Boxing

Kenshiro Teraji vs. Hekkie Budler: The Road to undisputed for ‘The Amazing Boy’

Known as “The Amazing Boy”, Kenshiro Teraji hopes to live up to his ring moniker when he defends his WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine light flyweight titles against former champion Hekkie Budler at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on September 18.

The 12-round bout, plus undercard action, will be broadcast by ESPN+ in the U.S.

Should Teraji prevail in what will be his 14th world title fight, then he will likely take aim at boxing history.

WATCH: Sign up for Kenshiro Teraji vs. Hekkie Budler live, exclusively on ESPN+ 

The emergence of Naoya Inoue as a pound-for-pound star has helped helm a renaissance period in Japanese boxing. “The Monster” cut a swathe through the bantamweight division to emerge as the first undisputed champion in that weight class for almost 50 years.

Teraji, 31, is now looking to follow suit by becoming the first-ever undisputed champion at light flyweight, a division that was formally introduced in the mid-1970s.

Armed with two world titles, as well as the coveted Ring championship, Teraji is already regarded as the finest 108-pound fighter on the planet. However, two more world titles need collecting before the “undisputed” distinction can be his.

The Sporting News takes a look at two potential unification matchups and assesses the likelihood of them taking place:

Will Kenshiro Teraji fight Sivenathi Nontshinga?

Nontshinga (12-0, 9 KOs) is the IBF light flyweight champion. The South African boxer-puncher burst onto the world scene last September when he posted a 12-round split decision win over Hector Flores to claim the vacant title.

In an excellent two-way battle, Nontshinga, 24, played the matador to his opponent’s bull. The previously unbeaten Flores, who hails from Tijuana, Mexico, had home advantage but he was floored by a sharp right in round two and his relentless pressure wasn’t enough to close the scoring gap.

In July, Nontshinga made the first defense of his title against undefeated Filipino Regie Suganob. Once again the Nontshinga right hand produced a knockdown and the champion sailed to a decisive unanimous decision victory before his adoring home support.

Known as “The Special One”, Nontshinga is represented by trainer-manager Colin Nathan, who also works with Budler. Given Nathan already has a working relationship with Team Teraji, the future looks bright for this unification bout.

MORE: All you need to know about Kenshiro Teraji vs. Hekkie Budler

Will Kenshiro Teraji fight Jonathan Gonzalez?

This fight was supposed to take place in April but fell through when Gonzalez suffered a bout of pneumonia.

As WBO champ, Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) holds the final piece of the puzzle. The Puerto Rican star took his bumps during his professional ascent, but he’s an improving fighter with plenty of ambition.

Known as “Bomba”, Gonzalez, 32, defeated Elwin Soto in October 2021 to win the championship. Two defences followed, with the fleet-footed lefty securing unanimous decision wins over Mark Anthony Barriga and Shokichi Iwata.

The latter fight took place in Saitama, and Gonzalez also ventured to Japan for his first world title bout – a TKO loss to then-WBO flyweight champ Kosei Tanaka in October 2019. The fact that he’s willing to travel is good news should a matchup with Teraji be resurrected.

However, Gonzalez has admitted that making the light flyweight limit is extremely difficult and he could elect to move north. Also, should he remain at 108 lbs, the WBO champ may be ordered to face a mandatory challenger in his next fight.

If Teraji comes through bouts with Budler and Nontshinga (no easy task), then his road to the WBO title can be revisited.

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