Last year was a huge one for Japanese boxing, with fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Daigo Higa bursting into the world scene, and there was a great string of results for the county which ended the year as one of the dominant forces in global boxing. The year's final show saw Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一] defeat Milan Melindo to unify the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles. Today, almost 6 months later, Taguchi returned to the ring to try and make his first defense, taking on former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10).
Budler, who had actually lost to Melindo last year in an IBF title fight, started this fight like a man possessed and quickly took the fight to Taguchi. The Japanese fighter tried to respond but often seemed to slower fighter and was about half a step behind the busier, more aggressive and eye catching Budler. The South African kept up the intense pressure through the first half of the fight, badly hurting Taguchi in round 4 and bursting his nose in what was a really strong round for the challenger.
Budler's success came from getting inside on Taguchi and working the combinations, with Taguchi struggling to return fire. The movement of Budler was fantastic as he ducked out out of the way of headshots and turned Taguchi, giving him angles that the champion simply couldn't respond to. Taguchi tried, and battled through the bloodied nose, but really struggled to match the out put and success of the challenger.
By the mid-way point it seemed like Taguchi was going to need something very special to turn the fight around and he wasn't really looking like he was able to do it. He was having success with big single body shots, but wasn't really able to follow that up.
The second half of the fight saw the pace slow down, and this helped Taguchi, who managed to hurt Budler in round 9, and leave the challenger with a bloodied nose. It was the first clrar round for Taguchi in some time and although Budler fought back well after being hurt, it was a very clear round for the champion. Taguchi build well on that success and seemed to do just enough to take round 10 and 11.
Knowing he had to be behind, even if it was close, Taguchi went all out in round 12 and quickly hurt Budler before sending him down, in a decision ruled as a slip. Taguchi would continue to press and attack through the entire round whilst Budler was in survival mode, holding, spoiling and taking punishment as Taguchi hunted a remarkable come from behind win. Sadly though for him he couldn't get the stoppage and we went to the cards.
Whilst waiting for the cards Budler's crash to the canvas was reviewed and reversed into a knockdown, which it hard originally looked like, but still even with the 10-8 in his favour Taguchi simply hadn't done enough, and the judges all had the bout 114-113 in favour of the South Africa.
With the win Budler becomes a 2-weight champion and Japanese boxing misses out, again, on what could have been a massive domestic unification bout between Taguchi and WBC champion Ken Shiro.
Whilst last year was a big one for Japan this year has been a faltering and frustrating one. The country has seen Kenichi Ogawa being stripped of the IBF Super Featherweight title, for what was seemingly a skin medication, Daigo Higa lose the WBC Flyweight title on the scales, and now Taguchi's loss here. There is still time left to finish this year on a high, and demand for a rematch between Taguchi and Budler has already began, but it's not been a good few months for Japanese boxing.
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.
We have long felt that WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) [田口良一] is one of the most inconsistent world champions in the sport. When he's bad, as he has been in a number of recent fights, he's really poor. At other times however he looks sensational, with a great work rate, under-rated power with the skills to out box opponents and the physicality to bully them. Today he was great as he put on one of his best performance and breezed past mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (18-2, 12), who looked out of his depth for the most part.
Barrera actually started well, and had some success early in the bout, but that success wasn't enough to net him the round as Taguchi turned it on in the final minute and stole the round with his aggressive fighting and combinations. From then there always seemed to be a pattern of Barrera having moments, but ones that were easily forgotten as Taguchi answered back with vicious combinations, pinning Barrera on the ropes and really unloading to head and body.
It was the body shots of Taguchi that really took their toll, and more than once it looked like Barrera was breaking down, just from a the shots to the body. The challenger showed his toughness to stay in the bout, and in rounds 3 and 5 he had really some really good moments, but there was several times where he was forced to hold on just to survive.
As we moved in to the second half of the fight it began to look like the fight had been beaten out of the challenger, with rounds 6, 7 and 8 being very one sided in favour of Taguchi, who pinned the Colombian to the ropes numerous times.
Late in round 8 it looked like enough was enough, and that Barrera was staying in their on pride alone. Sadly for him the fight had been knocked out of him, but his mind refused to quit. The following round even the referee had seen enough, and waved the bout off after just 24 seconds of round 9.
The win for Taguchi moves him one step closer to a showdown with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, in what looks like a done deal, if Tanaka is successful in his next defense in September. For Barrera this was a humbling defeat. He looked second best throughout, and it seemed very kind of the judges to to have this 78-74 on all 3 cards when the bout was stopped. It could easily have been a shut out, and there was at least one round where we could have seen a 10-8 in Taguchi's favour.
