On Tuesday we reported that OPBF Minimumweight champion Lito Dante (16-11-4, 8), from the Philippines, would be facing Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) [谷口将隆] in what was not only an OPBF title fight but also a Japanese title fight. With that bout set to take place at Korakuen Hall on March 17th.
That bout is set, despite Dante having no direct connection to Japan, such as a Japanese gym affiliation.
Of course this is a rather odd situation, though not unique and it's not actually the first time it's happened. But it is the most high profile and is something that needs explaining.
So, how can a Filipino fighter fight for a Japanese title?
Last year the OPBF changed their rules, to help deepen the challenger pool for national titles, where needed. The rule, as applied by the JBC, is essentially "OPBF member country boxer's Japanese title challenge" and there are a lot of caveats to it, which have all come into play here.
So lets start at the beginning. Taniguchi became the mandatory for the Japanese title last September when he beat Kai Ishizawa (6-1, 6) [石澤開 in an absolute thriller. This gave Taniguchi a Japanese title fight at the 2020 Champion Carnival, where he was expected to face Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) [田中教仁], who has choosen to pursue a world title fight instead.
So that left Taniguchi as the mandatory with no champion to face, and a struggle to actually secure a bout with a suitable domestic contender.
Now we get the rule in question
The rule's main caveat is that there has to be no domestic ranked fighter available to fight for the title.
The current JBC rankings only has 7 Minimumweights ranked. One of which is Taniguchi, one is stable mate Shin Ono (24-10-3, 6) [小野心] and another is Ryoki Hirai (13-6-1, 4) [平井亮輝], who fought in December. Essentially that rules out the top 3. The others are unavailable for various reasons, or have other plans, such as Ishizawa who will be looking to return to the ring in March himself for his first bout since losing to Taniguchi.
As a result of no suitable contenders, a bout can't be made with a domestic fighter.
As a result the JBC have allowed a fighter from the OPBF member countries, in this case the Philippines, to fight for the Japanese title.
Another relatively recent example of this came in April 2019 when Tamao Ozawa and Hye Soo Park fought for not only the Japanese title, due to a lack of Japanese female Flyweight challengers, but also the Korean female Flyweight title, essentially unifying the two titles momentarily.
There was also supposed to be a Japanese Heavyweight title fight last year where a Japanese and Korean fighter were meant to clash, before the Korean in question was injured. Sadly details of that bout are less clear on the plans behind it.
So, to summarise:
Due to a lack of available contenders for Taniguchi, the JBC have allowed the bout to be for their title, under an OPBF rule that allows fighters from OPBF affiliated countries to challenge for national titles in special circumstances.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.