By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On March 16, 3 division World champion Kosei Tanaka defends his WBO Flyweight title against former double titlist Ryoichi Taguchi, in Gifu, Japan.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0/7 KOs) is considered by many to be one of the top Japanese boxers today, along with Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka. Trained under Hideyasu Ishihara (former OPBF champion & world title contender) he won numerous high school/inter-high school titles, the All Japan championship as well as the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event. He even reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 AIBA Youth World championships.
Tanaka turned pro on November 10 of 2013, the same day he turned 18. After winning his first 3 bouts, he challenged world ranked Japanese fighter Ryuji Hara (23-2) for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Hara was undefeated at that point, with 18 victories under his belt, and was also ranked #2 by the WBO. It was an exciting affair that saw both men fight at a good pace. Tanaka fired up during the 5th round and was completely dominating the veteran champion. Hara retaliated in the 6th and it was then that the match became a huge brawl that lasted 5 more rounds, much to the joy of the fans at Korakuen Hall. Finally, in the 10th, Tanaka delivered a brutal nonstop beating on Hara that forced the stoppage thus gaining him the OPBF crown.
In 2015, Tanaka became the Minimumweight World champion, after he fought and beat Julian Yedras (24-4) for the vacant WBO title. His first and only defense was against the WBO Asia Pacific champion Vic Saludar (19-3) in December. Tanaka’s wild style almost proved to be his downfall as he was repeatedly getting caught by the Filipino challenger, losing the fight on the scorecards and even got dropped, before knocking Saludar out to retain his belt. (Saludar eventually won the WBO World title in 2018)
After that fight, Tanaka moved up to Light Flyweight and soon won this division’s world title as well, when he TKOed former World champion Moises Fuentes (25-6) in 2016. He successfully defended the WBO championship twice against future World title holder Angel Acosta (19-1) and WBA Asia champion Rangsan Chayanram (16-2). It’s worth mentioning that all of Acosta’s 19 wins have come via KO. Also, much like in the Saluda fight, Tanaka’s fighting style got him in trouble again during his encounter with Rangsan. In what was supposed to be an easy match before challenging the WBA World champion Ryoichi Taguchi in a unification bout, it turned out to be one of his toughest matches yet. Not only the Thai fighter knocked him down in the opening round but even when Tanaka won, he had sustained serious injuries during the battle, which led him pulling out from the much anticipated double title fight.
When Tanaka returned to the ring in 2018, his goal was to become a 3 division World champion. As a Flyweight, he defeated the interim WBO Oriental champion and then unbeaten fighter, Ronnie Baldonado (13-1), earning a title shot against Sho Kimura (17-2). In what was a fight of the year candidate, both men went to war for 12 rounds, throwing fists repeatedly, with Tanaka getting the better of some of these exchanges. In the end, Tanaka was awarded with the decision and the WBO Flyweight World championship, becoming a 3 weight class king, at only 23 years of age. As fate would have it, his initial defense will be against the man he wanted to face back in 2017, Ryoichi Taguchi.
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3/12 KOs) after a short amateur career, made his pro debut in 2006, while only 19. For the next 7 years, he was building a name for himself, amassing a record of 19 wins, 2 decision losses and 1 draw, including victories over Norihito Tanaka (18-7), Tetsuya Hisada (33-9) and future WBC World champion Yu Kimura (18-3).
In 2014, Taguchi faced former IBF Strawweight World champion Florante Condes (27-10). Despite getting dropped twice, the Japanese star worked the body of the veteran and controlled the pace of the fight, keeping a much aggressive Condes at bay, thus eventually earning the unanimous decision and his biggest victory at the time. That win put him in world title contention and on New Year’s Eve, Taguchi went head to head with the WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (34-9), who was riding an 8 fight winning streak. Much like in the previous fight, Taguchi implemented a similar strategy and even scored 2 knockdowns, both via a left body hook. After an action packed second half, Taguchi left Ota City the new WBA World champion.
His first title defense was against former WBA Strawweight World champion Ekkawit Songnui (48-6). In what was a one sided beatdown, Taguchi knocked the Thai challenger down an impressive total of 5 times through out the fight, mostly with the right cross, before the referee stopped it. After dispatching journeyman Luis de la Rosa (25-13) and Juan Jose Landaeta (27-9), he met fellow countryman Ryo Miyazaki (24-2), former WBA Strawweight World titlist as well as Japanese & OPBF Light Flyweight champion. It was a back and forth affair where both men gave it their all. Taguchi was once again declared the victor and was named WBA’s MVP Player of the month (August 2016).
