Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Is Unification Next For Teraji And Gonzalez?

One of the bigger fights that was in the proverbial pipeline for 2023 was to have been a showdown in the 108lb. Light-Flyweight division between unified WBC/WBA world champion Kenshiro Teraji and WBO world champion Jonathan Gonzalez. A unification bout that was set to take place in April of this year. As most Boxing fans however know, Gonzalez was forced to withdraw due to an illness. Rather than waiting on the sidelines for the fight to be put back together, Teraji has shown that the best preparation for a unification bout more often than not, is to remain active.

Despite the cancellation of the fight with Gonzalez, the WBC/WBA champion kept the scheduled date in April and successfully retained his crown with a ninth round stoppage of a very "Game" Anthony Olascuaga. With the showdown with Gonzalez no closer to being made a reality, Teraji returned to the ring on September 18th at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan to defend his unified world championship against former two-division world champion Hekkie Budler, who entered the fight as the WBC's number one contender and the number four contender in the WBA's Light-Flyweight ratings. 

As tends to be the norm in bouts fought in Boxing's lowest weight divisions, the pace of the fight was a fast one fought at a high rate. When this occurs, it usually creates a scenario where both fighters are able to execute their offense well. It also creates a conundrum in terms of scoring as rounds tend to be close. This was a fight that followed that pattern as both fighters had success in landing short, compact combinations on each other. 

As the fight progressed into the middle rounds, Teraji's harder punches and consistent body attack began to become the dominant factor in the contest. Although Budler remained competitive and still attempted to give as much as he took in punishment, the end of the bout culminated with Teraji landing a barrage of unanswered punches that resulted in the fight being stopped late in the ninth round. 

While this accounted to a "Stay Busy" outing for Kenshiro Teraji, he did fulfill his mandatory defense obligations as far as the WBC is concerned and will continue to benefit from being active if a fight against Jonathan Gonzalez does not come to fruition in the near future. Of course, the question coming out of this fight, much as was the case following Teraji's victory over Anthony Olascuaga in April, is will a fight with Gonzalez be next?

Obviously, this observer cannot answer that question, but it should be pointed out that the fight was signed and scheduled to take place before Gonzalez had to withdraw because of an illness. This would seem to suggest that there would not be the usual hurdles that occur in the sport such as promotional issues and the involvement of rival networks to name a few. Whether a unification bout between the two will happen will obviously depend on Gonzalez' health as well as whether or not the three sanctioning organizations involved will have mandated title defenses of their respective world championships due to the time that has passed between when the fight was supposed to take place and where things stand currently as world champions are obligated to fulfill mandatory defenses on an annual basis. 

Whatever the case may be, Boxing's lowest weight divisions will likely continue to benefit from increased exposure thanks to the advent of digital streaming that has allowed weight classes that normally do not get showcased regularly here in the United States to be shown more frequently. With the level of competition consistently high, it should be a benefit to many fighters throughout the lower weight divisions to try and take advantage of the increased exposure. While that is a "Big Picture" perspective, if a fight between Teraji and Gonzalez cannot be made, there should be no shortage of interesting and competitive fights that could be made.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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