In the final fight of 2017 fans were treat to a Light Flyweight unification as WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) [田口良一] battled is IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) in a highly anticipated match up. The contest was frustrating at times, compelling at others and genuinely a fantastic way to end out what has been an amazing 2017 for boxing fans.
The fight started with both looking to feel the other out. It was however Melindo who maanged to take the opening round as he settled quickly and looked very sharp very early. That sharpness shone through in round 2, though by the end of the round it was clear that Taguchi was finding his footing and it seemed he was beginning to settle well, after some rocky moments.
In round 3 Taguchi really got going and arguably took his first round as he managed to get in an out, fight at a range of his choosing and have success both inside and outside. Sadly on the inside the heads came together and it wasn't long until Melindo was cut from a clash of heads, likely re-opening old scar tissue from a previous fight., As soon as Melindo was cut he seemed to have something taken away and Taguchi's success grew in a very messy and forgettable round 4. There was some moments of success for both but on the whole it was a frustrating and messy round.
The charge of Taguchi continue into round 5 and by now he was really getting some momentum going, despite both clashing heads numerous times. It was a very good round for Taguchi, who landed several clean and clear right hands as Melindo seemed to be showing some frustration at the cuts. Although accidentally Melindo did also land a shot after the bell, though neither Taguchi or the referee made much of it
Melindo managed to have some notable success in round 6, but Taguchi held his own whilst managing to drag Melindo into his style of a fight. It was exciting again as both men began to let rip with combinations. The combinations of Taguchi continued to shine in round 7, one of his best rounds, as he showed he could box at range and looked crisp doing so as he made the most of his reach advantage. Melindo tried to fight back, and landed a nice counter near the end of the round, but showed frustration towards the end of the round. Taguchi's success from 7 got even better in round 8 as he really did look like a fighter enjoying his time in the ring, and enjoying the success he was having against an ever more frustrated, and wilder, Melindo.
Round 9 was, for all intents a messy one. Melindo looked to turn things around but often rushed in, spoiled his own work and, despite cutting Taguchi with a headbutt, really struggled to look fluid for long. He had some lovely moments, and arguably took the round, but it wasn't a fun to watch round with a limit in terms of class action. Sadly for Melindo that success was easily forgotten by the end of round 10 as Taguchi had a huge round, really taking the fight to Melindo who was backing up as Taguchi moved into top gear. The Japanese fighter kept up the pace in round 11, with Melindo's face becoming a total mess, partly due to more headclashes. With Melindo's face really becoming a mess it would have been easy for him to look for a way out but instead he stayed in there, and was hurt close to the end of the round.
Knowing he was behind going into the final round Melindo threw the kitchen sink at Taguchi early on, but Taguchi then threw it back at Melindo as the act lead to more head clashes, a worsening of Melindo's cut over the right eye and real blood and guts action. It was a perfect end as both really just gave their all in a messy yet exciting final round.
Despite the excellent start by Melindo he really came undone in the middle of the bout and struggled to get things going again whilst Taguchi moved through the gears. By the end of 12 rounds there was little doubting of the winner, with Taguchi taking a unanimous decision, 117-111, twice and 116-112. We feel the 117-111 cards were harsh, but at the edge of reality, with 116-112 feeling like a more correct card.
Taguchi ends the year as the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion, ending the year as arguably the key man at 108lbs, though that's a position countryman Ken Shiro may dispute. For Melindo it's a painful end to what had been an excellent year, and ends his slim hope of being the 2017 Fight of the Year.
Earlier this year Japan's Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) [木村翔] scored one of the upsets of the year, as he stopped Zou Shiming in China to claim the the WBO Flyweight title. It put Kimura on the boxing map, in China at least, but left him as a relative unknown champion in his own homeland. Today he had a chance to make a name for for himself as he took on countryman Toshiyuki Igarashi (23-4-3 12) [五十嵐 俊幸] live on TBS as part of the huge Kyokugen show.
Sadly for Kimura the first round wasn't a hugely kind one for him, as he was made to look wild, open and reckless. Igarashi on the other hand looked fleet footed, accurate and smart, jabbing the fact of Kimura and landing the occasional southpaw left. The second round was slightly better for Kimura, as his pressure started to have some moments, for the most part it was Igarashi's skills that seemed more telling. The one highlight for Kimura in round two came at the end as he landed a very eye catching 2 punch combination.
From round 3 Kimura's pressure become more and more effective, taking more and more of a toll on Igarashi who seemed to begin falling apart in round 3 as the body shots from Kimura began to slowly take his legs away and the headshots started to land more regularly. The pressure continued to build in round 4 as Igarashi;s eyes began to show real signs of battle and both were looking swollen.
Amazingly Igarashi had one of his best rounds in round 5, as he moved well and made Kimura look wild. It was however just a brief respite for the challenger who wads dragged into a toe-to-toe war in round 6. The battle saw Kimura landing a much higher volume, whilst Igarashi looked to land single big shots. The two clashed heads towards the end of the round, with Igarashi suffering a cut over his right eye, as his face began to really fall apart. The following round things went from bad to worse for Igarashi who who took real damage through the round, despite being able to cut the champion with a punch near the right eye.