Taguchi fought unbeaten Carlos Canizales (21-0), a few months later, to a draw and also outboxed mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (22-2) in every single round, picking his body apart and finishing him off in the 9th, after a barrage of strikes. Since the aforementioned unification bout with WBO champion Tanaka didn’t materialize, Taguchi would face the IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-4), on December 31st of 2017, exactly 3 years after he won the WBA title. Melindo had a strong 2017, stopping 3 division champion Akira Yaegashi (27-6) in just the 1st round to win the title and also defending it against Hekkie Budler (32-4). Taguchi slowly established his dominance as the match progressed, wearing Melindo down, making him fight his fight and keeping him close while constantly attacking the body. When it was all said and done, Taguchi was declared unified WBA Super, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion. Unfortunately that reign wouldn’t last as he would lose all of his belts to Budler, this past May, in a very even encounter. Now returning to the ring almost a year later, Taguchi will once again fight for gold, but this time in a different division than he is used to.
As in every Tanaka fight, the question is, will this be the time his recklessness finally proves to be his undoing ? It is well known that Tanaka’s brawling style has put him in dangerous positions, almost even costing him 2 world title fights (Saludar and Chayanram) and that he was only saved by his incredible knockout power and hand speed. Taguchi, unlike most of Tanaka’s opponents, won’t try to engage in an all out war. Instead, he will try to slow him down and systematically punish him with body shots. Taguchi really excels the longer the fight goes. 15 of his 27 wins have gone the distance, compared to Tanaka’s 5 out of 12 (although in world title matches they are even 3-3). Despite all that, Tanaka always finds a way to come out on top, no matter the odds. So to sum this up, it’s obvious that Taguchi has all the tools to succeed at Flyweight and become a World champion, but can he do it against the seemingly unbeatable Tanaka ? We will find out this Saturday in the land of the rising sun.
The Light Flyweight division, as regular readers of this website will be aware of, is one of our favourites with so much depth and great fights taking place on a regular basis. The next one of those great match ups takes place this coming Sunday as Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) defends his WBA “super”, IBF and Ring Magazine titles against South African challenger Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10), himself a former WBA Minimumweight champion. For Taguchi the bout will be his first as a unified champion, in fact it will be the first ever time a Japanese fighter will be looking to defend unified titles.
Taguchi's rise in the last few years has been remarkable. The freakishly tall and rangy Tokyo fighter debuted back in 2006 and didn't get his first title fight until 2012, when he fought to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Going into that bout Taguchi had gone 16-1 (7) and wasn't really looking like a future world champion. Since the draw with Kuroda we've seen Taguchi blossom into a fantastic fighter, going 11-1-1, with his only loss coming to Naoya Inoue. Not only has he racked up a solid looking run but he's gone on to beat top fighters, such as Florante Condes, Alberto Rossel, Kwanthai Onesongchaigym, Ryo Miyazaki, Robert Barrera and, most recently, Milan Melindo.
In the ring Taguchi is a freakishly big fighter at 108lbs, he has long rangy arms and can strike from distance though more often than not he seems to enjoy an up close battle on the inside, and has surprising ability inside the pocket. He combines his size with excellent stamina and work rate and has very under-rated power and a really gritty toughness. Although not a 1-punch KO artist he has been either dropping, cutting or hurting his opponents on a regular basis at world level and not many fighters seem to engage him in a war. The Watanabe man not only combines, size, skills and his in ring traits but also confidence and experience with a wealth of experience not only in the ring but also in the gym, rising through the ranks whilst in the same gym as Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono.
For Budler this bout is a second shot at a Light Flyweight title, having come up just short against Milan Melindo in a thrilling contest last year. The South African was a top Minimumweight for years and scored notable wins over the likes of Florante Condes, Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. He was a long standing IBO champion and held the WBA title for a couple of years before losing to Byron Rojas in March 2016. That loss was Budler's final fight at 105lbs before he moved up in weight defeated and claimed two minor titles as he prepared to face Melindo, losing a really good split decision bout to the Filipino.
In the ring Budler is a speedy fighter who finds himself in grinding contests up close. His bouts are rarely pretty, but they are often fun with a lot of leather being thrown. Although a grinding fighter Budler can box on the outside and can use his skills to maintain distance when he needs to. Budler is impressive with his speed, his stamina and determination, but lacks in terms of power and only has two stoppages in the last 4 years, coming against Joey Canoy and Pigmy Kokietgym. The lack of power at world level is a problem for the South African, and have resulted in the 29 year old racking up over 275 rounds already in his career, an average of just over 8 rounds a fight.
