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.
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.