to see if my power matches theirs,” said the 30-year-old junior flyweight champion.
After discussing training camp and his preparation, I lightened the mood and asked him about his cat, which he shows off on Instagram. Kenshiro said, ” Thank you for checking it. He is a good buddy for my single life in Tokyo. He is two years old and is a Norwegian Forest cat. When I was a little kid, I had a Husky dog with my family in Kyoto. I picked a cat as a pet because I don't need to walk him!”
Circling back to the task at hand, which is November 1st, my curiosity lies with what it would mean to become a unified champion and the message he has for those tuning in on ESPN+ this upcoming Tuesday. Kenshiro told NYF,” To beat him and unify the titles is the first step to my goal. It's a huge and inevitable challenge to move on to prove myself to be the best in the division. I want to impress the people in the U.S. and let them know, especially my west coast fans, to remember my name, “Kenshiro,” as there is a chance for me to come to fight with rivals there (U.S.) in the future.