It’s the first week of 2023 when Warrior Code finally gets the chance to sit down with Kento Haraguchi, the talented 24 year old kickboxer from Itami, a suburb of Osaka, in Japan. His adrenaline is still coming down: it’s approximately eight days after Haraguchi fought his last fight at Glory Rivals 4, a cross-organisation event in which fighters from RISE, Enfusion and Glory faced off against each other to round off the year. Haraguchi achieved a confident victory over his Ukrainian opponent Serhiy Adamchuk whom he beat by unanimous decision.
There is no doubt that Haraguchi is a confident man but he does enter the year with plenty of homework. Something which his father will be checking in on regularly. More on this further below.
2022 the year of mixed feelings
Twenty-twenty-two wasn’t a bad year for Haraguchi. He won three out of his four fights, but the Japanese did lose to Thai fighter Petchpanomrung "Petch" Kiatmookao in October. His second time in two meetings. Haraguchi perhaps felt there was more to play for after he lost the fight yet again by unanimous decision. The fight was a split decision after round five but ended up falling short in the additional sixth. So close yet left empty-handed again.
Whilst Haraguchi doesn’t want to dwell on his loss, he defines his broader ambition for 2023 as the year in which he wants to take a significant step towards becoming the best kickboxer in the whole world, and he plays down how important a rematch top “Petch” is to him. The loss obviously stings and he wants to correct matters.
Haraguchi: “Of course this is on my mind but I will say that I have a lot of respect for who he (Petch) is and that I got to fight him. Whilst indeed there was some discussion after this match, I just need to make sure that I am even better prepared for the next one to make sure that I come out on top and that there is no confusion as to who the deserved winner is! I'll need to bring something unexpected to the fight."
What do you mean by something unexpected?
“All I can say is that I just need to make sure that I am better prepared for the next opportunity.”
He continues: “My plan for 2023 is to have two big fights this year that will help to further establish my name. Even more so out of Japan as I think I am ready to break out and literally fight myself into the spotlight in Europe and US. I will continue to fight for RISE but, of course, like all fighters who believe that they will be the best, it’s all about unifying the belts to crown yourself the undisputed world champion. I have not signed up for anything less."
Haraguchi started his martial arts career in Karate at the age of 5 before switching to kickboxing. Later, he switched to professional boxing when he was 15, before finally settling on professional kickboxing when he was 17. His career so far is decorated with championships. Haraguchi is from the town of Itami in the Hyogo prefecture in south-west Japan, apparently not a region traditionally known for martial arts, but now intrinsically connected with birthing one of Japan’s most famous fighters.
Whilst the region may not primarily be known for martial arts, the martial arts passion in Haraguchi’s family runs deep: he used to practise karate at length with his brother when he was younger and it’s his father who guides, trains and prepares him for all his fights. “It’s great to share such a strong passion within your family but martial arts, whether that’s kickboxing, karate or whatever, is not rooted in the Hyogo prefecture whatsoever. I’m here to change that and put us on the map.”
bringing the family in
Your father has been in your corner at every fight we can remember. What’s it like for you to be trained by someone who knows you so well?
“One thing that my father is very good at is making me think that I know him and can anticipate him well. However, he never reveals what we’re going to be doing at the next training so every time I am in for a surprise, I am always caught off guard!” He continues: “It obviously gives me no chance to prepare but I guess that’s his whole intention.”
Being a professional fighter and punching for the titles that you want to fight for, we can imagine that tensions run high sometimes. What’s the father-son dynamic like during training and how you preserve a healthy working relationship?
“I guess the most difficult part is being challenged very strongly by your father and accepting that, both mentally and physically. Having said that, in order for a kickboxer to be successful, he needs to be able to 100% trust his trainer and knowing my father through and through, I know that he has my best interest and career at heart so that's why I can blindly trust him and take it on the chin when I need to hear or do something in training that I may not want to! Having my father as my trainer is the best option for me at this moment.”
Whilst there is a time for work, there is also time for switching off. Haraguchi has two young daughters as well two dogs with whom spends a lot of time with. On top of that, Haraguchi is also a self-confessed shopaholic and avid fan of horror films. Particularly Korean and Thai horrors rank high on this list.
Haraguchi is currently enjoying some time off and hopes to announce his next upcoming fights in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more updates on Haraguchi here at Warrior Code.