Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Teraji Maintains His Position Atop The Jr. Flyweight Division

One of the Boxing events that was to be a focal point in the sport was to be the highly anticipated unification bout for the WBC/WBA Jr. Flyweight world champion Kenshiro Teraji and WBO world champion Jonathan Gonzalez, which would have unified three of five recognized world championships in the 108lb. Jr. Flyweight division. As some may recall however, Gonzalez was forced to withdraw from the bout, which was to take place at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan, in late March due to becoming ill with pneumonia.

Although in decades past it was not uncommon for fights of significance such as world championship unification bouts to see a postponements in the event that a fighter suffers an injury or illness, if nothing else to persevere the financial interests that are involved in a fight, there are times where a fighter who is not injured or ill will try to keep the scheduled date where the original bout was to occur. This is precisely the situation that Kenshiro Teraji found himself in.

While sometimes there are other circumstances that emerge that makes an attempt by both a fighter and promoter to keep a scheduled bout on, what sometimes can get overlooked is the inherent risk that a fighter takes by choosing to fight on rather than trying to wait for a postponed bout to be rescheduled. There is after all a risk not only to a fighter's record in the potential that they could lose, but if they do lose, the risk to their standing in a given division as well as the previous financial incentives that were in place prior to a scheduled bout 's postponement is also potentially impacted.

In this case, Teraji had a little more than two weeks from the postponement of his bout with Gonzalez to find an opponent to step in on short notice so he could defend his unified portion of the World Jr. Flyweight championship. The replacement would be found in the form of Anthony Olascuaga. Olascuaga was given what amounted to an opportunity of a lifetime, albeit one that came on short notice. The opportunity to fight for a world championship, let alone a unified world championship is one that many fighters strive for their entire careers to earn. For Olascuaga, the opportunity came after he had gone unbeaten in five professional fights.

While that statistic might be open to criticism as obviously Olascuaga had not fought anyone near the level of Teraji, it is important to keep in mind that this fight was put together with the primary intention of ensuring that Teraji was able to keep the April 8th date, and was done so on short notice where there is a possibility that Olascuaga may have been the only opponent available and willing to take the fight under the circumstances.

One might question given those circumstances however, the wisdom of both the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC) in sanctioning this fight as a world title bout given the challenger's limited resume and opposition. Although this is something that is not really done in the modern era of the sport of Boxing, perhaps it would have been wise given both the circumstances of the postponement of the unification bout with Gonzalez as well as both Olascuaga taking the fight on short notice and his limited experience, if this were made into a non-title fight as world champions fought routinely in decades past in between title defenses in an effort to stay as active as possible. If nothing else, a decision like that would have at least limited the criticism of some given the circumstances.

Despite the odds being significantly in his favor, there was nevertheless an element of danger for the champion Teraji from the standpoint of both having to prepare for a change of opponent with less than two weeks to do so as well as an element of the unknown in that Olascuaga was unbeaten, but also untested up to this point. To Teraji's credit, he was able to adapt accordingly. Despite the long odds against him, Olascuaga immediately brought the fight to the champion and was clearly intent on showing that he was not merely interested in sharing the ring with one of the best fighters in the sport. He not only traveled to Japan to fight, but he did so with the intention of winning the unified Jr. Flyweight championship of the world.

As is usually the norm in fights fought in Boxing's lower weight divisions, this fight was fought at an extremely high pace with both fighters throwing punches with knockout intent. The challenger's strength appeared to be his ability to catch Teraji with short combinations as the champion was throwing his punches. A tactic that is also referred to as catching an opponent in between punches in exchanges. The highlight of Olascuaga's offense was whenever he would catch Teraji with right hands to the head.

Frankly, both fighters landed hard, thudding punches throughout most of the fight, but gradually as the bout progressed the experience and skillset of Teraji began to show itself. While Olascuaga was able to land power shots periodically, it was Teraji who took over the tempo of the fight and became the one throwing first and initiating the combat. The champion connected with a short right hand that landed on the neck of Olascuaga forcing his gloves to touch the canvas, resulting in a knockdown being called in round three. To the challenger's credit, he was able to shake it off and the fight continued.

With each passing round, both champion and challenger continued fighting at an exhaustive pace. Teraji's greater volume, accuracy and overall skillset however, eventually broke Olascuaga down.

A brutal combination of punches to the head of the challenger in the ninth round would send Olascuaga through the ropes and force a referee's stoppage of the fight. In all honesty, this turned out to be a much more competitive fight than anyone could have realistically expected under the circumstances in which it came about. Anthony Olascuaga certainly was very "Game" and proved his mettle in defeat. His performance in this fight should lead to another opportunity down the line at another world title, but given that his first opportunity came in fight number six of his career, even in defeat he gained valuable experience that will only benefit him in the long-term.

Ultimately, despite for the moment missing out on an opportunity to further unify the World Jr. Flyweight championship, Kenshiro Teraji got what he wanted. He got to stay active, got to successfully defend his WBC and WBA crowns in the process, and got an impressive victory. The obvious question however, will be whether or not once Jonathan Gonzalez is well enough to resume competition, if an attempt will be made to reschedule the unification bout. As tempting as it might be to say it should be rescheduled as soon as possible, Teraji has certainly earned the chance to get some rest after what was a grueling and tougher than expected title defense.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

The Boxing Truth®️ is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.

Follow Beau Denison on Twitter: 

No comments:

Post a Comment