Given that Budler likes to trade blows we can't see how he comes out on top here. We imagine Budler's gritty mentality will always keep him in the fight, and make for some thrilling moments, but his lack of power will fail to get Taguchi's respect and the Japanese fighter will simply out work, out battle and out punch the smaller man. Budler will certainly have some moments, especially when he uses his speed, but on the whole he'll not have the power or physicality to win the rounds. Taguchi may look to use his height at times, though we suspect he'll try not to fight at range and instead choose to swarm Budler and neutralise the South African's edge in speed.
We don't see Budler being stopped, but we see a clear decision going in favour of the unified champion.
It's fair to say that 2017 has been an amazing year for boxing fans, who have had so many great fights that year has over-delivered in many ways. There has been dodgy decisions, farcical contests and all the negatives we associate with the sport, but also a lot of amazing fights. We get some more of those on December 31st with the pick of the bunch being a Light Flyweight unification bout between WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) and IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-2, 13). The bout could well shake up Fighter of the Year category and will almost certainly see us with a unified champion at 108lbs, a division which many have been sleeping on in recent years.
Of the two men it's Taguchi who is the more distinguished champion. The 31 year old from the Watanabe gym has held the WBA title since the end of 2014, beating Alberto Rossel for the belt on December 31st. Since then he has racked up 6 defenses, though shown real inconsistencies during his reign. He has dominated the likes of Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Juan Jose Landaeta and Ryo Miyazaki, struggled past Luis De La Rose and Carlos Canizales and looked beatable in both of those fights, whilst impressing earlier this year when he stopped Robert Barrera.
Although a bit of an enigma no one can argue with Taguchi's ability. When he's got his head on and is in the right mood he's an absolute night mare to fight with a very high output, freakish physical stature for a Light Flyweight, standing at over 5'5”, a solid toughness and a real air of confidence. He's not the most skilled but with his long reach, durability and work rate he's going to be a handful for anyone, and even gave Naoya Inoue his toughest bout to date, taking several rounds from the “Monster” back in 2013.
Filipino fighter Melindo only won his title this past May, in his third world title fight, but is arguably one of the top contenders for Fighter of the Year in 2017, with a win over Taguchi possibly earning him the award. He won the title in Japan, when he stopped Akira Yaegashi in 165 seconds, a divisional record, and made his first defense in September when he defeated top South African Hekkie Budler in a 2017 Fight of the Year candidate. Prior to those two wins Melindo was a bit of a nearly man, having put up good efforts in losses to Juan Francisco Estrada and Javier Mendoza and having scored notable wins over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Saul Juarez, Martin Tecuapetla, Carlos Tamara and Muammad Rachman. His resume was on par that of a world champion, but without a win in a big one.
Having gotten his “big win” and a world title the question now is whether Melindo can continue to build on his success. From a technical stand point Melindo is arguably the best fighter at 108lbs. He's got a very, very high ring IQ, is a brilliant counter puncher and understands the ring fantastically. He gauges distances really well, has great timing and knows how to control the distance. From a fight fan perspective he's a real thinking man's fighter, but sadly that comes at a cost and he can be out worked, he can seem lazy and can be swarmed, though he does hit harder than his record suggests and one of his counters can turn the bout on it's head.
This bout really does look like it will be an intriguing clash of styles. It has Taguchi's high work rate, and relative defensive openness against Melindo's low work rate but accurate and smooth counter punching. It will pit two world class fighters against each other and will, potentially, see one walk out as a unified WBA/IBF champion, and the man to beat in the division.
With home advantage we do favour Taguchi, who with a win would spoil Melindo's year, but a win for Melindo is certainly not out of the question. Either man can win, and it is a true 50-50 bout, with a feeling of being something very, very special to close out the year.
The Light Flyweight division has been a frustrating one in recent times. It's not been bad, by any stretch of the imagination, just frustrating with the politics of the sport seemingly stepping in the way of some great potential match ups and other match ups just not come to fruition. It's also been frustrating to see the reign of WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-2, 11) which has faltered and sputtered along whilst he's racked up 5 defenses. His next comes this coming Sunday and looks like a tough one as he takes on mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (18-1, 12), from Colombia.
When Taguchi won the title back at the end of 2014, he looked like a man who was going to kick on and have a great reign as a champion, becoming the new face of the Watanabe gym and the fighter to lead them after Takashi Uchiyama. The looked even more the caseafter his first defense, less than 5 months later, when he battered Thai challenger Kwanthai Sithmorseng en route to an 8th round TKO. Then came a sputter, as he was out boxed by Luis de la Rosa, until Rosa suffered and injury, essentially bailing out Taguchi. Rather than take ona live challenger after that he battled shop worn veteran Juan Jose Landaeta and dominated his challenger en route to an 11th round TKO.
