By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
WBC, WBA light flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji (22-1, 14 KOs), 107.25, kept his belts as he patiently kept stalking game and busy South African veteran Hekkie Budler (36-5, 11 KOs), 107.75, formerly a two-division titleholder, and finally accelerated his attack and battered the challenger to the ropes to prompt the referee’s intervention at 2:19 of the ninth round on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese footworker, 31, averted Budler’s busy but less accurate combinations and fought back with better precision to have the South African, 35, gradually slowing down as the contest progressed.
The tallies prior to the stoppage were as follows: Raul Caiz Jr. (US) 80-72, Jose Manzur (Mexico) and Joel Scobie (Canada) both 79-73, all in favor of the defending champ. The third man was Lupe Garcia (Mexico).
Budler’s work rate was amazing despite his low precision due to Teraji’s defensive skills chiefly thanks to his good footwork. It showed Hekkie’s abundant stamina and fighting spirit against his absorption of punishment.
Teraji, after eight successful defenses, forfeited his WBC belt to unheralded compatriot Masamichi Yabuki via tenth round stoppage in September 2021, but he impressively regained it from his conqueror by a third round knockout six months later. Since then, Teraji changed his style from footworker to boxer-puncher that welcomes any mix-up exchange if necessary.
Teraji sustained a gash at the right eyelid caused by an accidental butt midway in round five, but the champ turned more aggressive to swap punches with the game challenger.
If Budler won a round in the contest, it might be the seventh when the South African kept stalking and punching the elusive champ despite Teraji’s occasional counters. The ninth, however, witnessed Kenshiro turn loose and accelerate his attack to the fading challenger. Pinning him to the ropes, Teraji connected with accurate and effective combinations to the face. Budler almost lost his equilibrium, when the ref declared a well-timed halt to save the loser from further punishment.
Kenshiro said, “I strongly wish to unify all the light flyweight belts before I move up to the flyweight division.” He was once slated to face Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez for unification this April, but the Puerto Rican champ unfortunately suffered a sickness to be unable to exchange gloves with Kenshiro.
We may see Teraji’s reign as the 108-pound titleholder for a while. He participated in fourteen world title bouts, scoring thirteen victories to his credit.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.