2024’s Rising Stars: The Top Japanese Boxers You Need to Follow

1. Naoya Inoue: The Monster

Naoya Inoue, a name that resonates with boxing enthusiasts around the globe, has etched an indelible mark in the annals of the sport with a series of spectacular victories that underline his dominance across multiple weight divisions. Known as “The Monster” for his devastating punching power and clinical precision, Inoue’s journey through the ranks has been nothing short of phenomenal. His impeccable record of 26 wins, with 23 by knockout, speaks volumes of his prowess inside the ring. One of his most notable battles was against the four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire in November 2019, a fight that not only tested his limits but also showcased his heart, earning the bout the prestigious Ring magazine Fight of the Year.

Impressive Victories

The saga of Inoue vs. Donaire was a testament to Inoue’s resilience and skill, overcoming adversity in the form of a serious cut and a fractured orbital bone to secure a unanimous decision victory. This triumph was not just about retaining his titles; it was a display of Inoue’s character, battling through pain and impaired vision to vanquish a formidable opponent. His subsequent fights, including a decisive victory over Jason Moloney and a stunning knockout of Michael Dasmariñas, further solidified his status as a force to be reckoned with in the bantamweight division. These victories underscored Inoue’s relentless pursuit of greatness, with each fight bringing him a step closer to his goal of undisputed championship status.

Inoue’s relentless march continued as he faced and defeated Paul Butler in December 2022 to become the undisputed bantamweight champion, a historic achievement that positioned him as the first Japanese boxer to claim such status in the three- or four-belt era. This victory was a milestone, marking his ascent to the pinnacle of the bantamweight division and fulfilling his ambition of being an undisputed champion. But Inoue’s ambition didn’t stop there; his move up to the super bantamweight division and subsequent victories, including a remarkable win against Stephen Fulton and a knockout of Marlon Tapales, underscored his relentless quest for supremacy across weight classes.

Relentless Spirit

Inoue’s journey is a narrative of relentless ambition, indomitable spirit, and unparalleled skill. From his early days in the ring to becoming a two-division undisputed champion, Inoue’s career is a testament to his dedication to the sport of boxing. With each fight, he not only extends his unbeaten streak but also cements his legacy as one of the greatest boxers of his generation. As he prepares for his next title defense against Luis Nery, the boxing world watches with bated breath, eager to witness the next chapter in the storied career of Naoya Inoue, a true icon of the sport.

2. Kosei Tanaka: The Prodigy

Kosei Tanaka has etched his name in boxing history as a prodigious talent, overcoming significant challenges to become a four-weight world champion. His journey from battling Legg–Calvé–Perthe disease as a child to dominating the boxing world is a testament to his resilience and unwavering spirit. Tanaka’s amateur career laid a solid foundation, with notable achievements in national and international competitions, setting the stage for his professional ascendancy.

Meteoric Rise

Turning pro at 18, Tanaka quickly made headlines, capturing the WBO mini-flyweight title in just his fifth bout, becoming the fastest Japanese fighter to win a world championship. His meteoric rise didn’t stop there; Tanaka continued to break records, claiming titles across three weight classes in record time, a feat paralleled only by Vasyl Lomachenko. His victory over Ryuji Hara for the OPBF mini-flyweight title and subsequent wins across junior-flyweight, flyweight, and finally, the junior-bantamweight divisions, where he secured the WBO title in 2024, underscore his exceptional talent and ambition.

Brains & Brawn

Tanaka’s record of 20 wins, 1 loss, with 11 victories by knockout, highlights his prowess in the ring. His only professional setback, against Kazuto Ioka, did little to diminish his stellar reputation. Instead, it added a layer of grit to his character, showing his ability to bounce back and continue his pursuit of greatness.

Off the ring, Tanaka’s academic achievements and personal life, including his graduation with a degree in economics and his familial connections to the sports world, add depth to his profile as a disciplined athlete committed to excellence in all facets of life. Admirably, he looks up to Naoya Inoue, another boxing luminary, underscoring a culture of respect and aspiration among Japan’s boxing elite.

3. Kenshiro Teraji: The Technician

Kenshiro Teraji, also widely known as Ken Shiro, has solidified his place in the annals of professional boxing as one of the most formidable fighters in the light flyweight division. Born into the legacy of his father, a distinguished boxer, Teraji has not only followed in his footsteps but also carved his own path to greatness. With a professional record that boasts 22 wins, including 14 by knockout, against a single loss, Teraji’s career is a testament to his relentless work ethic, strategic prowess, and the indomitable spirit that defines champions.

