Ryuichi Funai fell in love with boxing after watching kids slugging it out on a reality TV show.
It’ll be for real though on Saturday (May 4th) when he challenges IBF Super-Flyweight Champion Jerwin Ancajas in Stockton, California, live on BoxNation.
The Japanese puncher couldn’t have it any harder when he challenges the Filipino, who will be making his seventh defence of the title he won against McJoe Arroyo in September 2016.
Funai was still a teenager when he turned professional and had just eight amateur fights after following his dream of boxing the best out there since he switched on the telly one evening when he was 15.
Basketball and Skateboarding were his sports of choice, but Funai, who boasts a 31-7 record in his 14 year professional career, recalls: “It was my first year of high school.
“I watched a TV show where kids who didn't know anything about boxing trained at a gym and were able to become pro boxers in three months.
“That got me interested in boxing, and when I saw the world title bout between champion Takanori Hatakeyama and challenger Hiroyuki Sakamoto, I thought it was really cool and I thought I want to do this too.”
Becoming a World Champion looked unlikely, but he has been in sensational form ever since losing a majority decision against Sho Ishida in April 2016.
Funai has won seven fights in a row, six by KO, claiming the Japanese Title on his way to becoming mandatory challenger for Ancajas.
He sealed top spot in the IBF rankings when he hammered Mexico’s number seven ranked Victor Emanuel Olivo inside two rounds last November.
He has never boxed outside of Japan until now, with all bar three of his fights taking place at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. Although Stockton appears to be neutral territory, it has a large Filipino community with one area known as ‘Little Manila’.
The only support Funai will have from home in the arena are his parents, wife and sister-in-law.
Funai, who has been in training since January 1st, warned Ancajas: “I can box or slug it out. He's got a good boxing sense and he can fight aggressively, too. He is the kind of all-around boxer who can do it all.
“I am excited for this opportunity to challenge for a World Title and to make my professional debut in America.
“I know I have the experience and the skills to become the new IBF Champion of the World. Jerwin and I respect one another, but this is boxing, and I am going to fight my heart out.”