The Light Flyweigth division has long been slept on by fans of the sport, yet it has been consistently a great division giving us some amazingly legends since the division was created, such as Jung Koo Chang, Myung Woo Yuh and Yoko Gushiken to name just 3. In recent years, thankfully, the division has started to get more and more attention on the global stare and fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto and Felix Alvarado have had world title defenses aired on DAZN as the division has started to get the international respect that it's long deserved.
Sadly whilst 3 current world champions at the weight have been aired on DAZN one hasn't, and that is WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10). Arguably the best of the fighters at the weight. This coming Wednesday he looks to make his 9th defense of the title as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki (12-3, 11) and continue his reign, which has already seen him over-come the likes of Pedro Guevara, Ganigan Lopez, Saul Juarez, Milan Melindo, Randy Petalcorin and Tatsuya Hisada. As for Yabuki this will be his chance to join the mix of the divisional elite, claim his first world title and prove that his power carries up beyond domestic level, where it has been a legitimate force of destruction.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro who is the more well and the clear, clear, favourite coming into the bout. The unbeaten champion, a second generation fighter following in the footsteps of his father Hisashi Teraji, turned professional with a little bit of fanfare and rapidly rose through the ranks, winning WBC Youth, OPBF and Japanese titles in his first 8 bouts. He then moved onto to the world stage, narrowly beating Ganigan Lopez for the title, and he struggled past Pedro Guevara in his first defense. Since then however he has looked near untouchable, out boxing very good fighters and creating a style based around his excellent jab, brilliant control of distance and under-rated body punching.
Although not the biggest puncher, or the the fighter with the highest work rate, Kenshiro does everything really well, except for the things he does brilliantly. There is no clear weakness with him. He's a solid puncher, who gets respect, he controls distance excellently, has fantastic ring IQ, uses angles, has solid footwork, and has a finishers mentality. He can be hit, but it's rare for a fighter to ever land more than one or two on him before he gets out of range, and he's someone who will take a lot of beating. Notable he has been down in his career, though those knockdowns were early on and he's shown a good chin since then. The one area where we do worry about him is when he's under intense pressure from a fighter with power and quick feet, though we're not sure how many fighters at 108lbs actually have the traits needed to put Kenshiro under that type of pressure.
Yabuki turned professional in 2016, and blasted out his first 3 opponents before facing Junto Nakatani in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, at Flyweight, where Nakatani took the power of Yabuki, and give him his first loss. Following that defeat Yabuki got back to blowing out opponents, 3 fighters before being stopped himself by Seigo Yuri Akui in 2018, and then losing against 5 months later to Cuban fighter Daniel Matellon. Since the loss to Matellon we've seen Yabuki going 5-0 (4), winning the Japanese national title in 2020, and defending it once. Whilst his competition hasn't been amazing, it has seen him beat the likes of Rikito Shiba, Tsuyoshi Sato and Toshimasa Ouchi.
Unlike many big punchers Yabuki isn't an out and out aggressive fighter. Instead he's a heavy handed boxer-puncher, who has under-rated boxing skills and incredibly heavy hands. He likes to use the ring, and let opponents come to him, using their aggression against them. If opponents make mistakes he likes to counter them, and using his straight punches from range to hurt them. When he has a fighter hurt however he does go for the kill, and doesn't like letting fighters off the hook. Whilst he is a solid boxer, it should be noted that Yabuki can be out boxed, and he can be lulled into inaction, as we saw at times when he faced Matellon, who landed when he wanted, and slowed the pace down when he wanted. It's really the way Matellon conducted himself in that fight that worries us for Yabuki backers, as Kenshiro also has the ability to back off and slow the tempo of the bout down.
Before we take a brief look at how we see this one going down there are some important things to note. Firstly, Kenshiro was diagnosed with Covid in August, and had a very swift recovery. That illness certainly won't have done him favours here, and it is a legitimate question mark hanging over his head. How well as has he recovered? What did that take out of him? What's his stamina like? Likewise this is a huge step up for Yabuki, and we do need to wonder whether or not he'll freeze on the big occasion.
If Kenshiro is 100% we really can't see him losing. Yabuki has the power to shake him, but we're not convinced he has the work rate, or footwork to follow up and take Kenshiro out, if he lands. If Kenshiro is damaged by his illness however, there is a chance that he might slow down late on, giving Yabuki a chance to land something and follow up.