Against Ryo Miyazaki we saw the best of Taguchi, as he dominated the former WBA Minimumweight champion but that was followed by a controversial draw against Carlos Canizales, who just so happens to be the only man with a win against Barrera.
At his best Taguchi is a handful. He's a huge, rangy guy at Light Flyweight, who will have size advantages over most opponents, and knows how to use his reach on the outside. On the inside he can hold his own, and has a lovely uppercut to the body up close. At his worst though he's lazy, sloppy, messy and a horror to watch. He can over-look opponents, he can be hurt and he can make life much harder for himself than he needs to.
Coming in to this bout Taguchi knows there is potential unification bouts at the end of 2017, but he needs to win, and do it in style, or else the likes of Kosei Tanaka, the WBO champion, will look else where for suitable competition. He can't afford a draw defense,or a flukey injury defense here, but needs something that will impress fans instead.
The once beaten Barrera is a 24 year old Colombian, who's only loss came to Carlos Canizales as mentioned earlier. It should be noted hat that loss was a split decision in Canizales' in Venezuela, in one of just two bouts on foreign soil for the Colombian, who has never fought outside of Latin American. In regards to his wins they have included victories over Luis de la Rosa, Ronald Ramos, twice, and recent world title challenger Julio Mendoza. At times he has struggled against lesser opponents, but is in good form having stopped his last 5 opponents whilst fighting well above the Light Flyweight limit.
From the footage available Barrera can fight out of either stance and has got nice movement, but he can be put under pressure and can often leave himself defensively open when letting his own shots go. His footwork isn't the smoothest and he just has an over-all clumsy look to his work. However he certainly looks like a strong and tough kid with a good engine and the ability to improve, a lot, given that he's young, hungry and never really been forced to step up his training as he will have done here.
With Colombian fighters we often see them go into a bout with a puncher's reputation. For Bareera that's not the case. He's on a stoppage run, but he's certainly more of a rounded fighter, who can box or brawl, than a pure power puncher. The overall skills do give him a chance to force Taguchi into a brawl here, and we suspect that will be his aim.
Although Barrera is certainly no push over there are enough holes in his game for Taguchi to have a field day with him, boxing from range and using his size to keep Barrera on the end of his stinging right hands. Barrera will press the fight, but we can't help thinking that Taguchi will get the win, and the chance to shine, which he really needs to make the most of here.
To end 2016 we'll see WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) return to the ring as he looks for his 6th title defense, and takes on the unbeaten Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (16-0, 13). On paper it looks like a great match up and a fantastic test for the champion but the reality is that we know next to nothing about Canizales, and really can't explain his top #3 ranking with the WBA.
On paper Canizales does look good. Unbeaten in 16, with an 83% stoppage rate, a catchy nickname “CCC”, similar to Golovkin in both respects, and at 23 presumably has a lot of potential and the belief of his team. Sadly though that potential and belief hasn't been backed up by his match making so far, in fact he has only faced 2 opponents with “winning records”, according to boxrec.com, and the most proven of those is Robert Barrera who was 12-0 (7) as the time and has since reeled off 4 more wins to sit at 16-1 (10).
There isn't a lot of great footage of Canizales but what is available makes him look to be an aggressive fighter who likes to throw powerful shots, including a wild roundhouse right hand. He's not the most accurate, or the quickest but he has serious belief in his power and is a fighter who looks like he could become a decent fighter one day. Sadly his open offense is partnered with an open defense and again a world class fighter his wild shots will be countered and his power probably won't have the effect at world level as it's had at Venezuelan national level.
Whilst is little known it's fair to say that Taguchi is becoming more and more known, in fact he's the longest active reigning world at 108lbs. His reign began at the end of 2014, when he beat Alberto Rossel, and has since distinguished himself with wins over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Luis De la Rosa, Juan Jose Landaeta and Ryo Miyazaki. Those wins haven't set the world on fire by any means but have helped Taguchi move on from merely being “the man to take Naoya Inoue the distance”, which he did in a Japanese title fight back in 2013.
Taguchi a huge fighter at 108lbs, he's gangly, rangy, tough, tricky and talented. He's certainly not a big puncher, despite stopping 3 of his last 4, but he's a solid puncher who can hurt fighters and grind them down with his surprisingly good body shots. Technically Taguchi is very solid, but can be inconsistent as we've seen in bouts against De La Rosa, Ryan Bito and Florante Condes. When he's at his best however he is a handful for anyone in, or around, the Light Flyweight division, and given his size he can certainly move up in weight.
