Kenshiro Teraji hopes to begin his 2024 campaign in the same fashion that was in store for this year.
Original plans at the start of 2023 called for the reigning lineal, WBA and WBC junior flyweight champion to face WBO titlist Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez on April 8 at Ariake Arena in Tokyo. Their three-belt unification fell through after Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez fell ill and was unable to honor the date, which left Teraji to settle for unbeaten late replacement Anthony Olascuaga whom he stopped in the ninth round.
By that point, Teraji (22-1, 14KOs) knew that a WBC mandatory title defense was in queue. His team already offered a step-aside package to number-one contender and former two-division titlist Hekkie Budler (35-5, 11KO). There was no such luck the second time around, though Teraji was fine with the matchup as evidenced in his ninth-round stoppage during their Amazon Prime Video/ESPN+ main event Monday at Ariake Arena.
With that piece of business out of the way, the hope now is to revisit the past.
“I would love to fight for a third world title next,” Teraji said to his fans during an in-ring interview after his latest win. “Please shout so everyone can hear that I want to [further] unify the junior flyweight division.”
Teraji has now knocked out each of his last four opponents. The run included a third-round wipeout of countryman Msaamichi Yabuki last March 19 to regain the WBC title and avenge a September 2021 Covid-affected stoppage loss. He then followed with a stunningly one-sided, seventh-round knockout of unbeaten Hiroto Kyoguchi to defend the WBC title and lift the WBA belt in their unification bout last November 1 in Saitama, Japan.
Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14KOs) appeared on that show and defeated undefeated challenger Shokichi Iwata via unanimous decision. The win was his second defense of the WBO junior flyweight title he earned in an October 2021 win over Elwin Soto. Next up for the 32-year-old southpaw is another road trip, as he faces Nicaragua’s Leyman Benavides on October 27 in Nicaragua.
Sive Nontshinga (12-0, 9KOs) is the IBF titleholder who next defends versus Adrian Curiel as part of a November 4 DAZN show from Monaco, Monte Carlo. South Africa’s Nontshinga is a training stablemate and friend of Budler’s, as both are guided by the well-respected and noted cornerman Colin Nathan.
“I believe there is still a chance to fully unify this division,” Teraji previously told BoxingScene.com. “I think I can stay at this weight if we can unify next year.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox