Why? Is it over already? I can’t express in words how I felt at …… that time. I’m standing here with the intention of fighting even though I’m battered and bruised. I was going to put everything I had into it. I had been working for this day since I was in elementary school. Anyway, it was frustrating to end the tournament on an incomplete note.
A man who has never lost a fight since he was an amateur, he has nine fights and eight wins (six KOs) as a professional fighter. GINJIRO SHIGEOKA, 23, who was said to be “the man who will surely win the world” even before his debut, challenged champion Daniel Valadares, 28, in January of this year, but the bout ended in a no-contest.
He was mentally weak,” Shigeoka said. Before the bell, I had my arms on the ropes and was staring at him the whole time, but he didn’t come in. I was giving him a look that said, ‘Come on, come on,’ but when he got in the ring, his eyes were swimming. When we faced each other across from the referee, I could see that he was forcing himself to make eye contact.
Ginjiro got into a good rhythm from the start of the match, overwhelming the champion with his speed and precise punches. It seemed only a matter of time before he would sink to the canvas.
I think it was the first round,” Ginjiro said. I got one of his unique straight punches, but I could afford to say, ‘This won’t work. It won’t work. I wasn’t scared at all. I thought, ‘Finally, the day has come for me to win a world belt.
Then, in the middle of the third inning, an “incident” occurred.
I was about to step in to land a straight body shot, when Varadares’ head hit my left collarbone and chin. I had seen past footage, so I knew Varadares was coming from the head, and my trainer had told me to be careful. In fact, he did bat me, but that’s usually not enough to end a match. So I didn’t care. I just thought, ‘I’m going to beat him,’ and that was all I was thinking.
But the champion had already lost his will to fight.
At first I thought, ‘He’s just stalling for time. In fact, I was told to take a five-minute break. I was angry because I didn’t understand the meaning of that, but I had the presence of mind to say, ‘Fine, as long as I can take a five-minute break and then continue. But Varadares said, “I have a headache. I can’t do it. It was hell when it looked like the match was going to end.
After the match was over, Ginjiro sobbed in the ring.
The words of a former champion that stuck in my mind
Ginjiro also had to deal with referee Chris Flores, who was a champion that day. Flores is a U.S. citizen but of Mexican descent. It is not hard to imagine that he worked to the advantage of fighters of the same ethnicity. In fact, it was a TKO loss for the champion.
After the head-butt, I knew there was something wrong with the referee; the IBF supervisor and others were there, but he didn’t say anything to me.
Still, he did not hate boxing. He met his parents, who had come to Osaka to cheer him on, and freshened up. After enjoying Osaka’s gourmet food, he returned to his hometown of Kumamoto to regain his strength.
I received encouragement from many people, including staff and friends who supported me. I was particularly impressed by a comment from Ryoichi Taguchi, 36, a former world champion (WBA/IBF light flyweight) and a senior member of the gym. He said, “This kind of thing happens sometimes in the boxing world. But you are capable of becoming a world champion. It’s just that it’s a little late, so you’ll have to work hard again. That was the most piercing words to my heart. He was a senior fighter who had overcome hardships and frustrations, so his words were very persuasive.
I’m going to make the champion’s escape into a page in the legend of Ginjiro Shigeoka.” Ginjiro has been sparring with former WBA light flyweight super champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (29), a senior at his gym, and others, and has begun his journey toward the world again.
Immediately after the fight, Ginjiro was hoping for a rematch, but Barradares submitted a medical report to the IBF stating that he had injured his left eardrum and could not stand in the ring. It was decided that he would fight Rene Quarto (26), a Filipino former champion of the same weight class and currently ranked No. 3, for the interim title on April 16. On the same day, his own brother Yudai (25), two years older than him, will also challenge for the WBC minimumweight title.
My brother told me jokingly after the Varadares fight, ‘You should have beaten him before he went to bat. Cuarto lost the world title to Varadares by decision. I’ve watched the footage of that fight many times, and there is no way I could lose to Quarto. I will beat him.
Disappointment, trials, and disbelief. Ginjiro swallows all the negative elements and stands in the ring. We look forward to his explosive power.
From the April 14, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
Interview and text by： Soichi Hayashi
PHOTO： Takeshi Kinugawa