If Taguchi is at, or close to, his best he defeats Canizales with ease using his reach and skills. If however he's off his game he could be pushed hard here. Saying that however even at his worst we can't see Canizales beating him here, in fact we suspect this will be either a wide decision for Taguchi, if he''s off song and has to work hard for every round, or a mid round stoppage if he's close to his best.
At the end of this month we get two brilliant world title bouts. There's a WBA Super Flyweight title bout between Kohei Kono and Luis Concepcion, a bout that he was monstrously high hopes for, and a WBA Light Flyweight title bout, which will see Ryoichi Taguchi (24-2-1, 11) defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryo Miyazaki (24-1-3, 15).
Whilst we can fawn over the Super Flyweight bout for days we must admit that the Light Flyweight bout is almost guaranteed to be a thrilling fight it's self and pits men who should gel in the ring to give us a brilliantly exciting war. We don't think it'll over-shadow the Super Flyweight bout but it will be a brilliant bout it's self, and potentially another all-out-war.
The champion will be seeking the 4th defense of his title, a title he won at the end of 2014 when he beat Alberto Rossel. His previous defenses have all ended in stoppage and he looks be developing into a heavier handed fighter than many give him credit for. He has bounced Rossel, Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Juan Jose Landaeta off the canvas multiple times in his last 3 bouts and looks like a fighter who has really come a long way since winning the belt.
For many the stand out of achievement for Taguchi isn't his title win but his 2013 bout with Naoya Inoue for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. That bout saw Taguchi go up against Inoue and show no fear as the two traded in a brilliant 10 round bout, with Taguchi becoming the first man to hear the final bell against Inoue. The bout might have seen the Watanabe gym fighter lose his title to “The Monster” but it was a gallant showing that improved his standing in the sport, along with Inoue's. Since that bout he has gone 6-0 (3) and reached the heights of world champion.
Taguchi is a huge Light Flyweight, standing at around 5'6” with freakishly long arms and real toughness. He's not the most skilled, or the most explosive, but he's a great all-rounder who hits harder than his record suggests, has great stamina, can fight wonderfully on the inside and has really impressive body shots for such a tall man. He's a very talented fighter but one who has been known to give away his height at times, to fight up close, and one who has shown some inconsistency through his career, with a less than stellar performance against Luis de la Rosa at the end of 2015.
The challenger will be seeking to become a 2-weight world champion, having previously held the WBA Minimumweight title. Although he did make his name, on the world level at least, at 105lbs he had previously held the Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight titles beating the likes Munetsugu Kayo, Katsuhiko Iezumi, Junichi Ebisuoka, Donny Mabao, Jerson Mancio and Michael Landaero at 108lbs.
At Minimumweight Miyazaki became a world champion by taking a narrow decision against Pornsawan Porpramook in a thriller before notching two defenses, a brilliant KO against Carlos Velarde and a majority decision against Jesus Silvestre. After those defenses he felt he had outgrown the division and went in search of a Light Flyweight title. Sadly however for Taguchi he struggled to make weight for his first bout at 108lbs, where he was stopped by Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in 3 rounds. Since that loss he has managed to get his weight sorted and run up 4 straight stoppage wins to help earn a shot at Taguchi here. Those wins haven't come against top opponents but they have helped re-establish Miyazaki as a contender.
In the ring Miyazaki is an aggressive fighter. Their are defensive flaws but he often uses his offense to mask those flaws and is happy to take one to land one. His shots have thudding power on them, though he has been known to score eye catching KO's as seen in his win over Velarde. That power however hasn't seen him stop a genuinely world class fighter and with his defensive flaws there will be opportunities for all of his opponents, especially given that he is very small for a Light Flyweight.
What we're expecting here is for Miyazaki to come forward, apply pressure and to see Taguchi meet him center ring with the two exchanging in a genuine war. The fight will see shots traded back and forth in a war, though we suspect Taguchi natural size advantage, and ability to box on the back foot as well as the front foot, will see the champion retain the title. He'll be able to take a step back and set up traps whilst Miyazaki just looks for a fight and leaves himself open that little bit too much.
Over the last few years the lower weight divisions have been among the best with competitive bouts, a lot of excitement and some genuine all out wars. Sometimes they have been bouts we expected to be good, that lived up to expectation, other times however we have been given an unexpected treat in a bout that easily exceeded expectations.
This coming Wednesday we're hoping for a bout that fits in that second category as WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (23-2-1, 10) [田口良一] defends his title against Venezuelan veteran Juan Jose Landaeta (27-8-1, 21). On paper the bout is a mismatch, and the bookies widely agree with it being a poor match up, though both have sounded confident in the build up and both seem to have prepared hard for the bout.