Sadly for Yabuki we think the style of Kenshiro is really something he will struggle with. Yabuki simply doesn't have the speed or the tenacity to force his fight against someone with the IQ of Kenshiro. Yabuki will have moments, and will connect when Kenshiro makes mistakes and stays close for too long, but but those moments will be fleeting as he loses a wide, and clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kenshiro Teraji
In 2020 we expect to see a lot of long running saga's come to an end, such as the recent over-due IBF Super Flyweight mandatory title fight between Jerwin Ancajas v Jonathan Javier Rodriguez and the on going WBC Bantamweight title situation between Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire, which was ordered in 2019. Perhaps now saga, however, is quite like the one between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), which is now set to take place around 4 years after it was first scheduled! And for honours much, much higher than it would have been for the first time around!
For those who haven't followed the Japanese scene until very recently this bout was originally pencilled when Kenshiro was the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion, and was supposed to be a mandatory of the Japanese title, as part of the Champion Carnival in 2017. The bout was cancelled at short notice when Kenshiro was able to secure a WBC world title fight with Ganigan Lopez, which he went on to win via majority decision. Whilst Kenshiro became a world champion things didn't stand still for Hisada who ended up beating Kenichi Horikawa in a bloody battle, marred by repeated headclashes, to win the Japanese title and worked his way into a WBA world title fight in 2019 with Hiroto Kyoguchi, losing a competitive decision to Kyoguchi.
If that was chapter 1 in the "Kenshiro Vs Hisada rivalry", and if that ended well for both parties, chapter 2 was a little bit different. The men were to fight late last year, with the bout essentially the worst kept secret in Japanese boxing. It however fell apart weeks before it supposed to take place after news revealed Kenshiro has been involved in a drunken incident that resulted in him being suspended by the JBC. That left a sour taste in the mouth of Hisada and saw some fans question the behaviour of Kenshiro, who in had committed his drunk acts in the summer, well before the bout was supposed to take place but the act hadn't come to light until much later.
Now, with more than 4 years history between the two men, but no bouts, we are now, finally, set to see the two men face off.
Of the two fighters it's Kenshiro, the current and long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion, who is the much more well known fighter. The baby faced 29 year old is one of the longest reigning active world champions in the sport, having held his title since 2017 and running up 7 defenses. He is from a boxing family, with his father Hisashi being a former Japanese and OPBF champion, and he looks a natural in the ring. Though that should be little surprise for a fighter who was a good amateur and seemed for success when he turned professional in 2014. In the professional ranks he has been moved aggressively but smartly, and won WBC Youth, Japanese and OPBF titles before taking the WBC title in 2017. Since winning his world title he has moved from strength to strength and has visibly grown as a fighter since winning the belt in his 10th professional bout.
Kenshiro is, unlike many active Light Flyweights, a boxer first and foremost, with a style that is based around his speed, movement, and jab, rather than his power and physicality, like many of the top guys in the division. He looks to set the tone with his foot work and jab, picking holes in opponents defenses, making them make errors to counter. He has one of the most under-rated jabs in the sport, with it being quick, sharp and accurate, and also some of the over-looked punch picking of any active fighter. He picks his shots well, whether he's on the front foot or back foot. Given his record, and style, it would be fair to assume he lacked power, but that isn't true and he has stopped 5 of his last 6, Ganigan Lopez, Milan Melindo, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin. He can punch, but he doesn't base his style around that power, rather allowing that power to aid his boxing.
Aged 36 Tetsuya Hisada is a true veteran of the sport. With 46 professional bouts to his name is among the most experienced active Japanese fighters and his career dates all the way back to 2003, when he was still a teenager. His record, on paper, isn't all that impressive, but like a fine wine Hisada bloomed late into his career, as he finally found the weight that was suitable for him, a style that worked for him, and gained the experienced he needed to become a success. Proof of that can be seen by looking at Hisada's career after 32 professional bouts. At that point he was aged 30 at the time and was sporting a record of 21-9-2 (11). Since then he has gone 13-1, with his only loss coming in a hotly contest bout with Hiroto Kyoguchi. It's also not like he was padding his record either, instead he beat the likes of Shun Kosaka, who came runner up in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year, Hayato Yamaguchi, who was was a former Japanese title challenger, Atsushi Kakutani, a former world title challenger, and Kenichi Horikawa, who is currently the OPBF Light Flyweight champion.
Many of Hisada's early losses came due to him fighting above his natural weight. He picked a number of losses at Super Flyweight and Flyweight. And a lot of those were close, with 4 split decision losses.
