Ginjiro Shigeoka: A Lifelong Victor’s Resolve Shines Through Amid Last-Minute Challenger Swap in March 31 Title Defense | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Ginjiro Shigeoka: A Lifelong Victor’s Resolve Shines Through Amid Last-Minute Challenger Swap in March 31 Title Defense

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Ginjiro, a man who has never known defeat since his elementary school days when he started boxing.

I sparred with Al-Andares in ’19. He is a fighter with heart, but he can’t keep up with Ginjiro’s speed. The champion will defend. Ginjiro is a really good fighter. He is my target and my idol.

John Michael, who is ranked 14th in the IBF light flyweight division with 19 fights, 16 wins (9 KOs) and 3 draws, spoke while wiping his sweat after six rounds of sparring. He came to Japan as a sparring partner for Ginjiro Shigeoka, 24, and thought the IBF minimumweight champion even more than his compatriot Andares.

That was no surprise, as he was forced into the corner several times during a sparring session with Ginjiro on March 23, where he was hit with body blows. He was unable to avoid the left uppercut that the champion was landing up and down on his face and stomach. Michael tried his best to hold on, but Ginjiro had the edge in accuracy of combination, timing, and balance in close combat.


On October 7, 2023, Ginjiro, the interim IBF champ, beat Daniel Valladares, the reigning champion, by KO in the 5th round. Valladares was an opponent with whom Ginjiro had a history, having fought 10 months earlier. In their first meeting on January 6, 2023, Valladares was outmatched, and at the end of the third round, he head-butted himself and said, “It was an accidental bump. The damage was too severe and he could not fight any longer. The fight was declared a no contest, and the belt was not moved. Naturally, the referee’s decision was controversial, and Ginjiro shed tears of frustration. During Valladares’ absence due to injury, Ginjiro would go on to win the interim title.

Maybe the God of boxing has given me a test, said Ginjiro, who looked like a monk in training as he silently trained.

The adjustment went smoothly.

In the return match, Valladares used his head as a weapon, but Ginjiro calmly dealt with it and put down his chest. The team was supposed to face Al Andares on March 31st as their first defense as regular champions.

As he continued to push himself, Ginjiro seemed to be frustrated about something. In an interview one week before the fight, he said the following words.

John Michael, ranked 14th in the IBF light flyweight division, admires Ginjiro.

I became a world champion, which is what I’ve been aiming for since I was little, but I’m not satisfied at all. Nothing will change. I guess I’ll be like this until the day I retire.

I would like to acquire the skill to not take a single punch from my opponents, but I still take a few in sparring. I feel that no matter who I beat or how many times I win, this feeling is the same, that I will never feel good enough until I get close to perfection.

The IBF minimumweight champion, who has never lost a single fight since his amateur days, is optimistic.

Andares has a lot of stamina, and I get the impression that he’s an aggressive fighter who comes forward. I think I will be able to use my legs to deal with him as he moves forward. Distance is important, so I will strike and finish him without getting too close.

Ginjiro’s goal is to perfect his own boxing, so he does not carefully study videos of his opponents.

`This time, I want to use my legs more than usual. I use my footwork to avoid my opponent’s punches, and then I land a solid hit. Then, I weaken him and let him bite hard to sink me. I aim for a KO in any fight. All I have to do is practice so that I can achieve my ideal boxing. I feel like my job is to chase after that.

Working with trainer Machida to hone his steps

Ginjiro added that one thing has changed since becoming a world champion. 

The amount of practice has increased. There is no doubt about it. The distance of road work has increased from 8 km to 10 km, and the punching bag has been increased from 8 rounds to 10 rounds. I have to train to my satisfaction.I understand how important it is to accumulate such training.Currently, there are many world champions in Japan.I don’t want to lose to anyone. The boxer with the greatest presence is Ginjiro.

Trainer Chikara Machida, who is training Ginjiro, also said, The amount of training has really increased.

The amount of practice has really increased.I can clearly see the level of mental fulfillment.I am careful not to overwork myself.I have always been a highly ambitious player, but the demands placed on me have increased. It’s gotten more expensive.More than making money or gaining fame, he probably wants to do good boxing.No matter how his opponent comes out, he uses his unique characteristics to overwhelm his opponent.He makes fun of him with his back and forth, left and right steps. I feel like my hunger for that goal is stronger than before I won the world title.

Ginjiro felt a great response while sparring with two Filipino world-ranked fighters, and he said he has been training with weights for the past two years.

I feel that my body is getting bigger and I am able to put more weight on my punches, he said. I have been able to train well without any injuries. It’s perfect. I will show you that this is the boxing of Ginjiro.

Machida confidently declared KO, saying, “I think it’ll be over within three rounds.”

However, five days before the match, dark clouds suddenly descended. The challenger, Andares, was told that he was unable to enter the ring due to poor health.

Andares underwent a checkup on March 22 for vomiting, dizziness, and abdominal pain due to low blood sugar, and a certificate was sent to the promoter. The Japanese press was not informed of this until March 26, and even though the 22nd was a Friday weekend and there is a 60-minute time difference between Japan and the Philippines, one wonders why such a serious matter was not made public for four days.

On the evening of that day, Ginjiro said.

I’m not upset at all. I’ve been told that a replacement will be chosen tomorrow (the 27th).

I was also concerned about his situation, and at 7pm on the 27th, I received a message from him.


I received a message from him at 19:00 on the 27th: I have decided on a partner without any problems. Once I almost lost it, I was honestly depressed, but now I am really happy. I am grateful to the promoter for finding me another fighter even though it was right before the fight, and to Jake Amparo for accepting the fight. My opponent’s style will change, but I saw my brother beat him with a solid KO last April 16, despite facing the same thing, so I will do the same. Please continue to support me!

Yudai Shigeoka (26), the WBC minimumweight champion and his own brother, will be the main eventer at the show on April 31. Both brothers are active world champions and share the same weight class, and can be seen conversing amicably at the Watanabe Gym, where they both belong, and sending instructions from their corners during their respective sparring sessions. They inspire and help each other.

Jake Amparo, who was suddenly chosen as Ginjiro’s challenger, is also a Filipino and is ranked 6th in the IBF. The question arises as to how well he has been conditioned for the world fight, given that he is a substitute. Recently, Ginjiro has been hit by a series of troubles over which he has no control.

Ginjiro is always moving forward, aiming for the top.

The IBF minimumweight champ wanted to show his strength by facing a more than adequately prepared challenger. It must have been difficult for him to accept the fact that his opponent changed just before the fight. Still, he walked down the aisle of the Nagoya International Conference Center Event Hall, still basking in the joy of stepping into the ring.

The way he told himself that this incident was a test that God had given him and that he had to overcome it was another way for him to grow as a young man.

  • Photography and text by Soichi Hayashi

    Born in 1969. Passed the professional boxing test as a junior lightweight, but suffered a setback due to an injury to his left elbow. After working as a reporter for a weekly magazine, he became a nonfiction writer, and in 1996 moved to the U.S. to teach at a public high school in the U.S. He also works as an educator. 2014, he completed the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo. He is the author of "Minority Fist," "America's Lower Level Education Site," and "America's Problem Child Regeneration Classroom" (all Kobunsha e-books), "God's Ring," "The Door to the World: Forward! Samurai Blue," and "Hohime to Nurture Coaching" (all from Kodansha).

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