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Kenshiro Teraji aims to impress in comeback bout against Masamichi Yabuki

Kenshiro Teraji. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Skilled boxer-puncher Kenshiro Teraji will look to regain his old WBC junior flyweight title from Masamichi Yabuki at the City Gym, Kyoto, Japan on Saturday, March 19.

Teraji, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 108-pounds (one place behind Yabuki) was shockingly stopped by his rugged countryman in the 10th round of a back-and-forth encounter last September.

Despite the first career loss, the former champion is full of confidence ahead of their meeting.

“I am thankful and thrilled that I can meet Yabuki in a direct rematch,” Teraji (18-1, 10 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “I have studied the tape of the last fight, and I am convinced that I don’t need a tune-up fight or a hiatus. My concern is only to win back my world title as soon as possible.”

Ahead of their first meeting, Teraji had tested positive for Covid and initially postponed the fight. However, after receiving a clear test the fight was rescheduled and only moved back 12-days.

Looking back, he admits that wasn’t a smart move.

“The repeated fight reschedules did not distracted me, I concentrated on what I had to at that time,” he said. “In hindsight, I would say that it was not the best situation for me, including making weight accordingly. I know it is not fair as a professional fighter to make any excuses afterwards as long as I accepted the bout.”

The 30-year-old feels he learned some valuable lessons in their first meeting.

“I had to change my original fighting style in order to make up for the loss of early rounds,” said Teraji, who heard the scorecards announced after the fourth and eighth rounds. “Otherwise, I had no big problem with his speed, punches or skill set.

“I needed more eye-catching right hands to earn points. I still believe that I picked up enough points in earlier rounds, landing my trademark left jab a good amount.

“In the rematch, I will apply a style that allows me to pick up points more clearly every round. Victory is my number one priority.”

Teraji admits that he took being world champion for granted and contemplated a change of profession after the defeat.

“I had always made up my mind that if I lost even once, I would quit fighting,” he revealed. “I was seriously thinking about retirement after my unexpected loss. [I was] looking for what I would do the next in my life, including [attending] a school to become a Sushi chef.”

However, after a period of reflection, the champion’s pride made him double-down and return to boxing.

“I will come back stronger,” he said confidently. “I want everyone to witness, I will become a champion again. I promise you a fight that should make you feel touched with my soul-stirring performance.

“I look further than this bout to continue my story. I will definitely keep fighting after this showdown. This rematch will be just a milestone, not the end of journey. Regaining title is a door opener for me to deserve bigger fight opportunities. I will then move on to call out my compatriot [Ring and WBA 108-pound champion] Hiroto Kyoguchi for a unification shot to fascinate and thrill boxing fans. I want it sooner rather than later.

“If that showdown doesn’t realize smoothly, I won’t wait for it too long to move up in weight to look for big name fighters in their category. I am determined to convince the worldwide fans that I deserve to be invited to big overseas fight events to take a major role on a global stage.”

Teraji’s father, Hisashi, who is a former OPBF light heavyweight titlist, works closely with his son and admits that his team were overconfident ahead of the first meeting but vows to make amends this time.

“I took for granted that [Kenshiro’s] decent left jabs would earn points effectively, but the judging standard applied in the bout last September was completely different from what I had seen en route to successful eight defenses of his crown,” said Teraji Sr. “I felt like my son’s sophisticated fighting style that had been globally evaluated was suddenly denied.

“We will adjust, to pick up points, no matter what kind of scoring criteria is applied. Also, I will call for a fair attention to illegal headbutts in the rules meeting. Our corner will be required to respond in a flexible manner in accordance with the announced official scores every four rounds. The first four rounds will be particularly important for us to decide the direction to go.

“To Yabuki’s credit, he is a driven heavy-hitter and we are not taking him lightly. However, we have a plan to deal with him better in the rematch. The bout won’t go to the scorecards. Kenshiro will end this rematch by knocking him out eventually.”

Yabuki turned professional in 2016. The now 29-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 six consecutive fights, claiming the Japanese national title, and his win over Teraji took his record to 13-3 (12 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 [email protected]