Was getting knocked out the best thing that ever happened to Kenshiro Teraji?
The results suggest it might have been.
Monday in Japan, the lineal junior flyweight king made it four straight since a stunning stoppage loss to Masamichi Yabuki in 2021. It’s the longest stoppage streak of his career amidst arguably his most impressive run. Former Ring Magazine and unified 108-pound titlist Hekkie Budler had been stopped only once before in a career spanning some sixteen years.
Despite being 35, Budler came in prepared and still spry, making it a contest early with smart counter punching, patience, and calm. Budler had been on the road as an underdog before and wasn’t phased by it. There was a tall, literally and figuratively, order in front of him. Budler fought about as smart as he could to give himself a chance.
The problem Budler ran into has been a problem for the division in general since Kenshiro won his first WBC belt in his tenth fight. Budler is a good counter puncher. Kenshiro was better. He was also faster, younger, and possessed heavier hands. Rounds two and five were particularly thrilling, Kenshiro suffering a cut in the latter.
It didn’t matter. As the champion’s body attack chipped away, the defenses of Budler wore down and a final assault left the challenger defenseless on the ropes. In round nine it was all over and one more obstacle to the being first undisputed champion at junior flyweight was removed.
Futures: It might be easy for some to overlook Kenshiro, who holds both the WBC and WBA belts, in what is a strong era for Japanese boxing. He might only be the fourth best fighter in the country right now behind Naoya Inoue, Kazuto Ioka, and Junto Nakatani. Lucky for him he doesn’t have to be Japan’s best. He just has to retain his throne in his division.
And keep adding straps.
Earlier this year, the plan was to go for a third in facing WBO titlist Jonathan Gonzalez. Gonzalez fell out sick and that might make the most sense to return to now. If not, a mandatory match with Carlos Canizales is out there. Budler was a mandatory as well so he’s one down in that regard. There is also IBF titlist Sivenathi Nontshinga in his way for undisputed. Gonzalez and Nontshinga both present different looks so accomplishment isn’t guaranteed.
The pursuit will be worth following. After the Budler win, Kenshiro is now 13-1 in title fights with eight of those wins coming against opponents ranked top ten going in by TBRB and/or Ring Magazine. He avenged his only loss with a third-round shelling. Three of his last four wins were against fighters ranked in the top three by both organizations.
It’s hard to ask for more so far but those who ask for more are likely to get it.
Argi Cortes gave Juan Francisco Estrada all he could handle. Junto Nakatani dropped him three times and won nearly every round. At just 25, Nakatani might be the junior bantamweight king in waiting…Yokasta Valle cleared her side of the deck for a unification showdown with Seniesa Estrada. It would be another welcome gem in the golden age of women’s boxing…Luis Alberto Lopez is tough, tricky, and made for a long night for Joet Gonzalez. Can his awkward attacks work against a more skilled customer like Robeisy Ramirez or the physicality of a Brandon Figueroa? It would be welcome to find out…William Zepeda may or may not emerge as an elite lightweight. He’s already elite viewing. Few fighters in the world are more exciting.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org