Kenshiro Teraji: You will see me overwhelm Masamichi Yabuki without taking even a single punch
Skilled boxer-puncher Kenshiro Teraji was due to defend his WBC junior flyweight title against mandatory challenger Masamichi Yabuki on September 10, however, Teraji tested positive for COVID-19 in late-August and the fight was postponed.
Thankfully the champion made a quick recovery and received a negative test in early September and will now face his countryman in Kyoto, Japan on Wednesday.
“I am just happy and I appreciate that this opportunity was set without waiting too long,” Teraji (18-0, 10 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “My concern is to keep my career active, to extend my title defense streak further.”
The 29-year-old, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring at 108 pounds behind champion and countryman Hiroto Kyoguchi, has watched tape of his opponent with his trainer and knows what to expect.
“[Yabuki] is a good fighter who waits to bait his opponent into a counter punch,” Teraji explained. “I know how I can handle that. I will stay in close contact and engage, while keeping my stance ready to get out of there at any time. He will probably wait for the right moment when I become over-confident in his favorite distance, but it won’t happen.
“My best possible scenario is to take the lead with my accurate jabs early on and gradually put Yabuki in a tight spot where there is nothing left to do. I will then carefully find a home for my decisive counter punches to end the bout. It should happen naturally after my dominant performance every second of the fight.
“I want a KO win and I know it happens naturally only if I follow my game plan right. You will see me overwhelm Yabuki without taking even a single punch, literally.”
But Teraji’s father, Hisashi, who is a former OPBF light heavyweight titlist, works closely with his son and feels that Yabuki is dangerous.
“Yabuki is not as an easy opponent as reported and he’s underestimated by the media – I do not take him lightly,” he said. “He is on the rise and not yet at his peak, gaining momentum by winning the Japanese national title.
“He is a [bigger-puncher] than [Tetsuya] Hisada (who Teraji outpointed in April), and Kenshiro has to fight more carefully in this encounter. Prior to the Hisada fight, Kenshiro had not fought for a year and four months. He could have done a lot better than that.”
Teraji, like his father, is critical of his most recent performance, but it’s worth taking into account Hisada’s durability. The challenger had only been stopped once in a 47-fight career and took Kyoguchi the distance in October 2019.
“I am not satisfied with my performance against Hisada,” Teraji admitted. “Dropping him in the second round, en route to a near shut-out decision victory, I managed to find a way of catching him clean too much. As a result, I impatiently fought at a distance where I could hardly throw effective and accurate punches.
“The scorecards were in my favor by a good margin. I could have done it in a more cool-headed fashion. That is the key takeaway from the bout as well as my homework for this contest.”
Interestingly, this will be Teraji’s first defense in his hometown, having previously fought at other locations around Japan since winning the WBC belt in May 2017.
“[Fighting at home] makes me feel even more excited and motivated,” Teraji said. “There will be a lot of home fans to back me up, although it depends on the pandemic situation. I want to show them how much I have improved.”
Teraji, who will be making his ninth title defense, is pleased with how his career is developing but has big long-term goals.
“My greatest motivator is to achieve 14 title defenses, breaking our national record of 13 [by Yoko Gushiken] and to [reach] the pinnacle of my weight category,” he explained. “I actually want to fight against all the champions. I do not see it as a risk to go for unification showdowns in my record-chasing bid. Honestly, I would welcome such encounters to claim more belts. I think I can beat them all, one by one, and I do not care about who will fight me first. But if I consider the most realistic matchmaking amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the leading candidate would be my countryman [Ring Champion and WBA titleholder] Hiroto Kyoguchi.”
The matriarch of the family expects his son to prevail against Yabuki and move forwards with his career.
“[After this fight we] move on to the New Year’s Eve event,” he said. “We planned to arrange three showdowns for him in 2021, and we are going right on plan so far.”
Yabuki, who is rated No. 10 by The Ring at 108 pounds, turned professional in 2016. The now 28-year-old lost his fourth outing to future WBO flyweight titlist Junto Nakatani (UD 4) and three wins later he was surprisingly stopped by Seigo Yuri Akui (TKO 1).
After getting back in the win column Yabuki lost to Daniel Matellon (SD 8) but since then he has won five consecutive fights, claiming the Japanese national title while raising his record to 12-3 (11 KOs).
Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.