Kenshiro Teraji at the press conference announcing his fight against Jonathan Gonzalez. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)
On Monday at a press conference in Japan, it was officially announced that Ring/WBA/WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji will face WBO titleholder Jonathan Gonzalez in a junior flyweight unification at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on April 8.
Also on the card will be Takuma Inoue vs. Liborio Solis for the vacant WBA bantamweight title that was recently 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 meet at welterweight.
The official main event will see popular former kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa make his professional debut against Yuki Yonaha at junior featherweight.
Teraji (20-1, 12 knockouts) won the Japanese and OPBF titles inside eight fights. Soon after that, “Wonder Boy” claimed the WBC title in May 2017, edging Ganigan Lopez (MD 12). The 31-year-old has improved immeasurably since that time, making eight defenses against the likes of Lopez (KO 2), Milan Melindo (TKO 7), Jonathan Taconing (TKO 4) and Randy Petalcorin (TKO 4).
However, over-confidence saw him return from a COVID infection too quickly, and he lost his unbeaten record and title to Masamichi Yabuki (TKO 10) in September 2021. To his credit, Teraji doubled down and showed his class and an extra edge we hadn’t seen previously by blitzing Yabuki (KO 3) to regain his old belt, then emphatically added the Ring and WBA belts by beating Hiroto Kyoguchi (TKO 7). Turnaround earned Teraji The Ring’s Comeback of the Year award.
Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs), the Ring-rated No. 1 junior flyweight, was a standout amateur, claiming three national titles as well as gold at the Central American & Caribbean games and World Youth championships, turned professional in 2011 amid high expectations in Puerto Rico. After winning his first 13 fights, he came unstuck against hard-charging former world champion Giovani Segura (KO 4). After righting the ship, he was surprisingly beaten by Jobert Alvarez (TKO 6).
The 31-year-old slick southpaw was stopped by Kosei Tanaka when he attempted to win the WBO 108-pound title but renewed faith in his enormous potential with an upset win over Elwin Soto (SD 12). He has since made two defenses, notably besting the highly touted Shokichi Iwata (UD 12) on the undercard of Teraji-Kyoguchi last November.
Inoue (17-1, 4 KOs), the Ring-rated No. 10 junior featherweight, will drop back to bantamweight after three fights at 122 pounds. Although Takuma has largely fought in brother Naoya’s shadow, he is a talented fighter in his own right, winning OPBF titles at junior bantamweight and bantamweight and the national title at junior featherweight.
The 27-year-old doesn’t possess Naoya’s fight-ending power but is a good boxer, though in his lone world title shot to date he came up short against then-WBC bantamweight titlist Nordine Oubaali (UD 12) in November 2019. He has rebounded with four wins, over Keita Kurihara (TD 9), Shingo Wake (UD 12), Gakuya Furuhashi (UD 12) and Jake Bornea (TKO 8).
Solis (35-6-1, 16 KOs) has been a professional since 2000. The now-40-year-old Venezuelan veteran fought all over Latin America on his way up. His big break came when he claimed the WBA junior bantamweight title by outboxing Kohei Kono (MD 12). In his next fight, he attempted to unify with IBF beltholder Daiki Kameda. Although Solis edged matters by 12-round split decision, he came in two pounds overweight and was stripped of his WBA title as well as his opportunity to pick up the IBF belt.
Without a title, Solis had to settle for going back on the local circuit in Panama, where he is based. He unsuccessfully challenged for world titles against Shinsuke Yamanaka (UD 12), twice against Jamie McDonnell (UD 12 and ND 3) and then Guillermo Rigondeaux (SD 12). Solis is now on a five-fight win streak.
Martinez (44-11-2, 31 KOs), the Ring-rated No. 8 featherweight, made a name for himself on the European circuit, winning the European junior featherweight title before upsetting then-IBF 122-pound ruler Jhonathan Romero (TKO 6). Two defenses followed before he lost to Carl Frampton (UD 12). After moving up to featherweight, Martinez lost initial world title challenges to Leo Santa Cruz (TKO 5) and Gary Russell Jr. (TKO 5).
The 36-year-old breathed new life into his career by stunning IBF beltholder Kid Galahad (TKO 6), earning The Ring’s 2021 Comeback of the Year. He lost the title in his first defense to Josh Warrington (TKO 7). The big-punching Spaniard may be in the twilight of his career, but in October he showed he’s still dangerous by taking out Jordan Gill (TKO 4) to pick up the European title and position himself for another world title tilt.
Abe (24-3-1, 10 KOs) has been a professional for a decade and has fought exclusively in his homeland of Japan.
The 29-year-old southpaw has twice won the Japanese national title and holds wins over Satoshi Hosono (TD 9), Hinata Maruta (UD 12) and, most recently, Jinki Maeda (MD 12).
Sasaki (14-1-1, 13 KOs) turned professional in August 2018. Since then, the now-21-year-old has left a trail of destruction behind him. Having won his first 11 fights with only one opponent hearing the final bell, Sasaki’s team made the bold move to jump up in class and face Andy Hiraoka. As well as missing weight, which forced a move up to welterweight, Sasaki was well-beaten and stopped in 11 rounds.
Two fights later, Sasaki drew with unheralded Kotaro Sekine (D 6). Last time out, the Tokyo resident scored an eye-catching win over world-rated Ryota Toyoshima (TKO 1).
Obara (26-4-1, 23 KOs) has won Japanese titles at junior welterweight and welterweight as well as the OPBF crown at 140 pounds. The 36-year-old has been found wanting when he’s stepped up to world level, losing to then-IBF junior welterweight titlist Eduard Troyanovsky (TKO 2) in 2016.
The now-36-year-old moved up to welterweight and lost an IBF eliminator to Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (UD 12) in 2019. Since returning to the domestic scene Obara has won all six fights to set up this shootout with a fellow puncher and compatriot.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at el[email protected].