Early Career and Rise Through the Ranks

From his debut in August 2014, where he secured a victory against Heri Amol, to conquering the WBC Youth light flyweight title in 2015, Teraji’s early career was marked by a series of impressive wins that showcased his potential to rise to the top. His journey through the ranks was punctuated by significant victories, including claiming the Japanese national light flyweight title and the OPBF title, setting the stage for his ascent to the world stage. It was his victory over Ganigan López in 2017, however, that crowned him the WBC light flyweight world champion, a title he defended with valor and strategic finesse in the bouts that followed.

Teraji’s reign as the WBC champion was characterized by notable defenses against formidable opponents such as Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza, displaying his boxing acumen and the ability to adapt and overcome in the ring. His rematch with López not only avenged his earlier narrow victory but did so in spectacular fashion with a second-round body shot knockout, underscoring Teraji’s growth and dominance in the division. Despite a setback against Masamichi Yabuki in 2021, Teraji’s resilience shone through as he reclaimed his title with a decisive third-round knockout in their rematch, a victory that was both a redemption and a statement of his enduring prowess.

Key Title Unification

The pinnacle of Teraji’s career, however, was marked by his victory over Hiroto Kyoguchi in a historic title unification bout in 2022. This win not only unified the WBA (Super), WBC, and The Ring light flyweight titles but also established Teraji as the lineal champion, a feat that cemented his legacy in the sport. His subsequent defenses, including a triumphant victory over Hekkie Budler, have only further solidified his status as the world’s best active light flyweight, as recognized by The Ring, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, ESPN, and BoxRec.

The Challenges Ahead

Kenshiro Teraji’s journey from a promising young talent to a unified world champion is a narrative of perseverance, skill, and the relentless pursuit of greatness. As he continues to defend his titles and build on his legacy, Teraji stands as a beacon of excellence in boxing, inspiring a new generation of fighters with his dedication, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of a champion.

4. Masayoshi Nakatani: The Comeback King

Masayoshi Nakatani, born on March 8, 1989, in Japan, has become a formidable force in the lightweight boxing division. His journey from securing the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) lightweight title to clinching the WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title is a narrative of resilience, skill, and unyielding determination. With a professional record of 20 wins, 14 by knockout, against 3 losses, Nakatani’s career is a testament to his prowess inside the ring and his quest for boxing excellence.

Early Career and Rise Through the Ranks

Nakatani’s professional career began in Japan, where he fought the initial 18 bouts of his career, showcasing his dominance by winning the OPBF lightweight title in January 2014. His successful defense of the title 11 times highlights his skill and consistency in the ring. However, it was his bout against Teófimo López in July 2019, outside of Japan for the first time, that truly tested Nakatani. Despite a unanimous decision loss, Nakatani’s performance against the then-undefeated López in an eliminator for the IBF lightweight title was a display of his tenacity and boxing acumen.

Capturing the WBO Inter-Continental Lightweight Title

Nakatani’s resilience was on full display on December 12, 2020, in Paradise, Nevada, where he faced Félix Verdejo. Overcoming two knockdowns, Nakatani secured a victory by ninth-round technical knockout, capturing the vacant WBO Inter-Continental lightweight title. This bout was not just a victory but a statement from Nakatani, expressing his desire to avenge his loss to López and aim for the knockout in a potential rematch, highlighting his fighter’s spirit and determination to rise to the top.

The Challenge Against Vasiliy Lomachenko

Nakatani’s pursuit of greatness saw him facing the formidable Vasiliy Lomachenko on June 26, 2021, in Paradise, Nevada. This bout was significant, as both fighters shared a common loss to López. Nakatani’s courage and determination were evident, even as he faced a ninth-round technical knockout loss. This fight underscored Nakatani’s willingness to face top-tier opponents, further solidifying his reputation as a resilient and determined fighter in the lightweight division.

Legacy and Future Prospects

Masayoshi Nakatani’s journey in professional boxing is a narrative of overcoming challenges and persistently striving for greatness. His victories and losses alike have contributed to his growth as a fighter, with each bout adding to his legacy in the lightweight division. As Nakatani continues to compete, his resilience, skill, and determination make him a formidable opponent and a prominent figure in the world of boxing. Fans and enthusiasts eagerly await his future bouts, anticipating more thrilling displays of boxing prowess from the resilient warrior of the lightweight division, Masayoshi Nakatani.

