Wednesday, October 04, 2023  |


Junto Nakatani set to defend his WBO 115-pound belt against Argi Cortes on Monday

Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Fighters Network

Hugely talented Junto Nakatani will put his WBO junior bantamweight title on the line for the first time against Argi Cortes at the Ariake Arena, Tokyo, Japan on Monday.

Nakatani, rated at No. 3 by The Ring at junior bantamweight, believes he will have to pick his moments against his usually sturdy opponent, who gave Ring and WBC titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada (UD 12) a very difficult fight a year ago.

“He seems like very good fighter, so I force [myself to] hard training everyday,” Nakatani (25-0, 19 knockouts) told The Ring through Daisuke Okabe.

“Cortes style is aggressive and throws combinations, so I have to control him carefully with distance [the] whole fight. Also, I can have chance to land [my own punches] on him when he comes aggressive. I try to knock him out depending on his game plan.”

Nakatani-Cortes will support Ring, WBA and WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji’s fight with grizzled former two-weight titleholder Hekkie Budler.

The tall sharpshooter hopes to capitalize on a career best win when he claimed the WBO belt last time out and knows if he can continue to build his brand, not just at home but overseas, he could become a star in his own right.

“I had great experience [in the] Moloney fight in Las Vegas,” he said. “I was really happy to realize many people said they want to watch me fight again. That’s very big motivation for my boxing career.

“I’d like to show a tremendous performance at this opportunity on September 18. Moreover, I will try to impress all the over the world and my division.”

The 25-year-old who previously held the WBO flyweight title before heading to junior bantamweight, intends to seek out the biggest and best challenges before moving up in weight.

“My eyes [are] on [a] unification of 115-pounds division now,” he said. “I want four belts and [then] move to 118.

“I’d like to say my goal is pound-for-pound [recognition.] I work hard and try hard. Please do not miss my fight. See you on September 18.”

His long-term trainer Rudy Hernandez waxes lyrical about his protege at every opportunity and believes he will become a star sooner rather than later.

“Junto is the best boxing student I’ve ever trained,” said Hernandez, who has notably also worked with his late brother, Genaro, steering him to two world titles, as well as Mike Alvarado and Masayuki Ito.

“He’s always looking to be better. His dedication to the sport is like no other. He’s not afraid of trying new things or getting out of his comfort zone. Even when it doesn’t work out, the first or second time he’ll try and try again. He believes in me as I believe in him. He gets it. He’s the best fighter I’ve ever trained.”

A very solid first defense on paper for Nakatani. I do expect him to win but the manner will be particularly interesting. Cortes gave Estrada a fight, whether Estrada was ring-rusty or wasn’t fully dialled in I don’t know but Cortes showed he can compete with the top guys at 115-pounds. I think Nakatani will win a 12-round unanimous decision.

Cortes (25-3-2, 10 KOs) is a nine-year pro who nearly upset Estrada in a fiercely-contested showdown. The 28-year-old Mexican has won twice since, most recently, edging out Adolfo Castillo Gonzalez (MD 10) in March.


Teraji-Budler, plus Nakatani-Cortes will be broadcast on ESPN+ at 5 a.m. ET/ 2 a.m. PT.



The Ring Ratings Reviewed 2023: Junior bantamweight – The Ring (


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