Kimura's pressure finally rocked Igarashi in round 8, with a right hand landing flush on the challengers' jaw. It seemed to really impact him and Kimura looked to secure the finish there and then as Igarashi went into survival mode. Amazingly the challenger saw out the round, and came out storming for round 9, but it was one final throw of the dice before his energy reserves ran out and Kimura forced him into the corner where he unloaded, eventually forcing the referee to jump in and stop the action.
The stoppage loss for Igarashi is the first time he has been stopped, and likely marks the end of his career as a world class fighter. As for Kimura this is a second huge win for him this year and his wish of becoming better known at home and getting a bigger place to live seems to be a genuine reality now in what is one of the feel good boxing stories of 2017.
One of the under-the-radar stories of 2017, from a Japanese perspective, has been that of Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7) [京口 紘人]. The Watanabe youngster won the IBF Minimumweight title earlier this year, in a lacklustre bout against Jose Argumedo, having previously won the OPBF title even earlier in the year. Today he continued his rise as he became the first man to stop talented Nicaraguan Carlos Buitrago (30-3-1-1, 17) in an unexpectedly one-sided contest.
The bout, screened live on Canal 4 in Nicaragua, saw Buitrago starting well, applying his pressure and taking the fight to he challenger. Buitrago, to his credit, fought back but seemed unable to ever get Kyoguichi's respect with the champion closing the space the space between the two very easily. At close range Buitrago had some success, but lacked the power to do the damage that the champion was doing, as he began to chip away at the challenger with heavy hooks and uppercuts.
By round 4 Buitrago was clearly showing signs of slowing down, his eyes swelling and his output dropping whilst Kyoguchi was looking like a steam train, coming forward no matter what was being thrown in his direction. The pressure continued to tell and round by round Buitrago was becoming more and more negative, backing up on to the ropes and throwing “stay away” punches, rather than anything with serious intent.
By the end of round 6 it began to look like the referee was looking for a chance to stop the bout, but every time it seemed like he was going to Buitrago would have a spurt of action, throw back and make Kyoguchi momentarily back off. It wasn't that the challenger could ever hurt the champion, even clean right hands seemed to bounce off him, but it was enough to show life to the referee.
Sadly for Buitrago that fight just left him taking more punishment and in round 8, after several shots snapped his head back, the referee stepped in for the mercy stoppage. Buitrago was still throwing back at the time, but it was a stoppage that few would have complained with.
Having only debuted in April 2016 Kyoguchi's rise to champion has been incredible. This year he has gone 4-0 (2) claimed a regional and world title, defending both belts once, and has been one of the unheralded stars of 2017. He has answered questions regarding his chin, stamina and ability and in 2018 he's going to be a monster of a champion, who perhaps has his eyes on winning a title at 108lbs or unification.
For Buitrago the bout is a clear sign that he needs to give up fighting at Minmumweight. He had had persistent rumours about weight struggles coming in to the bout and now needs to move up and try to resurrect his career at Light Flyweight, before taking too many beatings like this.
Just moments ago we saw the final bout at Super Flyweight for Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) [井上 尚弥], who recorded his 7th defence of the WBO Super Flyweight title and over-came the naturally bigger French challenger Yoan Boyeaux (41-5, 26) in what was really little more than a show case performance.
The opening round saw Boyeaux, a usually aggressive fighter, take to the outside of the ring whilst Inoue brought the pressure and tried to sneak inside on the taller, longer fighter. It was a mostly quiet round, with only one or two real combinations from Inoue, but what he landed he made count, rocking Boyeaux with a right hand before dropping him with a sweet left hand late in the ring. Had the round gone on much longer that could have been the start of the end but the bell realld saved the challenger.
The second round saw a very cautious Boyeaux fighting on the retreat. Inoue pressed the fight, and landed several solid shots, but Boyeaux was moving too much for the shots to have a lot of effect and by the end of the round it seemed like Inoue was toying with him, looking for a home run shot. What was even worse for Boyeaux is after he landed a huge right hand Inoue didn't even blink, as if telling the challenger that he was happy to take one if he had to.
To begin round 3 Inoue went on the offensive, landing several short right hands before a brutal body shot forced Boyeaux to take a knee. The Frenchman was up almost instantly but gave away just how much pain the shot had caused him. A follow from Inoue saw him attack the compromised torso of the challenger who was down again following 3 solid shots to the mid-section. To his credit Boyeaux got up again, looked ready to fight and the crowd showed their appreciation and respect by applauding Boyeaux's guts but by then the fight was all but over. Inoue continued to hunt his pray, landed one top before going to the body again, sending Boyeaux down and forcing the referee to stop the bout, rather than allow the challenger to take any more punishment.
With the win under his belt the intention from Inoue now is to make a move up to the Bantamweight division and chase a third world title, following issues securing a notable opponent at Super Flyweight. The challenges he faces moving up a division should make for more competitive assignments than this one, with bouts against Zolani Tete, Luis Nery and Ryan Burnett all being mooted for the "Monster".
