2 men who were looking to enter the world title discussion clashed at the Korakuen Hall this past Saturday as OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura defended his crown against once beaten Masataka Taniguchi. Coming into the contest Koura had stopped his last 5 opponents including forma world title challenger Jeffrey Galero and Jaysever Abcede in July for the vacant regional strap. After losing a razor thin decision in April to Reiya Konishi for the Japanese title, Taniguchi bounced back with 2 low key victories.
What we got was a compelling and highly competitive 12 rounder with both fighting tooth and nail to the final bell. In a battle of the jabs there was nothing to split them over the first 4 rounds with Koura having a slender lead on the open scoring. The challenger then upped the pace, scoring regularly with his left hand and after 8 rounds it really was any one’s guess who would prevail. Koura responded in the final third to eke out a majority win on the cards with judge’s totals of 115-113, 114-113 and 114-114.
Having not gone passed 5 rounds this was a real litmus test for Koura and the 23-year-old showed excellent stamina and the ability to dig in and hammer it out in the trenches in the championship rounds, a valuable trait going forward. An offer has already reportedly been made to Thai belt holder Knockout CP Freshmart for a March 2018 clash and if this comes to fruition the E and J Cassius Gym youngster has shown the ability to compete at the highest level.
As for Taniguchi 2 narrow defeats will feel heart breaking but the 23-year-old Watanabe Gym southpaw has proved his worth at championship level and with a little bit more seasoning there is no reason he can’t pick up titles and who knows, even claim a world strap down the line.