Cebuano boxer, sparring partner of many world champions, dreams of being a world champion one day 

By: Glendale G. Rosal - Multimedia Correspondent - CDN Digital | May 23,2021 - 02:50 PM
CEBUANO BOXER Kevin Jake Cataraja is a sparring partner to world champions: (clockwise from top left) Naoya Inoue, Kosei Tanaka, Michael Dasmariñas, and Andrew Moloney. | Photos from KJ Cataraja

Kevin Jake Cataraja’s world champion sparring partners (clockwise from top left) in Naoya Inoue, Kosei Tanaka, Michael Dasmariñas, and Andrew Moloney. | Photos from KJ Cataraja

CEBU CITY, Philippines — If anyone out there has tremendous knowledge and experience in boxing at a very young age, it is the undefeated Cebuano ring warrior Kevin Jake “KJ” Cataraja. 

At 26, Cataraja may not have fought for a world title either against a world champion, but the pride of Tabuelan town, northwest Cebu, earns his knowledge and hones his skills in the sweet science of boxing through his experience of sparring with world boxing champions. 

For several years, Cataraja, the former boxer of the ALA Boxing Gym in Cebu, has been hired by many world champions as their sparring partner to prepare for their scheduled bouts.

Cataraja has been the sparring partner of Japanese boxing superstar Naoya Inoue, the WBA and IBF world bantamweight champion. 

The BS Criminology graduate from the University of the Visayas (UV) is also the sparring partner of other Japanese world champions in former three-division world champion Kosei Tanaka and former WBO world minimumweight world champion Riyuya Yamanaka. 

“I learned a lot from sparring with world champions. I take note of everything from their moves, their style, and their techniques,” Cataraja told CDN Digital. 

“Half of what I’ve learned in my boxing career came from sparring with world champions and it makes me very proud of myself for having that very rare experience. It also gave me confidence inside the ring considering I’ve already exchanged punches with world champions,” said the Cebuano boxer.

Cataraja also became the sparring partner of former WBA world super flyweight champion Andrew Moloney of Australia and two-division world champion Johnriel Casimero.

“I’m also very lucky because they also shared some valuable tips to me. I memorize everything what they’ve taught me and I applied it on my training and even in my fights,” added Cataraja. 

“Sparring with them is also like fighting for a world title.”

Cataraja is undefeated at 12 wins with 10 knockouts. He is the reigning WBO youth super flyweight champion and is currently fighting under Zip Sanman Boxing Stable.

When he was still under the ALA Boxing Gym’s fold, Cataraja served as the regular sparring partner of Filipino boxing legend, the four-division world champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes. 

He also sparred with former IBF and IBO world light flyweight champion Milan Melindo and former WBO minimumweight world champion Merlito Sabillo. 

Currently, he is one of the sparring partners of IBO world bantamweight king Michael Dasmariñas who is set to challenge Naoya Inoue on June 19 in Las Vegas, USA. 

When asked who among the world champions hit the hardest, Cataraja said they have different styles, punching power and speed. 

For him, it’s Naoya Inoue who has the best style and power while Nietes has the best defense. He added that Tanaka has the best timing and Melindo has the best counter punches. 

“They have different styles and techniques which makes it very difficult to say which among them is the best. I think all of them are the best at what they do. They have different forte in boxing,” said Cataraja. 

However, the Cebuano boxer picked his former stablemate, the 38-year old Nietes, as the most difficult world champion he sparred with. 

“I think he’s the most difficult boxer that I’ve sparred because he’s a veteran, second, he’s very hard to hit. I’ve been sparring with Donnie (Nietes) since I was 16 and until now I can’t land a clean punch on his face.”

Cataraja said that his experience sparring with world champions made him to adapt to their styles and mimic them whenever he’s on the ring, sparring another boxer or an actual boxing match. 

“I don’t just spar, I also study their every movement, their punches, their footwork and I apply all of that to myself because I want to become one of them, a world champion someday.”

The young Cebuano boxer is currently training for his bout scheduled on June 26. His opponent’s identity has yet to be announced.


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TAGS: Andrew Moloney, Cataraja, cebuano boxer, Kosei Tanaka, Naoya Inoue, sparring partner, world champions

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