Whilst the challenger was tough, his skills never looked close to matching those of Taguchi, who was due a good performance after taking a draw in a poor performance last time out.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the last few years we have seen Japanese gym Watanabe almost crumble with all of their most established fighters either retiring or suffering notable defeats. The gym, which boasted 3 world champions this time last year, has sadly been hit by loss after loss after their president, Hitoshi Watanabe, became the leading figure at the JPBA.
Today they narrowly escaped another notable loss as WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-2, 11) [田口 良一] just retained his title with a split decision draw against little known Venezuelan Carlos Canizales (16-0-1, 13).
Taguchi had entered the bout as the clear betting favourite, in fact it seemed that almost everyone had viewed the bout as a foregone conclusion despite Canizales warning that Taguchi had picked the wrong opponent. Canizales looked to prove that from the off as he attacked the champion from the opening round and established that he wasn't there to make up the numbers and was a real threat as he kept pressing forward and quickly backed up Taguchi.
Taguchi tried to turn things around but couldn't halt the march of Canizales in the early stages and every time Taguchi had any success Canizales swarmed him, preventing taguchi from every really getting any momentum.
The good start from the challenger couldn't be kept up, especially at the rate he was firing off shots, and in the middle rounds he began to slow, letting Taguchi have more success and claw his way back into the bout with some notable body shots. In round 8 Taguchi finally had a break through, with the crowd cheering him loudly and driving him on to turn things around, with the champion building on his success in round 9 with his jab landing on the face of the challenger.
In round 10 it seemed like Taguchi was finally starting to break down the challenger but he was unable to drop, or seriously hurt, Canizales who saw out the final two rounds with clinching and other spoiling tactics, likely feeling that his work early in the fight had been enough for him to take home the win.
At the final bell the scores were announced at 116-112, 112-116 and 114-114 giving us a split draw that both men will feel frustrated about, especially the challenger who seemed to cruise through some of the latter rounds rather than go for the finish
Earlier today Japanese fans got a rare all Japanese world title bout for the WBA Light Flyweight title. The bout resulted in defending champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) [田口良一] recording the 4th defense of his belt as he took a wide, but fun to watch, decision over former WBA Minimumweight champion Ryo Miyazaki (24-2-3, 15) [宮崎 亮].
The bout, the main event of the Watanabe promoted show in Tokyo, had been highly anticipated inside of Japan
The fight started cautiously with both men looking to establish their jab, that was of course a style better suited to the much taller Taguchi who quickly found a right for his jab and looked to follow with straights. Miyazaki, to his credit, got through with some jabs of his own and used his guard well. The fight quickly began to warm up and in round both managed to find success with their power hand, but it was clear that Taguchi's shots had more sting on them and that he was in control of the action.
Taguchi's control over the bout tightened in rounds 3 and 4 and although Miyazaki was finding success he always seemed to be a step behind the champion who was starting to force the issue more frequently. There were some good counters from Miyazaki but they never seemed to really trouble the champion who usually had the last word in an exchange.
In round 5 the crowd picked up, chanting the names of the men, whilst the pace raised slightly. The two men continued to fight at mid range, taking their turns to try and open up the other's guard and unload more telling shots. The pace increased again in round 6 as they began to close the gap and lets shots go up close, with Taguchi's right uppercut being particularly effective and causing Miyazaki to come off second best.
The success of round 6 saw Taguchi continue to push the action as Miyazaki began to look like a man needing time to think of a back up plan. Whilst Miyazaki was thinking Taguchi was working landing the straight right and left hooks on the challenger. Miyazaki tried to turned things around in round 8 and had his moments but couldn't avoid the uppercuts coming back as he unleashed his own shots in an action packed round. Miyazaki tried to again cut the distance in the following round but took some spiteful body shots and got tagged hard around the right eye as Taguchi resumed control of the fight.
Going in to the later rounds it was clear that Miyazaki had a lot of rounds to make up whilst Taguchi could cruise to his 4th defense. Despite being able to cruise Taguchi stayed sharp and continued to try and control the pace, and landed plenty of solid hooks. In credit to Miyazaki however he wasn't willing to just give up and landed a nasty right hand hand at the end of round 10. Unfortunately for the challenger the shot came too late to allow him to build on it and in round 11 it seemed his right eye was bothering him.
Despite being well behind and in discomfort from his eye Miyazaki gave his all in round 12, knowing it was now or never. It was however a case of needing a KO that he was never to going to get against someone as tough and resilient as Taguchi.
At the end of 12 rounds everyone knew Taguchi had retained and the scorecards agreed with scores of 116-112,117-111 and 119-109 in favour of the defending champion.
