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Unbeaten Ring Magazine 108-pound champ, Hiroto Kyoguchi, relishes dream US debut

Photo by Naoki Fukuda
08
Mar

Exciting Japanese boxer-puncher Hiroto Kyoguchi will put his Ring Magazine junior flyweight championship and WBA title on the line against Axel Aragon Vega on the undercard of the eagerly anticipated Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez rematch at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday.

The DAZN broadcast will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. PT.

Kyoguchi, who won The Ring Magazine 108-pound championship from Hekkie Budler in December 2018, is excited to make his American debut on such an illustrious promotion.

“Fighting for my title in the U.S. under the Matchroom promotional banner is a big motivation; making me feel I am stepping up to the next level,” Kyoguchi (14-0, 9 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “This has rarely happened in the past to Japanese fighters. I am proud to say, as a vanguard, that this contract has pushed me up to one of the most influential icons in Japanese boxing.



“I will definitely maximize this opportunity to promote myself to the whole world. When I started boxing, I had a big dream of becoming a world champion. Since the moment that I accomplished it, my next goal has been to defend the title in the United States. I am deeply moved and sincerely happy about what is happening now.”

This will be Kyoguchi’s first fight since he turned back the valiant challenge of countryman Tetsuya Hisada (UD 12) in October 2019.

The 27-year-old had been due to face Thanongsak Simsri in early November, however, the contest was cancelled at the 11th hour due to Kyoguchi and his trainer testing positive for COVID-19.

“I feel so sorry for Thanongsak Simsri,” said the champion. “At the time when my bout was called off, I was deeply hurt under a sensitive mental situation, but the hard days made me stronger. I will turn everything into a positive force to achieve my new goal in Dallas. I am comfortably preparing for the next bout and I am in a perfect physical condition.”

Since returning to the Watanabe gym, Kyoguchi has trained diligently under the watchful eye of new trainer Tadahiro Oguchi. He arrived in Dallas two weeks before fight time to acclimatize.

Kyoguchi admits that he hasn’t seen many of his opponent’s fights and prefers to focus on his own game.

“I have got a rough idea of what kind of boxer he is: Very physical, despite his diminutive frame, young and vigorous,” he explained. “Without over-preparing the game plan, I fight based on what I feel is effective when actually facing him in the ring.

“[Vega’s] career KO percentage is not low for a lighter weight division (14 wins, 8 KOs), so I keep in mind that he is a heavy hitter. He is gaining momentum and will fight in a brisk and driven fashion to bring me down. Although the fans underestimate him, I am definitely not taking him lightly.

“Dealing with a different environment is by no means easy, but I just stay positive and enjoy it. I feel good coming into this fight.”

Kyoguchi showed his wide repertoire of punches against Tanawat Nakoon. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

The defending champion is keen to put on a show and impress new fans.

“This fight will be a major part for kicking off the second half of my boxing career,” Kyoguchi said. “I fully recognize that the result will have a huge impact on my career.

“I want to give my best performance in this important showdown. I will make it easy for everyone all over the world to understand who I am. I want to showcase my boxing for those who do not know me yet. It will be a good fight, that’s for sure.”

Kyoguchi hopes to emulate his countryman Naoya Inoue by being universally recognized as the premier fighter in his weight class and also hopes to create new openings for other Japanese fighters overseas.

“I too want the opportunity on the big stage to show who the strongest is,” he said. “I aim [to fight] WBO [Elwin Soto] and IBF [Felix Alvarado] champions as well as the compatriot [Kenshiro Teraji] WBC champion. I am keen to fight them and collect all the belts in my weight class.

“Right now, Naoya Inoue is superb and garnering enormous attention worldwide. I want global fans to know that besides him, there is another worthy Japanese talent, Kyoguchi, to consider. Ideally, I want to develop my career experience, both in Japan and overseas.

“I believe that signing with Matchroom is what is also beneficial for the future of Japanese boxing. I hope that Japanese boxers who follow my footsteps know that a great opportunity like this will be within their reach in the not-too-distant future, as long as they deserve it.”

Gym president Hitoshi Watanabe also hopes the new alignment will help him and his charge face the best in his current weight class to prove he is the top 108-pounder in the world.

“Matchroom Boxing will be responsible for promoting Kyoguchi’s overseas fights based on the multi-fight deal we agreed,” said Watanabe. “This is a new for Watanabe Boxing Gym. The biggest reason that drove us to sign the contract with them is the current situation in Japan, where it is difficult to hold boxing events under the ongoing pandemic. For the time being this situation is likely to continue, we know nothing for sure, and things are so unpredictable. This agreement will greatly contribute to expanding the opportunities for Kyoguchi.

“Kyoguchi has no plans to move up [in weight] at this point. Our stance is to defend his current title in this category while looking for a unification fight. I also have to pay attention to WBA mandatory title defense, as well as Thanongsak.”

Vega turned professional in 2016 and has acquitted himself well. He suffered an early split decision loss and later a brace of defeats to Wilfredo Mendez, the second of which was in a world title bout. Since then, Mendez, who is listed as 4-foot-9, has rebounded to beat former world title challenger Saul Juarez (UD 10). He enters his second world title attempt with a record of 14-3-1 (8 KOs).

Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

 

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