The reason many view the contest as a mismatch is Landaeta's age and history. The 37 year old Venezuelan made his debut way back in 1999 and has had a long career, which has seen him share the ring with the likes of Noel Arambulet, Chana Porpaoin, Yutaka Niida, Koki Kameda and Mark John Yap. Another reason is Landaeta's record, which consists of 8 losses, including relatively recent defeats to the limited pairing of Francisco Rosas and Edwin Diaz.
Although not the most consistent fighter on the planet Landaeta does look amazing for his age. That is partly due to his recent breaks from the ring, which lead to him fighting just once in a 6 year period between Summer 2008 and December 2014. That break hasn't stopped him physically ageing, but did mean he didn't take much damage during his mid 30's.
In the ring Landaeta is a very talented boxer, with a very intelligent jab, a genuine toughness and a lot of natural skill. He does perhaps lack the consistent fire to be a world level fighter, but at his best he could be a handful for many, with Niida and Kameda both finding that out first hand.
Whilst Landaeta is at the end of his career the same cannot be said for Taguchi, who is only 29 and really beginning to find his stride after almost a decade in the professional ranks. He debuted back in 2006 and began things with an opening round KO. After reeling off 9 straight wins he suffered his first loss, a defeat to Masayoshi Segawa. After that loss the Japanese fighter reeled off 7 more wins before his next set back with those wins including victories over Tetsuya Hisada and Yu Kimura. Sadly though that winning run was ended in 2012 when he fought to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda in a bout for the Japanese title.
Since the draw with Kuroda we've seen Taguchi really find his way in the sport, going 7-1 and claiming both the Japanese and WBA titles at 108lbs, whilst his only loss came to the amazing Naoya Inoue. In fact rather tellingly Inoue was unable to see off Taguchi who is so far the only fighter to hear the final bell against the “Monster”.
In the ring Taguchi is a very tall and rangy Light Flyweight, he's tough, he hits harder than his record and he knows how to box on the outside, as well as battle up close. Sadly though his last bout, a TKO win over Luis de la Rosa, seemed to show up that he too is inconsistent and were it not for the de la Rosa injuring himself there is a genuine chance that Taguchi's title reign would have come to an end. Notably however he won against de la Rosa and continued his reign as champion and went back to the gym to work on the issues that plagued him in that bout.
With both men being talented, rangy and tough we can see this going the full distance, despite both predicting KO wins. Notably however the winner may simply be decided by who turns up in better condition. Both have been inconsistent, both have shown touches of class but both have also shown they can have off days. If both turn up in perfect condition then we suspect Taguchi will win with his youth and energy. However if Taguchi is less than 100% there is a real chance that he gets out boxed by the challenger and loses his title.
We do suspect Taguchi will win, but wouldn't be massively surprised if he had to answer some very serious questions on route to a victory.
To end 2015 Watanabe are hosting a world title double header, sadly however both of the title offerings are disappointing match ups with neither looking likely to be competitive.
In one of the bouts we're expecting to see Takashi Uchiyama record the 11th defense of his 130lb world title whilst the other is expected to see Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) easily retain his WBA Light Flyweight title, as he goes up against Colombia's limited Luis de la Rosa (25-4-1, 14).
The champion won the title exactly a year ago, when he defeated Peruvian veteran Alberto Rossel with a clear 12 round decision. Following that win he secured his first defense in May, stopping the experienced but over-matched Kwanthai Sithmorseng in 8 very one sided rounds and this bout with de la Rosa will be his second defense of the title.
Although relatively under-rated the Japanese fighter is widely regarded as one of the best fighters in the criminally over-looked Light Flyweight division. The weight class lacks a really big name, with Donnie Nietes arguably being the most well known fighter, but Taguchi is certainly hoping to change that, and change that he can do if he faces some of the top names in the division in 2016. That could mean bouts with Yu Kimura, who he does actually hold a win over, Randy Petalcorin, Rey Loreto, Pedro Guevara, Jonathan Taconing, Paipharob Kokietgym and Ryo Miyazaki, sadly however beating the likes of de la Rosa will not do his career any great good.
In the ring Taguchi is tough, in fact he's the only fighter to have heard the final bell against Naoya Inoue*, talented and improving quickly, with both his confidence and abilities becoming more notable. He's also very tall and rangy for a Light Flyweight standing at around 5'6” and boasting a 67” reach.
Taguchi uses his size well to box at range, he's accurate with his jab and straight, and can also hold his own inside throwing great uppercutts for such a tall fighter at his weight.
It is fair to say that Taguchi's not unbeatable but his only loss in the last 6 years came to Inoue, and in that bout Taguchi did have some genuine success in, over the 10 round distance. As with that loss it will take a very special fighter to beat Taguchi.