In recent years Hisada has settled at Light Flyweight and become of of the more over-looked fighters in the sport. Hisada defies logic. Despite being the wrong side of 30 he appears to have fantastic stamina, fights at a high work rate, throws a lot of leather, but does so in an educated manner. It's clear he uses his experience well, knowing when to go forward and when to back off. Unlike so many fighters who like to come forward he actually uses his jab as a key weapon, and even doubles it up nicely, whilst looking to line up his straight right hand. Despite fighting at a solid tempo Hisada also does some little things very well. He moves his head a lot, applies pressure behind good footwork and has under-rated power, something his record doesn't reflect due to his numerous bouts above his best fighting weight. Sadly though he is ancient for a Light Flyweight, and having been out of the ring since late 2019 we do wonder what ring rust and father time will have done to him. It's also a massive shame Hisada didn't get the big fights until late in his career, something that is understandable given his losses but still a shame given his ability.
In this bout we're expecting to see some of the history between the two men come out, and we expect to see a frustrated Hisada looking to start fast, with emotion, anger and a sense of resentment coming out. He's usually a calm, collected character, but he was clearly disappointed last year, and we think some of that will come out here. Sadly for himself that would be a mistake, as Kenshiro will pick him away at any error he makes.
Even without the errors this is not a good stylistic match up for Hisada. His pressure works brilliantly against fighters who stay still, or back on to the ropes and don't have the educated feet and counter punching of Kenshiro. Here however he's up against a brilliant counter puncher, a smart mover, and someone who will soak up the pressure, target the counters and look to break him down. Kenshiro will look to use Hisada's strengths against him.
For Hisada to win he needs to not only pressure, but also physically bully Kenshiro. His activity is good, but he needs to get the bout on the inside, completely cut the distance, and don't let Kenshiro establish his rhythm. As soon as Kenshiro finds his groove it will be very, very hard for Hisada to work his way into the bout. If Hisada doesn't make a big impact early, in an educated fashion, he will fall a long way behind.
Given Kyoguchi wasn't able to stop Hisada the popular view will be that Kenshiro won't be able to. We however feel that Kenshiro will be able to, late on, as he looks to make a statement, and lay down the gauntlet to the other champions. He is talking about wanting to unify and we suspect he'll want to make a big statement here, to do that, he needs to stop Hisada.
We are expecting Hisada to come forward early, have mixed success as Kenshiro finds his range, and through the middle rounds Kenshiro will begin to dominate with his counters, before forcing a late stoppage in a complete performance against an excellent, and over-looked, challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Kenshiro
(Image credit - Boxingnews.jp - from the announcement of the 2017 Champion Carnival bouts, Kenshiro and Hisada are both in the front line)
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On December 23rd, at the Yokohama Arena in Japan, the unstoppable Kenshiro Teraji clashes with Randy Petalcorin for the WBC World championship, as part of Fuji Boxing’s huge triple header show.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0 / 9 KOs) was introduced to the sport, at a very young age, by his father Hisashi, a former OPBF Light Heavyweight champion. Kenshiro’s amateur career lasted 7 years, from 2007 to 2014, accumulating a record of 58-16. His most significant accomplishments were winning the 68th National Sports Festival as well as placing second at the All Japan Championships.
Turned pro in 2014, he displayed his fighting spirit early on by taking on boxers, way more experienced than him, such as Heri Amol (37-30), Katsunori Nagamine (15-2), Takashi Omae (13-6) and Rolly Sumalpong (11-3). On December of 2015, Shiro was involved in a thriller with Kenichi Horikawa (40-16) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Despite having only 5 pro fights under his belt, Shiro went toe to toe with the veteran for 10 rounds, which kept the fans at Korakuen on their feet, applauding the efforts of both men. When the fight was over, the young lion left the victor and the new champion.
Moving on from that breakout performance, Teraji made his inaugural defense over one time world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (19-7). The “Smiling Assassin” was absolutely dominant, knocking Atsushi down thrice, in just the opening round, for the TKO win. He also acquired the vacant OPBF crown when he defeated Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9) and defended it against Lester Abutan (13-10), whom he crushed with a lethal flurry of punches.