Taguchi will likely return at the end of the year in the next defense of his title, and he's stated he wants to face a top fighter next. Although Miyazaki was a mandatory he had, in fairness, done very little to deserve the mandatory position. As a result we could see Taguchi in an interesting bout before the year is over. Sadly though Watanabe may look to protect him given that he's their only current world champion.
For Miyazaki the result probably shows that he's not a world class Light Flyweight, however bouts with more stylistically well matched fighters, for example Akira Yaegashi, would certainly make for a competitive bout than this one, with Taguchi seemingly too big and too good for the Ioka man.
In the first of 3 world title bouts today Japanese fans at the Ota City Gymnasium saw WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (24-2-1, 11) [田口良一] retain his title, and record his third defense, with an 11th round win against Venezuelan veteran Juan Jose Landaeta (27-9-1, 21), who was stopped for the first time in his career.
Early in the bout things seemed relatively competitive, with Taguchi's speed giving him the edge, but Landaeta was certainly not being dominated during the early exchanges, in fact he was often holding his own occasionally getting the better off the action.
As the bout progressed however Landaeta began to show his age, and those 37 years seemed to have aged more than he had expected. In fact as early as round 5 he was beginning to slow down notably and leave more openings for Taguchi, who started to turn up the heat.
In round 8 it seemed Landaeta was beginning to break down with the body shots from Taguchi taking a real effect on the challenger, who was dropped the following round from a right hand to the body. Follow up body shots almost finished off Landaeta who was beginning to look very much like a spent fighter.
Knowing that Landaeta was fading Taguchi set off for round 10 with the intention of stopping the Venezuelan, who was dropped again, though the bell came to his saviour here. Had the round been just 30 seconds longer the odds are the that Landaeta wouldn't have seen out the round, following a third knockdown of the fight.
With Landaeta just surviving round 10 it seemed to a big question of whether Landaeta still had 6 minutes left in his body. Taguchi again set off seeking a stoppage and dropped Landaeta early in the round, before scoring another knockdown later in round 11 to really put the bout to bed in terms of the scorecards. Amazingly however Landaeta managed to see out the 10-7 round.
Despite having seen out round 11 Landaeta wasn't fit to come out for round 12 and his team pulled him from the contest, giving him his first stoppage defeat in a career that goes back to 1999. We're now expecting to see him retire from the sport.
As for Taguchi the world is his oyster and there are a lot of very interesting match up that could be made later this year, including a potential show down with fast rising youngster Ken Shiro or a bout with current IBF champion Akira Yaegashi, both of which would be very good fights.
It's fair to say that 2015 has been a very good one for the Watanabe gym. They started the year with 3 champions and have ended the year with 3 champions, as well as the 2015 Eddie Townsend Award winner and have seen their fighters go 5-0 in world title fights.
One of their final world title fights of the year saw WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (23-2-1, 10) dig deep to force 9th round retirement of Colombian challenger Luis de la Rosa (24-6-1, 14).
The challenger got off to the perfect start, forcing the pace and tempo of the fight. Not only was de la Rosa forcing the action but he was getting better of it and making Taguchi look very uncomfortable with what was an all out bombardment from the challenger. It was the type of effort we weren't expecting from de la Rosa and it seemed like Taguchi hadn't expected it either.
After the slow start by the champion he began to slowly work his way into the contest and by the middle rounds he was beginning to get back into the fight by fighting fire with fire. It made for some great action though it was a risky strategy that saw Taguchi depend more on his toughness than his boxing ability.
By round 7 de la Rosa was beginning to slow notably but continued to try and force the champion to fight the wrong fight. That however was the start of the end for de la Rosa who unable to land with the ease that he had earlier and now it was Taguchi letting the shots go and landing as and when he wished. That saw Taguchi dominate round 8 and take round 9 as de la Rosa began to break down. The challenger seemed to know that he was on the way out and in round 9 stayed in his corner, retiring from the bout.
At the time of the stoppage de la Rosa was leading on two of the cards, with scores of 87-84 and 86-85, whilst Taguchi was remarkably 87-84 on the other card, the fight however was turning quickly against de la Rosa who likely knew his best chance had gone.
For Taguchi the intention for 2016 seems to be a unification bout with either IBF champion Akira Yaegashi or WBC champion Yu Kimura. Both of those bouts are makable and both would be very interesting and very different types of bouts.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
At the end of last year we saw Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) claim the WBA Light Flyweight title with an excellent win against Alberto Rossel. Today he made the first defense of that title as he took on Thai veteran Kwanthai Sithmoreseng (49-4-1, 26), and recorded an 8th round TKO win in what was a thoroughly dominant display by Taguchi.
