Back in Espirito Santo, Brazil, Touro Moreno thought he had a couple mixed martial arts fighters in his home in the form of sons Yamaguchi and Esquiva Falcao. But from an early age, it was clear that boxing was where they were headed.

“My father fought, and at the beginning of training at home when I was a child, he wanted me to go to MMA, but I already fell in love with boxing,” said Yamaguchi, who went on to win an Olympic bronze medal in the 2012 Games. And despite being in the midst of a successful pro career that has seen him compile a 20-1-1, 1 NC record, the super middleweight hasn’t ruled out dabbling in the land of headkicks and armbars.  

“I've already received invitations and many ask me that,” he said. “Who knows, maybe a fight after I leave boxing.”

That would be a full circle moment for the family, whose patriarch used to compete in vale tudo matches and looks like he could still go a round or three at 84. But for now, there’s still unfinished business for his 34-year-old son in the boxing ring, which continues this Saturday when he fights Damian Ezequiel Bonelli for the NABA super middleweight title in Orlando.

“I'm in my best shape and very focused,” Falcao said. “I believe that I am close to realizing this dream (of becoming a world champion) and my team is part of it.  I am waiting and looking for my opportunity.”

Many believe fighting for a world title was an opportunity Falcao was going to have a long time ago. Signed by Golden Boy Promotions after the 2012 Olympics, the Brazilian went 16-0, 1 NC in his first 17 pro bouts, fighting both at home and on big cards Stateside, but he never seemed to have the buzz around him that some of his stablemates had. And after a loss to Chris Pearson and a draw with D’Mitrius Ballard, both taking place in 2019, Falcao was suddenly in boxing’s no man’s land. 

“I didn't see my defeat in that fight, but it's over,” he said of the Pearson bout. “There's nothing better than time to show who's who.  I believe that against Ballard, the draw was right.  We are here to grow and learn, I think that made me even stronger to overcome.”

Falcao and Golden Boy would part ways, and while there’s no bitterness from the Brazilian’s side when it comes to the way he was moved, he is happy and content with his current promotional situation.

“I was with Golden Boy for six years and made good fights and friendships,” Falcao said. “But today I would not leave my current company, Fire Fist Boxing Promotions. Here I am very well attended and I have my value.  Golden Boy had a large roster and I think the focus is only on the four or five main ones.  And I'm here to be world champion.”

The fresh start was a good thing for Falcao and his career, but before he could take advantage of it, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“The pandemic was a very difficult time,” he admits. “I went to Brazil at the end of the year (2019) and would return to the U.S. at the beginning of 2020, but with the pandemic growing and the isolation, I ended up going one year and six months without fighting, and I was starting to have financial difficulties at home. My son is still small, there were bills coming in, my work visa expired, and the consulate closed.  Then Fire Fist arrived and we signed again and it was the best thing, because then we had three fights in Brazil and I went back to the ring. I started receiving money again and we are here, firm and strong.”

In 2021, Falcao returned to the ring and scored a trio of wins. Add a February knockout of Fernando Ezequiel Farias back in the States, and he’s got the kind of winning streak that, if it continues this weekend, could lead him to the big opportunities he’s been chasing. Should he succeed, and join the likes of Eder Jofre and Acelino Freitas as world boxing champions from Brazil, that will be quite a headline-grabber in a place that isn’t exactly a hotbed for the sweet science. 

“Boxing has already been seen and valued in Brazil,” said Falcao. “I believe this has changed because the media doesn't broadcast fights on open TV and doesn't report on as many boxers as MMA athletes.  I hope that when a boxer gets the world title that will change, as it was with Popo (Freitas). “He was seen more when he got to the title.  Brazil needs a new world champion and, God willing, it will be Yamaguchi.”