Monday, March 27, 2023  |



Ken Shiro takes next step to Japanese stardom in year-end title defense

Ken Shiro, here after stopping Ganigan Lopez in May 2018, is a growing attraction in Japan. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

The popularity of WBC junior flyweight champion Ken Shiro (14-0, 8 knockouts) continues to rise in Japan and abroad with every successful title defense, now numbering four. Habitually shining a smile and flashing a peace sign following each one of his wins has earned him the nickname “smiling assassin.”

Shiro resides in a hot division with mouthwatering scenarios. Before those fights can be made he has to knock journeyman Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13 knockouts) off his hit list on December 30th in Tokyo. 

Ken Shiro will make his fifth defense of the WBC junior flyweight title against Saul Juarez. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

“I’ll win for sure! I didn’t see any tape on [Juarez] but I heard he uses a lot of footwork and moves around a lot,” a very confident and always cheerful Shiro told The Ring. “I’ll KO him in the middle to later rounds,” predicted Shiro.

The matchup will be in chief support of Masayuki Ito’s junior lightweight title defense, with that main event set to be shown on ESPN+. Top Rank has informed The Ring that Shiro’s fight may also be aired, but as of yet no decision has been made.

Riding a three fight knockout streak, Shiro gets a bit of a break in Juarez as an opponent, who’s ranked no. 7 by the WBC. The champ is coming off a tough victory against Milan Melindo just a couple of months ago but wanted to stay active and partake in the end of the year boxing festivities in Tokyo. “End of the year fights are popular here and if I win, more people will know my name.”

Fighting the very next night will be the other Japanese junior flyweight thunderbolt, Hiroto Kyoguchi. Should Shiro and Kyoguchi both leave 2018 with wins and championship belts around their waists, a unification could be made next year.

Fans got a taste of what that matchup would look like when the two showed up for a public sparring at Korakuen Hall last week. “Both of us are going to have a world title match [this month] and we said we should have a workout together. And then we thought it would be more exciting if we had it in ‘the Hall.’ It was a good workout.”

Shiro versus Kyoguchi, who faces RING junior flyweight champ Hekkie Budler the day after in Macau, is the best all-Japanese matchup that can currently be made. “It will be a very notable fight and it makes me excited. It was only two rounds so I can’t say much about it but it inspired me [to fight him]. I look forward to a unification.”

Sadly, Shiro says that a potential Kyoguchi fight would be a one-time deal. “No matter the result, we won’t have a rematch.”

It’s not often you get two Japanese fighters of this caliber in the ring together. In September when such an instance occurred, Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura gave us a Fight Of The Year candidate.

Both Shiro and Kyoguchi belong to different networks. However, the recent showcase is proof that they both want the fight to happen, and their respective gym presidents have now also shown a willingness to work together. Shiro is optimistic. “It’s not in my control so I don’t know. But I think it’s possible.”

First things first, on December 30th at the Ota-City Gymnasium with the rugged Saul Juarez.

Translations courtesy of Yoshiko Motomura.

Contact Nick Skok on Twitter at @NoSparring.