When Taguchi won the title back at the end of 2014, he looked like a man who was going to kick on and have a great reign as a champion, becoming the new face of the Watanabe gym and the fighter to lead them after Takashi Uchiyama. The looked even more the caseafter his first defense, less than 5 months later, when he battered Thai challenger Kwanthai Sithmorseng en route to an 8th round TKO. Then came a sputter, as he was out boxed by Luis de la Rosa, until Rosa suffered and injury, essentially bailing out Taguchi. Rather than take ona live challenger after that he battled shop worn veteran Juan Jose Landaeta and dominated his challenger en route to an 11th round TKO.
Against Ryo Miyazaki we saw the best of Taguchi, as he dominated the former WBA Minimumweight champion but that was followed by a controversial draw against Carlos Canizales, who just so happens to be the only man with a win against Barrera.
At his best Taguchi is a handful. He's a huge, rangy guy at Light Flyweight, who will have size advantages over most opponents, and knows how to use his reach on the outside. On the inside he can hold his own, and has a lovely uppercut to the body up close. At his worst though he's lazy, sloppy, messy and a horror to watch. He can over-look opponents, he can be hurt and he can make life much harder for himself than he needs to.
Coming in to this bout Taguchi knows there is potential unification bouts at the end of 2017, but he needs to win, and do it in style, or else the likes of Kosei Tanaka, the WBO champion, will look else where for suitable competition. He can't afford a draw defense,or a flukey injury defense here, but needs something that will impress fans instead.
The once beaten Barrera is a 24 year old Colombian, who's only loss came to Carlos Canizales as mentioned earlier. It should be noted hat that loss was a split decision in Canizales' in Venezuela, in one of just two bouts on foreign soil for the Colombian, who has never fought outside of Latin American. In regards to his wins they have included victories over Luis de la Rosa, Ronald Ramos, twice, and recent world title challenger Julio Mendoza. At times he has struggled against lesser opponents, but is in good form having stopped his last 5 opponents whilst fighting well above the Light Flyweight limit.
From the footage available Barrera can fight out of either stance and has got nice movement, but he can be put under pressure and can often leave himself defensively open when letting his own shots go. His footwork isn't the smoothest and he just has an over-all clumsy look to his work. However he certainly looks like a strong and tough kid with a good engine and the ability to improve, a lot, given that he's young, hungry and never really been forced to step up his training as he will have done here.
With Colombian fighters we often see them go into a bout with a puncher's reputation. For Bareera that's not the case. He's on a stoppage run, but he's certainly more of a rounded fighter, who can box or brawl, than a pure power puncher. The overall skills do give him a chance to force Taguchi into a brawl here, and we suspect that will be his aim.
Although Barrera is certainly no push over there are enough holes in his game for Taguchi to have a field day with him, boxing from range and using his size to keep Barrera on the end of his stinging right hands. Barrera will press the fight, but we can't help thinking that Taguchi will get the win, and the chance to shine, which he really needs to make the most of here.