Will Japanese warrior Kenshiro Teraji reach the pound-for-pound list?

Light flyweight king Kenshiro Teraji heads into his January 23 world title defence against Carlos Canizales as one of the most decorated fighters in the sport.

The Japanese star won his first title belt back in 2017 and he’s now the unified champion of the world. Nicknamed “The Amazing Boy”, Teraji’s skillset and power are jaw-dropping and he’s willing to face anyone in or around his division.

So why does the 32-year-old boxer-puncher struggle for recognition outside of a hardcore audience? Well, no matter how brilliant a fighter is in the lower weight classes, they’ll always struggle to secure the same level of notoriety as their heavier counterparts.

WATCH: Kenshiro Teraji vs. Carlos Canizales, exclusively on ESPN+

Even active legends such as Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue were multi-weight world champs before they reached the pound-for-pound conversation. Only with devastating performances and eye-popping accomplishments did both men finally reach the summit.

While Teraji hasn’t moved up in weight yet, Canizales will be his 15th world championship opponent. That number puts him up there with some of the best. Pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford has had 18 championship fights, while the great Inoue has had 21. Unified heavyweight champ and former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk is behind all three with 10 title fights.

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Some detractors might be tempted to point out that Teraji has lost a fight. But while it’s true that the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine champ lost his unbeaten record to Masamichi Yabuki in 2021, it should be noted that Teraji was suffering the aftereffects of COVID-19 and that he avenged that setback via shuddering third-round knockout.

The champ is 13-1 in world title fights and has beaten every opponent he’s ever faced. Teraji has also taken down several world-class operators, including Ganigan Lopez (twice), Milan Melindo, Yabuki, Hiroto Kyoguchi, and Hekkie Budler. All of those fighters were former or reigning world champions and not one of them lasted the distance.

Let’s be honest, if Teraji was even 15-20 pounds heavier, he’d receive a lot more recognition than he does right now.

WATCH: Kenshiro Teraji vs. Carlos Canizales, exclusively on ESPN+

Is Kenshiro Teraji on the pound-for-pound list?

There’s a strong argument that Teraji should be on the pound-for-pound list, but the short answer is no. Across almost every recognizable publication, including The Sporting News, it’s pretty much accepted that Teraji resides just outside the pound-for-pound elite right now.

But just as Chocolatito and Inoue couldn’t be ignored forever, the same is true for Teraji. If he keeps dismantling world-level opposition in the manner that he has been over the past six years, then he deserves his spot and he’ll get it.

Even Canizales, who is a prohibitive +500 underdog, is a high-quality opponent. The Venezuelan puncher is 26-1-1 (19 KOs) and he’s rated among the top light flyweights in the world by both The Sporting News and The Ring Magazine.

A concussive win by Teraji might be enough for the Japanese hero to finally crack the list. However, it might take a step up to flyweight and a triumph over the likes of Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez for Teraji to finally get the recognition he deserves.

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