The unstoppable Japanese superstar eventually earned his big opportunity, in May of 2017, as he challenged Ganigan Lopez (36-11) for the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship, at the Ariake Colosseum. Both challenger and champion fought valiantly, in a very close encounter, which undoubtedly was the biggest test of Kenshiro’s career at the time. “El Maravilla” had won the belt the previous year from Yu Kimura, and was determined to leave Japan once again with the gold. Kenshiro on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his moment go to waste. It was a hard hitting contest that saw the Japanese fighter taking on a heavy beating but kept on coming back with strong offense of his own. During the last round, Lopez and Kenshiro left it all in the ring, as they engaged in a wild brawl, which was the perfect conclusion to this bout. In the end, the judges scored the match in favor of the local hero, thus declaring him the new world champion, at the age of 25.
Teraji proceeded to defend his title, the same year, twice. His first challenger was former World champion Pedro Guevara (36-3). It was a slow and methodical contest which turned into a slugfest during the last 4 rounds, where he showcased his incredible hand speed and body work, which led him getting the majority decision. His second was Gilberto Pedroza (18-6). It was a one-sided affair that ended violently in the 4th, when the champ stormed Pedroza with a plethora of body shots.
As it was expected, the rematch between Teraji and Lopez was finally set to take place last year at Ota-City’s General Gymnasium. Many fans and critics alike believed that the Mexican was robbed in their previous encounter and expected him to regain his championship. In a stunning turn of events, Kenshiro stopped Lopez in just the second round after he landed a perfectly timed liver shot, leaving the former champion unable to answer the referee’s 10 count, plus putting any doubts of his legitimacy to rest.
A few months later, he squared off with the former IBF World champion Milan Melindo (37-5). Undoubtedly one of his best performances today, Teraji dominated in every round, almost leaving no room for offense to the Filipino, punishing Melindo with fast combinations through out the match, until the end came in the 7th round, via referee stoppage.
After a voluntary defense against Saul Juarez (25-10), Kenshiro put his title on the line against Jonathan Taconing (28-4) this past July. The longtime WBC International champion was riding a 6 fight winning streak and had the highest finishing ratio of any of the Japanese star’s previous foes, with 78.5% of his wins coming via knockout (22 KOs in total). Teraji managed to weather the early storm and counter attack every time Taconing tried to close the distance. Eventually he caught him with a shift right straight to mark his 6th defense. The Smiling Assassin will step into the ring, once more, before the year is over, taking on another opponent from the Philippines.
A 10 year veteran of the sport, Randy Petalcorin (31-3 / 23 KOs) began building his career back in his home country, pilling up wins before taking his first international trip. Up until that point, he had amassed 19 victories, 1 draw and only 1 loss to future World champion Marlon Tapales.
He travelled to Australia in 2013, where he met Ophat Niamprem (35-24). Not the most impressive record, but with 27 KOs under his belt, Ophat wasn’t someone to look past. Petalcorin came in hot and dropped him early on, courtesy of his favorite weapon, the left straight. He stunned him again in the 3rd round with the same move, before going in for the kill, showcasing his uncanny hand speed. They fought each other for a second time, with the exact same result, scoring a knockdown and then overwhelming the Thai fighter with a plethora of punches.
The “Razor” would go on to face Walter Tello (21-11) for the interim WBA Light Flyweight World title, on August of 2014. It was an exciting affair. 7 rounds of nonstop action. Finally the end came when Randy put the man from Panama down with a left uppercut/right hook combo and sealed the deal with another uppercut seconds later, capturing the crown.
His one an only defense was against WBO Asia Pacific champion Yiming Ma (13-7), whom he kept punishing with the left straight, scoring 3 back to back knockdowns in less than two minutes, stopping him in the opening round. Petalcorin would go 8-2 in his next fights, losing a controversial decision to Omari Kimweri (17-5) and to reigning IBF champion Felix Alvarado (35-2).
Petalcorin is obviously not on the same level as Teraji and has struggled against world class opponents. However, he still poses a threat to anyone that goes up against him. He’s quite aggressive, mostly relying on the power of his left hand to do the damage and then swarm in to finish the job. Not the best defensive guy, but because of that, his style makes him an exciting fighter to watch, as he doesn’t mind taking a punch, just so he can dish one back. It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of his knockouts have come within the first 3 rounds (17 KOs).
What people should expect here is a fan friendly contest between 2 men that know how to put on a show. This isn’t going to be a boxing clinic, not by a longshot. Petalcorin will try to end this one quickly, throwing bombs, as he knows that he doesn’t stand a chance against Kenshiro, if this goes to the deep waters. The exchanges should be a thing of beauty to behold as both possess crazy hand speed. Eventually the champ will start taking over and go for the knockout probably before the 6th round. All in all, this is a match you do not want to miss…..or blink.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.