From the first round the tactics of the challenger were clear. Kwanthai was coming in to apply a lot of pressure and neutralise the height and reach of Taguchi. Those tactics however weren't done in the best way and in the opening round Taguchi used his jab and movement to tag the challenger on the move and land some solid shots when Kwanthai did get close. It was much the same in the second round though the round was punctuated with Taguchi dropping the Thai with a hard right hand.
As the bout went on the champion became more and more confident in holding his feet. That was bad new for the challenger who had his only game plan used against him with Taguchi alternating between boxing and fighting, picking his spots to go go to war.
In round 5 Taguchi scored his second knockdown of the fight with Kwanthai being dropped very late in the round from a clean 1-2. Unfortunately the bell came before Taguchi was able to close the show. The champion smelled blood going into round 6 and went for the kill early though saw Kwanthai survive the storm until being dropped in the final seconds of the round.
Kwanthai was drown for the 4th time at the end of round 7 as Taguchi landed a hard right, though again the bell saved the Thai who was falling a long way down on the cards. It was to Kwanthai's credit that he was continuing to fight but he was looking done and a more compassionate corner may have stopped him between rounds 7 and 8.
Taguchi started fast for round 8 and went searching the stoppage with some huge right hands, a left to the body then unsettled Kwanthai who was dropped seconds later. This time the knockdown had come early in the round and it was clear that if Kwanthai was to continue he'd be down again. Instead the referee waved the bout off with Kwanthai having beaten the count but looked thoroughly out of his depth.
For Kwanthai this is almost certainly the end of his career at world level. As for Taguchi the future looks really exciting and promising with possible bouts against Randy Petalcorin or Ryo Miyazaki both being mentioned. Either of those bouts would be mouth watering contests and make up for some of the recent mismatches all 3 have been involved in recent times.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Just a few moments ago we saw a new WBA Light Flyweight champion crowned as Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) dominated Peruvian fighter Alberto Rossel (32-9-0-1, 13) and easily claimed the biggest win of his career.
For the first two rounds two men were competitive and even with with each other but in round 3 the more complete skills of Taguchi began to take hold with the Japanese fighter beginning to settle, find his range and land clean head shots on to the champion.
The success from Taguchi lead to more success and in round 4 he began to corner Rossel landing the crisper and cleaner punchers whilst Rossel was unable to really answer. Rossel tried to fight back in round 5 but was against unable to over-come the clear reach advantage of Taguchi made use of his size excellently.
In round 6 it appeared the end was nigh for Rossel as Taguchi continued to have success time and time again whilst boxing behind his sharp and accurate jab. Rossell tried his best to respond but his out put was often too little and it looked more like he throwing to try and slow Taguchi's offense rather than to try and win the fight.
Rossel efforts had done well to keep him in the fight going into round 8 but a headclash seemed to bother him, a lot and soon afterwards Taguchi dropped him before continuing a vicious assault on the Peruvian who was really starting to struggle whilst being walked backwards.
Rossel came out for the 9th round though was again given a beating by Taguchi who boxed beautifully on the move and scored another knockdown, albeit a somewhat controversial one with a glancing body blow.
The his credit the champion was showing his toughness but that was almost all he had going for him as Taguchi went on the offensive and tried to see off the veteran champion who was spending large swathes of his time on the backfoot trying to avoid Taguchi before throwing a hayemaker. The shots of Rossel were now completely off balance and desperate whilst Taguchi continued to box brilliant behind his jab and never over-exerting himself.
A tiring Rossel continued to back pedal through out round 11 as Taguchi stalked his prey and came forward relentlessly looking to land power shots behind his jab whilst having no worries about the little that Rossel fired back with.
In round 12 it seemed like Rossel was going to go for an amazing come from behind victory, that however ended quickly and about a minute into the round Taguchi showed intention throwing a howitzer of a right hand that narrowly missed the Peruvian. Moments later Taguchi managed to land a similar punch and in the moments that followed Rossel tried to hold and survive whilst Taguchi began loading up the right hands looking for the KO. The round, and fight, however ended with Taguchi on the ropes with the two men exchanging wildly in brilliantly exciting scenes, unfortunately the those scene only lasted moments.
Whilst Taguchi may have wished to have stopped Rossel the Peruvian showed his toughness, especially in the later rounds. He was a defiant loser, but a clear loser and Taguchi is certainly no long just "the man that went the distance with Naoya Inoue" he is, himself, a world champion and a well deserving one.
(Note this fight is to be aired on TV Tokyo in Japan later today)
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.