By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Unbeaten footworker Ken Shiro (15-0, 8 KOs), 107.5, successfully retained his WBC light-flyweight belt as he kept moving all night to avert the retaliation of Mexican Saul “Baby” Juarez (24-9-2, 13 Kos), 108, and pounded out a lopsided decision over twelve fast rounds on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan. The official tallies were as follows: Steve Morrow (US) 120-108, Perla Rodriguez (US) and Jun-Bae Lim (Korea) both 119-109, all for the baby-faced champ who registered his fifth defense. The referee was Vic Drakulich (US).
It was a unanimous victory for the prohibitive favorite, but it might be a disappointment for Ken himself and people that expected a big KO win by the champ. The much shorter and busy-moving Mexican showed his heart and durability against Ken’s combinations upstairs and downstairs. There were no knockdowns against the audience’s high expectation.
Ken Shiro, from the start, utilized his faster footwork and probed his opponent with sharp jabs (although he failed to throw his trademark jabs as the contest progressed, which might account for his failure to finish the Mexican because of his unperfect judgement of distance).
Ken, the son of former OPBF light heavyweight champ Hisashi Teraji with his real name Kenshiro Teraji, made a cautious start in the opening session, but quickly had the challenger bleeding from the nose from the second round on. The third and fourth sessions saw Ken still careful against occasional roundhouse lefts and rights, but threw more punches in combinations to win points. After the fourth, the WBC’s open scoring system announced Ken ahead—40-36 twice and 39-37.
Having failed to win the WBC 105-pound belt via close but unanimous decision (115-113, 116-112, 117-110) to Wanheng Menayothin in Thailand in 2016, Saul might have a tricky style to confuse the prefight favorite because of his short height (just 5 feet) and constant mobility. Ken was in command in four rounds from the fifth, but couldn’t follow up effectively to hurt the Mexican and have him on the verge of an expected knockdown, though the interim tallies announced after the eighth were so one-sided—80-72 twice and 79-72 for the champ.
Saul’s brother sixteen years older, Raul Juarez, in 1996, had an ambitious crack at the WBC flyweight throne against Japan-based Russian Yuri Arbachakov only to lose a unanimous nod (117-111 twice, 114-112) in Osaka. Saul proved as durable as his brother, moving incessantly to avert the champ’s busier combinations. Ken turned really aggressive in the final session, when he attempted to finish his foe with all energy left by accelerating his onslaught, but the Mexican desperately showed his heart to withstand the champ’s last surge. Despite the lopsided decision it may be true that Juarez, 28, was the toughest opposition in his five successful defenses.
The champ said, “I was too eager and nervous to finish Juarez, and couldn’t catch up with him more effectively. With no weight problem I’d like to remain in the light-flyweight category and wish to fight another champion in a unification title bout.” His father Hisashi reviewed the unsatisfactory fight, saying, “Juarez was much slower than expected, and Ken Shiro had a tough time to catch him with his bizarre rhythm.”
Ken, after the bout, was unbruised as usual to show his defensive skills and good reflexes. Though it wasn’t his best performance, the champ, still 26, has a good height (5’5”) as a 108-pounder and excellent speed on hand and foot, with which he may extend his reign in 2019.
Promoter: Teiken Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Tito Gonzalez (Mexico).