When we talk about special fighters we certainly don't mean Luis de la Rosa. The Colombian fighter's best result was a split decision loss to Raul Garcia, more than 5 years ago, and since then he has gone 10-4 with all 4 of those losses coming in his last 7 bouts. Not only has he lost those 4 bouts but he has, at times, looked very uncompetitive being blown out by both Alexis Diaz and Moises Fuentes inside a round, being stopped in 8 by Filipino Merlito Sabillo and losing a wide decision to Zou Shiming.
In the ring we know that de la Rosa isn't world class. He has fought world class fighters but has come up short against them and seems to have been a man who is fortunate that the world title bodies have so many titles available to fighters, and allow “top 15” fighters to get world title fights. In the real world however de la Rosa isn't top 15, nor is he really even top 25 with boxrec.com rating him way down in the 80's coming in to this bout.
On paper de la Rosa has a punchers record.The reality however is that he has been beating some terrible opposition such as Gustavo Cortes and Deivis Narvaez, both of whom he has beaten twice. The level of his wins, Colombian domestic level fighters, sadly says it all about the crude challenger.
If we're being honest we see this as a cross mismatch and would be shocked if Taguchi doesn't see off the challenger inside the distance, with a mid-round stoppage looking the most likely for the champion, who really needs to get a serious bout sorted for 2016 if he's to build on any potential fan base that he has. He has the skills to become a notable champion but now needs the bouts.
*Note-Inoue is set to fight between this being published and Taguchi's bout with de la Rosa, though at the time of writing Taguchi is the only man to have survived the distance with the Monster.
Whilst the month of May has a number of brilliant looking world title bouts there is one bout that looks out of place and hugely under-whelming. That's the WBA Light Flyweight title fight on May 6th that sees newly crowned champion Ryoichi Taguchi (21-2-1, 8) defending his title against the highly undeserving Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26).
Before we start we have to say we like Taguchi, he's a very talented, tough and hard working fighter who has already notched notable wins over the likes of Yu Kimura, Yuki Chinen, Florante Condes and, most recently, Alberto Rossel. He's also shown his toughness in surviving the distance with Naoya Inoue and was very unfortunate not to have had a win on his record against Masayuki Kuroda. We feel he's a deserving champion in a division which has seen a lot of new faces winning titles over the last 12 months.
What we don't like however is Kwanthai getting a world title fight when he is less than a year removed from a loss to compatriot Stamp Kiatniwat, a talented prospect but one who is relatively unproven, and less than 2 years removed from a 7th round TKO loss to Kazuto Ioka for the very same title he's challenging for here. We would give him some lee way if he was to have scored a win of note following those losses but he hasn't and his only win against a fighter with a winning record came against Heri Amol, a man schooled by the then debuting Ken Shiro. Sadly this is another example of the WBA sanctioning a bout that shouldn't really be a world title bout.
With that said it'll come as no surprise that we're tipping Taguchi to retain his belt here. The talented Japanese fighter, dubbed “The baby Face Assassin”, has world class ability, freakish size for a Light Flyweight and the confidence of a man who is finally coming to terms with the fact he's a rather good fighter.
At his best Taguchi is a talented boxer-fighter who can box on the move or take the action inside and go to the body. He's not the biggest puncher in the division but he does hit harder than his record indicates and when he tags an opponent clean they certainly begin to respect his power and try to avoid taking too many clean shots from him. From makes him so tough to beat however is his toughness. It was that toughness that forced Naoya Inoue to dig deep in their Japanese title fight in August 2013 and it was the same toughness that saw him climb off the canvas to over-come Florante Condes last July. Despite looking relatively feeble Taguchi is as tough as they get.
As for Kwanthai the Thai was a good fighter. The key words being “was” and “good”. Back in 2010 he did claim the WBA Minimumweight title with a very narrow win over compatriot Pigmy Kokietgym. Hie reign lasted around 5 months before he was upset, in his first defense, by Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman. Going in to that bout Rachman was 39 and had lost his previous 4 bouts, yet he still managed to stop Kwanthai in the 9th round exposing the Thai who was 31-0-1 entering that bout.
Since the loss to Rachman we've seen Kwanthai feed on the many Indonesian fighters who fight in Thailand and pick up losses on a regular basis. That includes fighters like Domi Nenokeba, Safwan Lombok, Ichal Tobiba and Samuel Tehuayo. The type of guys that should test a prospect but not be used to help someone get a world title shot. Amazingly however that level of competition helped Kwanthai get a shot at Ioka in 2013 and again here with Taguchi.