Making his live terrestrial TV debut WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) [拳 四朗] knew he had a chance to shine earlier today, as he made his second defense and took on aggressive Panamanian challenger Gilberto Pedroza (18-4-2, 8). On paper it was an easy defense but with the pressure of a multi-million audience figure and the need to excite there was clearly a lot at play for the champion, who had already scored huge wins over Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara this year.
The pressure to make sure he won was clear the opening round as he boxed cautiously behind his jab, and moved, stopping the wild and aggressive Pedroza from landing. The visitor had clearly come to win but spent much of the round hitting the air as the champion put on a show case of movement. That same tactic worked in round 2, though during the round the champion began to find his range and landed several uppercuts to the body.
The success Ken Shiro had in round 2 grew in round 3 as he began to hold his feet, look comfortable in there and began to try and look for opportunities to counter. Although it wasn't quite a masterclass it was beginning to look like Ken Shiro was starting to think about way to shine and landed several eye catching combinations.
Early in round 4, which was delayed due to grease on Pedroza's face, Ken Shiro landed a perfect counter right hand. The shot rocked Pedroza and opened the door for the champion to let his hands fly, which he did when Pedroza was on the ropes. The challenger tried to survive, holding the champion, but he couldn't keep the champion off him. A follow up attack, punctuated by a body shot, sunk Pedroza's knees and the shots kept flying until Pedroza was ruled down. The challenger looked like he had had enough but continued, for a few moments as Ken Shiro again jumped on his man and dropped him. This time it was enough for the referee to stop the bout.
Although unlikely to be included in the 2017 Fighter of the Year conversation the Japanese fighter has scored two wins over consensus top 10 divisional rivals, in Lopez and Guevara, and topped it off with a stay busy win to end the year. It's been a break out year for the youngster who seems to be constantly developing and with today's win will have built his profile significantly at home. The performance will have helped as will his personality which showed through in his post fight interviews shown on Fuji TV. There is still developing to do, but he did what he needed to and will be moving in to 2018 as one of the leading fighters at 108lbs.
With his TV debut a real success the question now is whether or not Fuji will continue to show case the babyfaced champion. There is a lot of very interesting contests out there for him, including rematches with Lopez or Guevara, a bout with WBO champion Angel Acosta or bouts with domestic rivals like Tetsuya Hisada and Ryuji Hara. For Pedroza however it's back to the Latino scene where he will have to hone his skills if he's to come again at this level.
The Super Featherweight division had a huge night this past Saturday, with a number of top fighters from the division in action across a host of bouts. One of those bouts was an IBF title fight, and surprisingly saw Japanese slugger Kenichi Ogawa (23-1, 17) [尾川 堅一] take a split decision win on US soil against American slickster Tevin Farmer (25-5-1, 5).
Ogawa looked aggressive in the opening round, and probably took it on the basis of his powerful right hand, which connected a few times against the intelligent Farmer. Farmer however responded be getting into his groove into round 2 and he seemed to clearly out box Ogawa from rounds 2 through to 6 in what was a real show case of Farmer's skills, movement, and counter punching ability.
The skills of Farmer were really impressive during those rounds, and it looked like he could breeze through to the final bell with out needing to find any extra gears. He had made Ogawa miss, look silly and looked second rate at times.
Knowing he was behind Ogawa knew he had to let his hands go more in the later rounds, and in round 7 he had a real through as he managed to really let his shots flow more naturally and landed enough right hands to catch the eye. A case for Farmer out landing Ogawa could be made, but the reality is that Farmer's shots were often pea shooter shots, with nothing on them, whilst Ogawa's shots had impact and did damage,it's true Ogawa was missing regularly, but he was also landing the better shots.
From round 7 onwards it seemed like Ogawa was doing just enough to have a shout. He was landing right hands whilst Farmer posed, used his defense and went for walks around the ring. The offense from Farmer seemed to become very intermittent and rare and it was clear that he had switched off, become over confident and really failed to shine as he should have. In some ways Farmer was letting Ogawa back into the bout, despite the commentary on HBO and Sky Sports, and Ogawa was taking his chance to reel back the rounds he had lost early on.
After 12 rounds it seemed like Farmer's charge in the middle first half had been reeled in somewhat by Ogawa, despite some good stuff by Farmer in the latter stages. It looked like Farmer did enough, but it was close, much closer than the commentary were suggesting, with some of the commentary suggesting the bout to be a near shut out for Farmer, who they seemed to fall in love with from the opening rounds.
Listening to the commentary the decision was a formality, but it did seem much, much closer, and that was shown in the score cards which saw Ogawa claim the split decision, with scores of 115-113 and 116-112 in his favour, against a card of 116-112 for Farmer.
The result saw the commentators incredulous, and their view certainly permeated on to fans, though the fight was much, much more competitive than they were suggesting. Interestingly all 3 judges, and the referee, were American.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.