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Kenshiro Teraji shifts gears, prepares to face former sparring partner Anthony Olascuaga on April 8

Kenshiro Teraji during a training session at the Misako Gym on March 24. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)
Fighters Network

Ring/WBA/WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji had been preparing to face WBO titlist Jonathan Gonzalez in an eagerly anticipated unification on April 8. After Gonzalez came down with pneumonia in late March, however, Teraji’s team was left scrambling to find a suitable replacement.

Some efforts were made to secure Gerardo Zapata as the opponent, but in the end, young prospect Anthony Olascuaga won the race to face Teraji at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on Saturday.

“I am very grateful to have found an opponent,” Teraji (20-1, 12 knockouts) told The Ring through Takashi Misako. “I was shocked that it was no longer a unification match, but I’m switching [my attention to Olascuaga] now.”

This won’t be the first time the two men have met inside a ring. They sparred together at the Maywood Boxing Club, home base of veteran Los Angeles-area trainer Rudy Hernandez, in 2017. However, Teraji isn’t reading too much into that experience.

“I think we know each other to some extent because [of that] sparring,” he said. “But it’s different from a match, so I don’t think we’ll know.”

They also have two common opponents. Teraji stopped Gilberto Pedroza (TKO 4) in a title defense and Olascuaga won an eight-round unanimous decision. Teraji also outboxed Saul Juarez (UD 12) and Olascuaga claimed a six-round unanimous decision.

This will be Teraji’s first outing since a career-best win over Hiroto Kyoguchi in November to add The Ring and WBA titles to his collection. That performance, coupled with his dominant rematch win over Masamichi Yabuki, helped him win The Ring’s “Comeback of The Year” award for 2022.

“I am very happy to be evaluated by The Ring,” he said proudly. “Winning against the strong Kyoguchi gave me a lot of confidence, and being able to defeat him also led to growth.”

Teraji avenged his upset loss to Masamichi Yabuki with a third-round knockout in their rematch. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

The winner of Teraji-Olascuaga will likely have to next defend against WBC mandatory challenger Hekkie Budler, and then WBA mandatory Daniel Matellon.

Olascuaga (5-0, 3 KOs) turned professional in 2020. The 24-year-old Californian beat the experienced Juarez, a two-time world title challenger, in just his second outing. “Princesa” followed that by ouboxing Pedroza, who has also challenged for a world title, in his opponent’s home country of Panama and owns a win over previously unbeaten Gustavo Perez Alvarez (TKO 6).

This is a marked step up in class for Olascuaga; though you wonder if Teraji will suffer a letdown after the unification with Gonzalez was called off. I suspect Olascuaga will rise to the occasion and have his moments but expect Teraji to ultimately know too much and score a late stoppage or claim a 12-round unanimous decision.

The undercard will see Takuma Inoue face Liborio Solis for the vacant WBA bantamweight title that was vacated by Takuma’s brother Naoya. There will also be an intriguing IBF featherweight eliminator between former two-weight titleholder Kiko Martinez and Japanese national champion Reiya Abe. Power-punchers Jin Sasaki and Keita Obara will also meet at welterweight. The official main event will see popular former kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa, famed for being stopped by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in an exhibition, make his professional boxing debut against Yuki Yonaha at junior featherweight.

Teraji-Olascuaga, plus supporting bouts, will be broadcast live ESPN+ at 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].