Masamichi Yabuki Rallies to Stop Kenshiro Teraji in Fight of the Year Candidate
Kenshiro Teraji was the longest current active world champion at light flyweight. The 29-year-old from Kyoto, Japan held the WBC title since May of 2019 and has successfully defended it eight times. Leading into his ninth defense against mandatory challenger, Masamichi Yabuki at The City Gym in Kyoto, Teraji faced his share of turmoil.
This bout was originally supposed to happen on September 10th. However, on August 25th, the champ tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, the symptoms were not too severe, and the champ tested negative for the virus on September 3rd. After passing all medical tests, the match was rescheduled.
Teraji faced a challenger with a reputation among Japanese boxing circles as someone who can punch. Struggling at the beginning of his pro career, the 29-year-old from Suzuka, Mie, Japan, has won his last five fights. While viewed as the underdog, Yabuki had been quietly confident and believed all along he would upset the applecart.
A ROUGH GO EARLY
Teraji (18-1, 10 KOs) likes to use his jab and quick feet to keep opponents at bay. But facing someone taller and longer, the defending champ was having a difficult time of it in the early rounds.
Yabuki’s (13-3, 12 KOs) overall length gave the hometown fighter big problems. He used his jab to set the tone and keep the champ at bay with combinations. Teraji’s nose was red from continuously getting popped in the face. The WBC had the option to allow open scoring in world title bouts and indulged in this for this bout. After four rounds, the underdog was ahead on two of the three scorecards.
The champ continued to struggle in the fifth and sixth. Understanding he was behind, he began to pressing the action in the seventh and eighth. Yabuki responded by landing his fair share of shots, but he also showed signs of fatigue.
After eight rounds, Teraji was still behind on the cards.
The tide shifted again big-time in the ninth. That round saw Teraji suffer a bad cut over his right eye which started to bleed profusely. At this stage, the contest had evolved into an outright war as the champ went looking for the knockout as the challenger seemed exhausted.
Looking like he was on the verge of being stopped midway through the tenth, Yabuki suddenly found a second wind and staged a rally of his own. He began to jab again and tee off with big shots. Towards the end of the round, a series of punches rocked the champ, pinning him on the ropes. Teraji was hurt and defenseless as referee Yuji Fukuchi stepped in and waved the fight off with one second left in the round.
At the time of the stoppage, Yabuki led 88-83, 87-84, and 86-85 on all three scorecards.
What looked to be a simple title defense became a candidate for fight of the year. Kudos to both men for battling through adversity and putting on a heck of a show. As good as this fight was, don’t be surprised if there’s a rematch at some point in 2022.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.