It's rare that we can call a unified champion over-looked but the description seems a fair one for former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12). He wasn't flashy, and wasn't the most powerful fighter out there, but he managed to unify the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles in a division that rarely sees unification bouts. He bridged two generations of the Watanabe Gym, carrying the gym after Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono had lost their titles, and held his until Hiroto Kyoguchi was on the scene, to take the gym forward.
Not only was Taguchi a good champion but he was tough as old boots and famously took Naoya Inoue the 10 round distance, in what was Inoue's first bout to go to the final bell.
Whilst Taguchi probably best known of the loss to Inoue we want to look at his successes and today we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Ryoichi Taguchi!
As always in this series they wins are dated chronologically and are based on significance, not how impressive they were.
Sho Nakazawa (December 22nd 2007)
The first win of Taguchi that we're including here was his 2007 win over Sho Nakazawa. On paper this win perhaps isn't going to stand out like many of his later career wins, but it was one of the wins that helped him establish himself on Japanese scene very early on. It came in the 2007 All Japan Rookie of the Year final and saw Taguchi take 5 round decision over the then 8-2-1 Nakazawa. Not only was this the Rookie of the Year final but it was also a clear step up in terms of opponent. Up to this point his opponents had a combined 9 wins to their name, Nakazawa had 8 by himself! The bout was also Taguchi's first bout over a longer distance than 4 rounds as he took a clear step towards bigger and better things.
Yu Kimura (October 15th 2011)
One thing that some fans who don't follow the Japanese scene in depth might not realise is just who Taguchi beat early in his carer. In the summer of 2011 he beat future world title challenger Tatsuya Hisada, in the Strongest Korakuen qualifying round, which set up his Strong Korakuen Final bout against future world champion Yu Kimura. The two men clashed for the right to challenger for the Japanese Light Flyweight title in 2012, during the Champion Carnival. Not only did Taguchi secure himself a title fight in beating Kimura but he also became the first, and only, man to stop Kimura. Kimura was competitive but a cut above his left eye left him unable to continue in round 6 securing Taguchi his first title fight. Sadly for Taguchi he was unable to make the most of his big chance, only earning a split decision draw with Masayuki Kuroda in March 2012.
Yuki Chinen (April 3rd 2013)
Around 13 month after Taguchi's draw with Masayuki Kuroda the Watanabe gym fighter got a second crack at the title as he took on the unbeaten Yuki Chinen for the vacant title. Coming into the bout not only were the two men looking to secure the Japanese title but also give a boost to their world title hopes, as both men were in the WBA top 15 at the time. The bout saw Taguchi dominate Chinen taking a very comfortably win over his compatriot, winning by scores of 97-93, 98-92 and 99-92. The bout helped prove Taguchi's class and also saw him taking on someone who was physically similar to himself, not something he did often in his career. The win also set up arguably his most famous bout, his 2013 clash with Naoya Inoue. Had Taguchi lost to Chinen there's almost no chance he'd have had the chance to face Inoue, and his brave performance against the monster helped establish him as a legitimately tough and brave fighter, raising his profile massively in Japan.
Alberto Rossel (December 31st 2014)
Despite losing to Inoue in 2013 Taguchi had managed to get back to winning ways with victories against Ryan Bito and Florante Condes to earn his first world title fight at the very end of 2014. The Japanese fighter would be up against WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel, the first world champion from Peru. Rossel was certainly not a top fighter and had essentially be given the title when Kazuto Ioka left the division letting the WBA upgrade Rossel's "interim" title to the full thing. Rossel put in a gutsy performance against Taguchi but the Japanese fighter was too busy, too good, too young, and too big for the 5'1" "Chiquito". Rossel was dropped in rounds 8 and 9 as Taguchi claimed the WBA title, and one of his biggest career wins.
This was genuinely a huge day for the Watanabe Gym who ended the day, and therefore the year, with a trio of world champions. With the win Taguchi joined Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono as world champions. At the age of 28, several years younger than Uchiyama and Kono, he was going to be the face of the gym for several years and this win put him in that position.
Milan Melindo (December 31st 2017)
Whilst winning a world title is big, unifying them is even bigger and that's what Taguchi did 3 years after winning the WBA title.
To end 2017 Taguchi took on IBF champion Milan Melindo in a unification bout. Taguchi was coming in to the bout on the back of 6 defenses, whilst Melindo was returning to Japan after winning the title just 7 months earlier, when he blasted out Akira Yaegashi inside a round. For Melindo this was his second defense, following a September defense against Hekkie Budler in a bit of a forgotten war. Taguchi managed to put it all together to to take a clear decision over Melindo in what was a bloody battle. Taguchi struggled at times with the skills of Melindo but after 12 rounds was a clear winner.
Whilst the win over Melindo was huge for Taguchi, and saw him unifying the WBA and IBF titles, it was essentially the end for both men. Neither would score another win. Taguchi would lose his unified titles just 5 months later to Hekkie Budler, and then move up in weight where he lost to Kosei Tanaka. After the Tanaka bout Taguchi announced his retirement. Melindo would lose in a WBC title bout in 2018, to Kenshiro Teraji, and then lose again, in 2019, to Junto Nakatani. Melindo hasn't officially retired, but he's now a long, long way from another major fight.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces