Throughout this past week Japanese fight fans have been getting excited about the scheduled WBO Minimumweight title bout, putting champion Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] against hard hitting challenger Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開] in what was set to be Taniguchi’s first defense since he winning the title late last year, stopping Wilfredo Mendez. The bout was a much anticipated one, and wasn’t just set to be Taniguchi’s maiden defense, but also a great chance to Ishizawa to avenge his first, and so far only, professional defeat.
Sadly however today saw a massive wrench thrown into the bout that hasn’t cancelled it, yet, but does leave the bout hanging by a thread after a massive mishap on the scales this morning.
The champion had no issues at all making the 105lb limit, coming in bang the divisional limit and looking strong in the process. The same could not be said for Ishizawa.
On the scales the challenger came in at a ridiculous 110.4lbs, well over not just the Minimumweight limit but also the Light Flyweight limit. He was then given 2 hours to shift the weight, and could only manage to lose a small amount, coming in at 110lbs on his second attempt at the weight. Missing by so much could have seen the bout cancelled, but instead the bout is still on, albeit on certain conditions, and certainly not for the title.
The bout will be cancelled all together if Ishizawa weighs more than 111.5lbs tomorrow in a weigh in at the JBC’s office in Tokyo at 17:30. If he comes in on or under the limit the bout will go ahead as a non-title bout, which would be better than the bout being scrapped. If however he misses weight the bout will be cancelled.
Interestingly Taniguchi’s team revealed that their man had originally been threatening to walk away from the bout if Ishizawa failed to lose 1KG today, with Ishizawa then only able to lose 200G, the new weight limit was set for tomorrow.
It’s been reported that Ishizawa struggled to make weight due to illness, stating "I got sick yesterday morning and couldn't move. I tried to do training again at night, but I couldn't do much and the result was like this." Given that there’s also a chance that Ishizawa flat out pulls out of the bout over-night. Rather astonishingly he becomes the first Japanese world title challenger to fail to make weight, and this is only the second time a Japanese fighter has ever missed weight for a world title fight, with the other being Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾] in 2018.
Notably if the bout does go ahead and Ishizawa wins, the WBO rules dictate that the title will become vacant.
Related - Taniguchi seeks first WBO title defense in rematch against Ishizawa!
Last month we reported that WBO Minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] would make his first defense in April, with a scheduled but against Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開]. Today it was confirmed that, ahead of that bout, Ishizawa had vacated the Japanese Minimumweight title.
The hard hitting Ishizawa had won the title in January, when he defeated Katsuki Mori (9-1, 2) [森 且貴], and explained that coming into the bout with Ishizawa "By returning the title, if I win, I will have a belt in the world, and if I lose, I will not have anything left."
It's now expected that Ginjiro Shigeoka's (6-0, 5) [重岡銀次朗] upcoming bout against Tatsuro Nakashima (11-2-1, 7) [仲島辰郎], which is set to take place on March 27th at the City Gym, in Okinawa, will be for the title that Ishizawa has vacated.
Earlier today Hideyuki Ohashi held a press conference to announce the April edition of Phoenix Battle, and it's a brilliant one, with an all Japanese world title fight headlining the show, and several notable Japanese prospects taking steps up in class on the under-card.
The main event will see WBO Minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] make his first defense, following his title win late last year. The talented champion will be taking on former foe Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9) [石澤開] in a much anticipated rematch between the two men.
These two first fought back in September 2019, when Taniguchi recovered from a knockdown to defeat Ishizawa, becoming the mandatory challenger for the Japanese title as a result. Since then Tanuguchi has gone 3-0 (3), winning the Japanese title in 2020 and the WBO title in 2021, living up to the potential many in Japan knew he had. Ishizawa himself bounced back from the loss to Taniguchi, the only loss of his career, by defending the Japanese Youth title, before claiming the Japanese senior title in January. It was clear when Ishizawa won the title title that he would be targeting Taniguchi, and this bout was seemingly an obvious one to make.
At the press conference today the two men involved in the world title fight both spoke confidently, with Ishizawa stating he wanted to "humiliate" Taniguchi here, and that seemed to be more of his focus than actually becoming a world champion.
The chief support bout for the show will see the unbeaten Yoshiki Takei (3-0, 3) [武居由樹] take on JBC ranked Shingo Kawamura (15-8-4, 8) [河村真吾], in a real step up for Takei. Despite this being a step up Takei and his team are confident of not just winning, but doing so in spectacular fashion, with Mr Ohashi giving Takei a target of an opening round win. Despite the hope for a blow out victory, it should be noted this is scheduled as a 10 rounder.
In another support bout we'll see the hard hitting the Jin Sasaki (11-1, 10) [佐々木尽] officially begin his campaign as a Welterweight, as he takes on Japanese based American Marcus Smith (7-1-1, 7) [マーカス・スミス], in what will be Sasaki's first bout since losing to Andy Hiraoka (18-0, 13) [平岡アンディ] last year.
Another supporting bout will see youngster Keisuke Matsumoto (3-0, 3) [松本圭佑] step up to take on Morihisa Iju (11-5, 9) [伊集盛尚], in a scheduled 8 rounder. Notably this bout was schediled for February 28th, but has now been rescheduled to April 22nd.
Tomorrow fight fans in Japan will be able to see local hopeful Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆] face off with WBO Minimumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6), in what will be Taniguchi's second crack at a world title. Today, ahead of their bout, the two men took part in their weigh in, and both men made the 105lb limit for the bout with no issues at all.
At the weigh in the champion came in at 104.7lbs and despite having been out of the ring for almost 2 years, he looked in great shape. Notably he seemed incredibly confident at the weight in, and explained that he hadn't seen much footage of Taniguchi, but seemed to suggest that he was going to focus on his boxing, and was going to win by fighting his fight, rather than being dragged into Taniguchi's battle.
The challenger, who also looked in amazing condition, came in bang on the 105lb weight limit for the bout, and he looked in fantastic condition for what is, almost certainly, a must win bout for him. He spoke about Mendez, and explained that the champion was good at scoring points, and that he had analysed him. He also added that he was going to fight like challenger, and he seemed almost obsessed with scoring a win here. For him a loss, especially after previously losing a world title bout to Vic Saluda, would be very, very hard to bounce back from.
For fans wanting to watch this bout, it will only be available on Japanese PPV, Hikari and Abema both streaming the bout.
Related - Taniguchi gets second WBO title shot as he takes on Mendez
Next week WBO Minimumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6) will be facing off with mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆], with that bout taking place in Tokyo. Today, ahead of that bout, Mendez took part in a media work out and both showed what sort of shape he was in physically and mentally.
Before the actual work out there was a press conference which saw Mendez explain that his training had gone well and that he was in the best condition, and ready to return to Puerto Rico with a win.
In regards to the bout, Mendez explained that he was very wary of Taniguchi, describing him as "very talented" and "very good" as well as being "strong". Despite his complimentary words regarding his challenger Mendez did seem very confident and was enthusiastic about the fight, and about taking home his title.
As for the actual work out he didn't do too much, but he did skip rope and looked in great shape. It was clear he's not been wasting his time in Japan, and has been training since arriving at the end of November.
Notably at the press conference Mendez was asked about his eating habits since being in Japan and explained that he's been eating meat and that Japanese meat is first class, showing he's been enjoying the local cuisine of the country as well as the training facilities he's been allowed to use for the bout.
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