Unfortunately Kwanthai's opposition tells us everything we need to know. He's not good enough to beat top drawer fighters and he's not good enough to beat Taguchi. The one question is whether he's tough enough to last the distance with Taguchi. We don't think he is and we're going with Taguchi to stop Kwanthai inside 9 rounds. Hopefully Taguchi will than face a more interesting test such as Randy Petalcorin, who recently looked sensational in stopping Ma Yi Ming, or Ryo Miyazaki, both of which would make for really good fights.
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)
For the second day running Tokyo hosts a trio of world title bouts, this time around however only one really stands out. That's the WBA Light Flyweight title bout between current champion Alberto Rossel (32-8-0-1, 13) and Japan's unheralded Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8). The bout lacks a big name but is a genuinely compelling contest between an experienced veteran in the best form of his career and a talented but yet under-exposed fighter looking for his chance to announce himself on the world stage.
Aged 36 Rossel is a true veteran and has been a professional since 1998. In his 41 fight career he has faced a who's who of the lower weights including Ivan Calderon, Brian Viloria, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Vusi Malingo and Hugo Fidel Cazares. All of whom have beaten him. Despite his age however he is now in the form of his career and has strung together a career high 8 successive wins. Notably however they have all come in Panama with with 6 of them coming by decision.
Although Rossel has been fighting at home he hasn't just been fighting scrubs. The first notable win form those 8 bouts was a decision over the then unbeaten Jose Alfredo Rodriguez to claim the WBA interim Light Flyweight title. As the “interim” champion Rossel defended the belt 4 times, defeating Karluis Diaz, Walter Tello, Jose Alfredo Zuniga and Gabriel Mendoza. On paper those wins were good but in reality they weren't as good as they looked with each one being a struggle, despite some wide scorecards. They told us as much about Rossel's as they did his strengths. His lack of power for example and his frustrating style which really isn't attractive.
Rossel was upgraded from “interim” champion to “regular” champion earlier this year, opening a space for Randy Petalcorin to claim the interim belt with a stoppage of Walter Tello who had previously pushed Rossel close.
Although limited Rossel has been viewed as central to the development of the sport in Preu. He is the countries first world champion and has likely helped the likes of Jonathan Maicelo, Ricardo Astuvilca, and David Zegarra all become fighters on, or around, the fringes of world class. With those fighters now coming through however Rossel has served his primary use and now it seems he is being sent out for a high paying gamble in Japan. If he wins he cements his title, if he loses he collects a payday and can think about retirement with some money in the bank.
At 28 years old Taguchi is a fighter coming into his prime however for many fans outside of Japan he is remembered solely as one of Naoya Inoue's opponents. That description is a really unfair one and Taguchi is much more than just a fighter who lost the Japanese Light Flyweight title to Inoue and in fact he gave Inoue the toughest fight of his career so far. (Note-this is being published prior to the WBO Super Flyweight title fight between Inoue and Omar Andres Narvaez)
Firstly Taguchi is a former Rookie of the year, winning the Light Flyweight crown in 2007 with a win over Sho Nakazawa, secondly he is a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion, beating Yuki Sano for the belt. Thirdly he is a damned good fighter and the only man, so far, to have stopped Yu Kimura, the current Japanese Light Flyweight champion.
Although not the biggest puncher or the most intimidating fighter at 108lbs Taguchi is a very talented individual who is tough, fast, brave and more than capable of holding his own with almost anyone in the division. Aside from the loss to Inoue he has only been beaten once, by close decision against Msasyoshi Segawa, and been held to a draw by Masayuki Kuroda, a former world title challenger. He's no mug even if he's isn't the most well known fighter or the most imposing.
Coming forward Taguchi applies intelligent pressure, boxes well behind the jab at distance and on in the inside he shows a great variety of punches. Among his best weapons up close are his body shots which all but crippled former foe Sansadka Portsanapon in their 2009 contest. On the back foot he can be a sharp counter puncher though does seem to be notably happier going forward.
We suspect this could be a scrappy contest with Rossel trying to make things messy whilst Taguchi ploughs forward trying to out work and beat up the champion. The scrappiness will be the only thing that makes this even semi competitive at times, however Rossel knows the old tricks and will slowly but surely frustrate Taguchi who will be forced to show a number of things that we've not really had to see from him. At the end however we don't think the judges will be as kind to Rossel's spoiling as they have been in Peru and after 12 rounds Taguchi will likely be crowned a world champion. Although we think the bout will be scored widely in favour of the Japanese fighter we wouldn't be shocked if he finished the bout marked up and frustrated with possibly a cut or two from accidental headclashes.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.