5. Junto Nakatani: The Rising Star

Junto Nakatani (中谷潤人), born on January 2, 1998, has rapidly ascended the ranks of professional boxing, cementing his status as a formidable champion across three weight classes. From his professional debut in 2015 to his latest triumph in 2024, Nakatani’s journey is one of relentless dedication, skillful execution, and an unbeaten record that speaks volumes of his prowess in the ring. Holding the WBO flyweight title from 2020 to 2022, capturing the WBO junior-bantamweight title in 2023, and clinching the WBC bantamweight title in February 2024, Nakatani has demonstrated a remarkable versatility and dominance in the sport.

A Knockout Debut to Champion Status

Nakatani’s professional career began with a spectacular first-round technical knockout victory, setting the tone for a career that would be characterized by decisive wins and a tactical approach to boxing. His early career saw him accumulating a flawless record, leading to significant bouts that would test and ultimately prove his caliber. Notably, Nakatani’s victory over Giemel Magramo for the vacant WBO flyweight title showcased his ability to dominate fights, utilizing his range and power to secure an eighth-round technical knockout.

Defending Titles and Setting Records

As the holder of the WBO flyweight title, Nakatani successfully defended his championship, illustrating not only his skill but also his adaptability to overcome challenges, including navigating the complexities of organizing fights during the COVID-19 pandemic. His transition to the super flyweight and then to the bantamweight classes was seamless, with victories that included unanimous decisions and knockouts, highlighting his comprehensive fighting ability. Nakatani’s first WBO super flyweight title defense against Argi Cortes and his recent win to claim the WBC bantamweight title further solidify his legacy as a multi-division champion.

A Legacy in the Making

With a professional record of 27 wins, 20 by knockout, and no losses, Nakatani’s career is a testament to his hard work, strategic thinking, and the sheer force of his punches. His journey from a promising debutant to a world champion in three weight classes is not just a personal achievement but a significant moment in the world of boxing. Nakatani’s ability to engage and succeed at the highest levels across different weight classes underscores his exceptional talent and resilience.

As Junto Nakatani continues to build on his impressive record, his career is a narrative of triumph, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. His achievements resonate beyond the boxing ring, inspiring aspiring athletes and captivating boxing fans worldwide. With every fight, Nakatani not only defends his titles but also cements his legacy as one of the most dynamic and skilled boxers of his generation.

6. Andy Hiraoka: The Blade

Andy Hiraoka Cudjoe, known in the boxing world as “The Blade,” is a striking figure in the super lightweight division. Born on August 8, 1996, in Yokohama, Japan, to a Ghanaian father and a Japanese mother, Hiraoka has carved out a significant presence in professional boxing. As the reigning World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Asia Pacific Super Lightweight Champion, Hiraoka’s journey from a multicultural upbringing to the pinnacle of boxing success is a testament to his relentless work ethic, skill, and dedication to the sport.

From Yokohama to the World Stage: Hiraoka’s Rise

Hiraoka’s early life in a Yokohama suburb laid the foundation for what would become an illustrious boxing career. With a unique blend of Ghanaian and Japanese heritage, he has brought a distinctive flair and fighting spirit to the ring. Standing at 5′ 11½″ with a reach of 74″, Hiraoka’s physical attributes, combined with his southpaw stance, make him a formidable opponent. His impressive record boasts 23 wins, 18 of which are knockouts, showcasing a knockout percentage of 78.26%—a clear indicator of his powerful punch and tactical prowess.

“The Blade’s” Path to Glory

Hiraoka’s professional career, spanning from 2013 to 2023, is marked by significant victories and a relentless pursuit of greatness. His debut on December 3, 2013, set the stage for a series of triumphant battles, culminating in his latest victory against Sebastian Diaz Maldonado on December 26, 2023. This fight, among others, has solidified his reputation as a knockout specialist, with the ability to end bouts decisively and emphatically.

Defending the Title: Hiraoka’s Reign as WBO Asia Pacific Champion

Andy Hiraoka’s journey to becoming the WBO Asia Pacific Super Lightweight Champion is filled with noteworthy battles that have tested and proven his skill set. Victories over seasoned fighters like Min Ho Jung, Alvin Lagumbay, and Shun Akaiwa highlight his dominance in the division. His ability to secure wins through technical knockouts speaks volumes about his strategic approach and his knack for exploiting openings with precision strikes. Each bout has been a step towards solidifying his status as a champion and a testament to his growth as a fighter.

The Future of “The Blade”

As Andy Hiraoka Cudjoe continues to defend his title and seek new challenges, the boxing world watches eagerly to see how far “The Blade” can go. His blend of cultural heritage, exceptional talent, and unyielding determination makes him a compelling figure in the sport. With a flawless record and a champion’s mindset, Hiraoka’s future fights are highly anticipated by fans and analysts alike, who expect him to continue making waves in the super lightweight division.