After dropping hints he might walk away from the sport, former WBC flyweight world titleholder Daigo Higa has shown his readiness and desire to be a champion again.
Higa’s license was suspended indefinitely following his April 2018 bout against Cristofer Rosales, when he failed to make weight and lost the world title on the scales.
Higa was defending his WBC flyweight title for the third time but forfeited his belt after exceeding the 112-pound (51-kg) limit. It was the first time a Japanese boxer failed to make weight for a world title fight.
But with his suspension lifted by the Japan Boxing Commission last autumn and the expiration of his agreement with Shirai Gushiken Gym in March, the 24-year-old has linked up with his old trainer Joji Nogi in a bid to start fresh.
“I’ve been able to switch mental gears. I believe I can be a champion once again,” Higa said.
In his return to the ring in February, Higa stopped Jason Buenaobra in the sixth round at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall. But even then, he was struggling internally, unhappy with how he was being treated by his gym’s management.
“I’m ready to quit if I can’t find my motivation,” he said at the time.
Nogi, who had left the gym to take responsibility for the fighter’s weigh-in failure, helped reignite Higa’s competitive fire.
“We have a trusting relationship. We know what kind of training it takes to make me stronger. The answers are there,” Higa said.
Training with a heavy emphasis on roadwork and stair sprints, Higa, who moved to Yokohama and is not currently affiliated with a gym, says he is pushing himself so hard the intense two-a-day workouts leave him nauseous.
“His feel (for the sport) and stamina are coming back,” Nogi says.
The fighter’s settlement with the JBC resulted in a lifting of his suspension but also required he move up two weight classes to bantamweight.
Higa, who shares the Japanese record of 15-straight wins by knockout, now seeks to regain both a championship belt and his reputation, and resume being the promising fighter he once was.
“I want to show (my fans) a stronger version of me, and I think I can do that,” Higa said.