The bout in question saw unbeaten OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (12-0, 8) [小浦 翼] defending his title against talented former amateur stand out Masataka Taniguchi (8-2, 6) [谷口 将隆]. Both men were respectful during the build up, during the fight and after the fight, and both put on a stirring effort in a nail biting contest.
The fight started slowly, with both fighters trying to find their range and win the battle of the jab, with Taniguchi making the most of his southpaw stance. It was a tricky bout for both men to make an impact in early on, though it was Koura who managing to impress the judges, who had him in a narrow lead after 4 rounds with scores of 39-37, 39-38 and 38-38.
Taniguchi was having none of it, and in the middles rounds he found real consistency with his straigth left hand, which landed repeatedly on to the head of Koura. The success of Taniguchi saw him over-come the deficit by round 8, with the judges then scoring the contest 76-76, twice, and 77-76 in favour of the challenger. By then the fighters had really warmed up and both had landed some dynamite shots, that would have dropped previous opponents.
Knowing he had to dig deep to retain his title Koura pressed the action hard in the final 4 rounds, going all out to try and stop Taniguchi. The challenger gritted his teeth and fought back, though at times looked tired, a result of his high out put, Koura's body shots and the energy draining clinches. It was the tiredness and slow down from Taniguchi which opened the door for Koura, who took the opportunity with both hands, and managed to hold on to the title courtesy of scores of 115-113, 115-114 an 114-114, giving him a razor thin majority win.
The loss was a hard one for Taniguchi to take, given he had lost a similarly close bout for the Japanese title earlier this year, but it's clear he has the skills to win titles, and today he showed he had the potential to win world titles,even if that sort of achievement is some way off happening. For Koura the bout will likely open doors to world title fights in 2018.
Despite the hard fought nature the two men were seen spending time together after the bout and it seems clear that the repsect they had pre-fight is still there, and hopefully we will see a rematch between these two in the years to come
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)