By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada
Unbeaten former IBF 105-pound champ, Japanese puncher Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9 KOs), 107.75, captured his second world belt as he kept whipping WBA 108-pound titlist Hekkie Budler (32-4, 10 KOs), 106.75, with effective left uppercuts to the face and the side of the belly, weakened him round after round, and was awarded a TKO victory after the tenth round when Budler, 30, gave up going on because of his accumulation of punishment on Monday in Macao, China.
The new champ Hiroto, 25, was ahead on points at Hekkie’s abrupt surrender—Reina Urbaez (Venezuela) 98-92, Derek Milham (Australia) 96-94, Chalerm Prayadsab (Thailand) 97-93, all in favor of the Japanese pressure fighter with his tight guard. The referee was Mark Calo-oy (US).
We truly appreciated the South African veteran’s elusiveness in outmaneuvering defending WBA/IBF titlist Ryoichi Taguchi by an upset hairline verdict (all 114-113) in Tokyo last May, and expected Kyoguchi would have a tough time coping with such a shifty footworker—if not like Lomachenko. Hiroto, however, solved the difficult riddle with his secret weapon, that is, a left hook to the breadbasket that his idol—three-time WBC bantam ruler Joichiro Tatsuyoshi—had taught him how to throw and hit in his childhood.
The dethroned champ Hekkie gloomily said, “Kyoguchi was physically strong. Having received effective body shots many times, I couldn’t breathe and work well, so my corner decided me to quit then.” The new champ jubilantly said, “Maido Ohkini (Thank you every time; in a local tongue in Osaka area). I tried to weaken Budler with continual jabs and body shots, which worked well. Also, I’m happy to avenge my senior clubmate Mr. Taguchi’s previous defeat by him.”
Both were tight peek-a-boo stylists, and it became a battle of uppercuts penetrating the opponent’s guard. The first round saw Budler’s beautiful right uppercut that caught Kyoguchi with precision to indicate that it would be a tough fight for the Japanese challenger. It’s Hekkie’s round. But Hiroto also utilized uppercuts to the face and to the body to catch the moving target, winning the second session.
Hiroto, who lately showed his technical improvement in beating more experienced Carlos Buitrago (TKO8) and Vince Paras (W12) in his previous IBF 105-pound defenses, gradually took the pace by patiently hitting his stinging lefts. Probably Budler hadn’t expected that Kyoguchi would be such a fine jabber against him. Kyoguchi recently changed his style from an only hard-hitting puncher to a skillful boxer-puncher with good defense.
From the fourth onward Kyoguchi apparently dominated the contest despite Budler’s occasional retaliations. An accidental headbutt opened a cut over Hiroto’s right eyebrow in round five, but he kept stalking Hekkie and throwing left uppercuts downstairs.
Steadily piling up points, Hiroto, an inch taller than the artful dodger, showed his best in the seventh, when he had Budler at bay with left-right combos followed by effective left uppercuts to the belly. Hekkie’s pride and cleverness helped him avert a knockdown, but he was obviously slowing down from the seventh on.
It’s the baby-faced Kyoguchi that accelerated his pressure and attack to the retreating champ, who returned to his corner after losing a point in every round since the fifth. Budler occasionally countered solid rights to the onrushing Kyoguchi, who shook them off and whipped him with return shots to the face and belly.
After taking another point with his aggressiveness, Hiroto saw the defending champ Budler retire on the stool with his handler Colin Nathan’s well-timed resolution.
Kyoguchi’s father and uncle are both karate masters that opened a gym named Seishinkai in Osaka, where Hiroto began to learn how to punch and kick since three years of age. His elder brother by two years, Ryuto was professionally fighting at Osaka Teiken Gym that cultivated Jiro Watanabe, Takuya Muguruma and Joichiro Tatsuyoshi into world championships to its credit. So, the kid Hiroto had a contact with Tatsuyoshi, whom he still highly idolizes even now.
Ryuto, once a bright prospect, was a notorious boy, who was once arrested due to drunken driving and beating up the taxi driver. He was then suspended by the JBC. Despite his good talent, Ryuto wasn’t diligent in training and tasted his first defeat by future national champ Kosuke Saka via third round knockout in 2015, a year before Hiroto’s entry into the paid ranks. Ryoto was forced to hang up gloves due to his oft-wrongdoing by his gym.
Takashi Inoue, once a trainer at the Osaka Teiken Gym, moved to Watanabe Gym in Tokyo, and then scouted Hiroto, whose amateur mark was only 52-14, 8 stoppages. Kyoguchi, a graduate of Osaka University of Commerce, exchanged gloves with the current WBC 108-pound champ Ken Shiro (of Kansai University) four times with Hiroto winning once and Ken three times when they were amateur boxers.
Inoue’s strict and hard training reproduced Hiroto into a hard-punching prospect, nicknamed “Dynamite Boy” or “Mad Boy”, who scored six victories in a row within the distance since his pro debut. It was very remarkable that in only fifteen months Kyoguchi captured the IBF 105-pound belt from Mexican Jose Argumedo in his eighth pro outing in 2017.
After his first coronation Kyoguchi, a crowd pleaser, scored a couple of defenses against Buitrago and Paras, and then relinquished his belt because of his weight problem. Without watching the scandalous forfeiture of previously unbeaten WBC flyweight champ Daigo Higa on the scale, Kyoguchi might have kept it in another defense, but he definitely decided to move up to the light-flyweight category and tested his fists at 108 pounds by disposing of previously unbeaten world contender Tito Monabesa of Indonesia in four quick rounds last September. Hiroto’s performance was admirable with power-punching and tight defense.
The still improving and vastly talented champ Hiroto Kyoguchi may face perennial contender and national champ Tetsuya Hisada, who is #2 ranked by the WBA—behind #1 Kyoguchi, in his initial defense.
With Hiroto’s new coronation we hereby count seven Japanese world champions in the end of 2018, as follows: WBO 130 Masayuki Ito (27 years of age), WBC interim 122 Tomoki Kameda (27), WBA 118 Naoya Inoue (25), WBC interim 118 Takuma Inoue (23), WBO 112 Kosei Tanaka (23), WBC 108 Ken Shiro (26) and WBA 108 Hiroto Kyoguchi (25). What fate will await them in 2019?
Promoter: Watanabe Promotions.
Supervisor: Alan Kim (Korea).