How good is Junto Nakatani? Boxing’s top five pound-for-pound fighters from Japan

Japanese star Junto Nakatani has already made a name for himself among the elite fighters in the world. He now seeks to bolster his reputation at the expense of newly minted WBC bantamweight champion Alexandro Santiago in Tokyo on February 24.

The 12-round bout is the chief support to the Takuma Inoue vs. Jerwin Ancajas world title fight and will be aired on ESPN+ in the U.S.

WATCH: Takuma Inoue vs. Jerwin Ancajas, exclusively on ESPN+

Nakatani, who has already claimed flyweight and super flyweight titles, steps up to the 118-pound division for the first time. Fully confident that he can make waves in this new weight class, the hard-hitting 26-year-old has made the audacious choice of taking on a champion immediately.

Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) is coming off a career-best triumph over legendary veteran Nonito Donaire in July, which saw him lift the vacant WBC crown. The 28-year-old Mexican was a step ahead of Donaire, who was 12 years his senior, but now he goes in against a fresh young fighter in the prime of his life.

Japan is one of the major hotbeds in world boxing right now and it continues to get stronger. The Sporting News now takes an in-depth look at the country’s finest pound-for-pound fighters:

Boxing’s pound-for-pound fighters from Japan

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No. 5 Ginjiro & Yudai Shigeoka

  • Age: 24 and 26
  • Record: 10-0 (8 KOs) and 8-0 (5 KOs)
  • Titles: IBF minimumweight (Ginjiro)/ WBC minimumweight (Yudai)

Is putting both Shigeoka brothers in the No. 5 spot a cop out? Absolutely, but there’s no separating these little big men.

Despite it being relatively early into their professional ascents, both men are already world champions and thye’ve earned it. Ginjiro picked up the IBF crown at the expense of Daniel Valladares, while Yudai outclassed WBC boss Petchmanee CP Freshmart on the same card.

Both brothers are wonderfully skilled and carry plenty of firepower. The sky’s the limit for these 105-pound fighters and you’ll be hearing plenty more from both.

MORE: SN’s top-12 female pound-for-pound list

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No. 4 Junto Nakatani

  • Age: 26
  • Record: 26-0 (19 KOs)
  • Titles: Former WBO super flyweight champion, former WBO flyweight champion

Nakatani, like Naoya Inoue, is a power-punching destroyer with quick hands and superb ring IQ. However, those weapons are bolstered by his southpaw stance and a 5ft 7 frame, which is extremely tall for the lower weight classes

Nakatani made two successful defences of the flyweight crown before moving up to 115 pounds. It’s clear that his power went with him because, in May, he scored a spectacular one-punch knockout of Australian contender Andrew Moloney to win the vacant WBO super flyweight title.

Now on the cusp of pound-for-pound recognition, Nakatani seeks to become a three-weight world champion.

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No. 3 Kenshiro Teraji

  • Age: 32
  • Record: 22-1 (14 KOs)
  • Titles: Reigning WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine light flyweight champion

The baby-faced Teraji transforms into an absolute devil in the prize ring. After claiming the WBC flyweight title in just his 10th fight, “The Amazing Boy” opted for a steep championship learning curve against the top contenders in his division. He improved at a rapid rate and is now regarded as the best 108-pounder on the planet.

There was a blip against Masamichi Yabuki, who handed Teraji a 10th-round stoppage defeat in 2021. However, the Japanese star bounced back to annihilate Yabuki inside three rounds, which proved to a small army of doubters that his first pro defeat was largely down to the aftereffects of a COVID-19 infection.

In his most recent bout, Teraji was far from his vintage best against Carlos Canizales, whom he defeated by majority decision.

MORE: The Sporting News: Boxing top 12 pound-for-pound list

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No. 2 Kazuto Ioka

  • Age: 34
  • Record: 31-2-1 (16 KOs)
  • Titles: Reigning WBA super flyweight champion. Former WBA and WBC minimumweight champion, former WBA light flyweight champion, former WBA flyweight champion, former WBO super flyweight champion

The great Ioka was Japan’s first-ever male four-weight world champion. You could end the list of accolades right there, but we’re just getting started. The 34-year-old, has contested 24 world title fights and taken on a who’s who of elite-level opponents. Among his victims are Felix Alvarado (UD 12), Juan Carlos Reveco (MD 12, TKO 11), McWilliams Arroyo (UD 10), Aston Palicte (TKO 10), Kosei Tanaka (TKO 10), Donnie Nietes (UD 12) and Joshua Franco (UD 12).

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No. 1 Naoya Inoue

  • Age: 30
  • Record: 26-0 (23 KOs)
  • Titles: Reigning undispted super bantamweight champion, former WBC light flyweight champion, former WBO super flyweight champion, former undisputed bantamweight champion

Inoue is arguably the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world today, and only welterweight king Terence Crawford threatens his supremacy. Now a four-weight world champion, “The Monster” possesses a matchless blend of speed, power and perfect technique.

In his two most recent outings, the Japanese hero scored decisive knockout wins over Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapalas to emerge as the first undisputed champ at 122 pounds in 50 years. Inoue is just one incredible prize fighter.

Luis Nery is next.

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