Hiroto Kyoguchi dismisses amateur losses to Teraji, says he’s a different fighter now
When Ring/WBA junior flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and WBC counterpart Kenshiro Teraji meet at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, next Tuesday, it won’t be the first time.
The two Japanese fighters fought four times in their amateur days, with Teraji holding a 3-1 advantage. Since then, both men have come a long way and are widely considered the two premier junior flyweights in the world. However, Kyoguchi doesn’t feel too much should be read into those amateur contests.
“I won my first bout against him in the amateurs as a freshman in university,” Kyoguchi (16-0, 11 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “At that time, I don’t remember the details, because I was only hell-bent on giving it my all. I lost three subsequent encounters against him just due to my lack of [an amateur] career. Frankly, I just thought he was stronger at that time.
“Turning pro, if my memory is correct, we sparred twice for two rounds, which happened before I became a world champ, and again before I became a two-weight division champ. I don’t have a big impression to look back on how we fought each other. Sparring is just a sparring. It would be good to avenge [those losses,] but it’s not a fateful rivalry or anything, and that part does not matter to me actually.”
Kyoguchi’s handler, Watanabe Boxing Gym president Hitoshi Watanabe, agrees and feels his fighter has evolved since the amateur days.
“Kyoguchi has won the [world] title in two weight classes and defended twice overseas,” said Watanabe. “He has matured enough and is still undefeated. Their amateur encounters were all close, and Teraji was two years older than Kyoguchi. Now that Kyoguchi has made remarkable progress to a totally different level as a pro fighter, the results of their amateur fights will not be of any help in predicting this upcoming fight.”
The two fighters have known each other for many years and are cordial when attending various events and functions.
“He and I are not close friends,” said Kyoguchi. “We don’t go anywhere together in private. We just say hello when we see each other, though. You know we are professional boxers and champions that share a lot in common with each other — our relationship is based on that.”
Kyoguchi won the IBF strawweight title in his eighth professional bout by outpointing tough Mexican Jose Argumedo (UD 12). After making two successful defenses, he stepped up to junior flyweight and impressively claimed the Ring Magazine championship and WBA title from Hekkie Budler in December 2018. He has since made four successful defenses.
The 28-year-old power-puncher was keen to clarify his position in the unification bout with Teraji.
“It was me who had the final word on this eagerly awaited showdown,” he said. “Teraji has been publicly calling me out for a unification fight on social media and other ways. Remember, he had no great interest in fighting me when he was on his winning streak defending his world title, where he was highly obsessed with beating Yoko Gushiken’s Japanese record [of 13] world title defenses. Losing his crown to Masamichi Yabuki and then regaining the title, his priority suddenly changed to a unification.
“Honestly, that kind of approach did not feel right, I mean about the way things went down, and at times I thought the order of things was not appropriate. During that time, you know, I kept defending my title, delivering results in a tough foreign environment. Initially, I could not come to terms with [Teraji’s team] on various things, including the purse. To be honest, there were times when I thought it might be difficult to make the fight happen. Now that the issues between us have been resolved, I now have my mind set on a unification fight.”
Kyogochi decamped to Hawaii with his trainer, Takamutsu Kobayashi, for a week in early September to focus on running and building stamina. Since returning to Japan, he has mainly sparred with once-beaten flyweight Taku Kuwahara (who won the OPBF 112-pound title on Tuesday). They have sparred three times a week in preparation.
Kyoguchi is respectful of Teraji and knows his capabilities from their amateur encounters, past sparring and watching his rival fight, but he prefers to keep most of his thoughts to himself at this stage.
“I think Kenshiro’s major assets are his jab and [controlling] distance,” he explained. “I can’t tell you a detailed strategy now. Please look forward to what you see in the ring on the day of the event. I will just display my own boxing.
“This is gonna be the biggest opportunity of my career so far. I am looking forward to the view at the next higher stage after getting this job done clearly. I need to win, and I don’t care if it is by KO or by decision.”
Watanabe believes if his man sticks to a carefully devised game plan, he will prevail.
“In order to prevent Teraji from fighting at a distance, Kyoguchi needs to show powerful boxing at a close range,” he said. “Knowing Kyoguchi may want to go for a KO win, it’s a bout between two top fighters. Teraji is not going to go down so easily. I expect Kyoguchi to deal with Kenshiro appropriately and stick to the winning formula. Victory is our top priority.”
Teraji (19-1, 11 KOs) owned the Japanese and OPBF titles after just eight fights. Soon after that, “Wonder Boy” stepped up to the world scene and claimed the WBC title in May 2017, edging Ganigan Lopez (MD 12). The 30-year-old has improved immeasurably since that time, making eight defenses against the likes of Lopez (KO 2), Milan Melindo (TKO 7), Jonathan Taconing (TKO 4) and Randy Petalcorin (TKO 4).
However, over-confidence saw him return from a COVID infection too quickly, and he lost his unbeaten record and title to Masamichi Yabuki (TKO 10) in September 2021. To his credit, Teraji doubled down and showed his class and an extra edge we hadn’t seen previously by blitzing Yabuki (KO 3) in the rematch to regain his belt.
The main event at the Saitama Super Arena will stream live on ESPN+ starting around 7:30 a.m. ET/ 4:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, November 1. Full coverage starts at 4:30 ET/ 1:30 PT.
Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].
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