Earlier today fights had the chance to see WBO Minimumweight title champion Masataka Taniguchi (16-3, 11) [谷口将隆] successfully retain his title, as he stopped hard hitting challenger Kai Ishizawa (10-2, 9) [石澤開] in 11 rounds at Korakuen Hall, and put on a career best performance, showing just how good the often under-rater champion is.
Prior to the men getting in the ring there had been drama with Ishizawa missing weight, significantly, yesterday, when he came in above not just the Minimumweight limit but also the Light Flyweight division. As a result he was forced to weigh in again today, just hours before the fight, and managed to make the agreed weight today. Whilst he did make the agreed limit today, there was question marks as to how much making that weight world take out of him, and whether he actually did it on purpose, just to avenge his first defeat.
When they were in the ring it was clear the men were on different levels to each other. From the off Taniguchi relied on his boxing skills, his movement, straight punches and control of distance. He looked sharp, and determined and really was putting together a great start whilst also thwarting Ishizawa's attacks, tying him up when he needed to and using his foot work to keep Ishizawa from setting himself.
In round 3 we saw some success for Ishizawa, in what was easily his best round of the fight as he upped his tempo, and pressed with more success. It was however a temporary moment in the bout and in round 4 Taniguchi resumed control, using his footwork, his upper body movement and his sharp crisp punches to control the action without taking many risks.
In round 6 we saw Taniguchi begin to press more, throwing more combinations and do more damage to Ishizawa, who was being forced to show his toughness against what was becoming a bit of a sustained and gradual beating. The beating for Ishizawa seemed to fire him up a bit in round 9, but it wasn't enough the turn the tide, and was more a last hurrah from Ishizawa who took sustained damage in round 10, and then 11 before the referee saved the younger man from any further punishment,
After the bout Taniguchi spoke about his performance, stating he wanted to "fight cool", added that he though Ishizawa missing weight wasn't deliberate, and seemed to tell the youngster that there was no need to apologise, and added that he wanted to partake in a world title double header with Watanabe Gym stablemate Hiroto Kyoguchi, in Kansai, in the future.
Taniguchi's promoter, Hitoshi Watanabe, stated "I'm glad that the match was established first. I'd like him to have a chance to play a match overseas as well as a defense match in Japan."
As for Ishizawa, he seemed fully aware he was the second best man here and admitted the referee had no choice but to stop it. Fully aware he was taking a beating and had no answer to Taniguchi's skills, movement, accuracy and ring craft.
Earlier today much of the hardcore boxing fan base, as well as the Japanese fan base, was focused on a show at the Kokugikan in Tokyo awaiting the return to a Japanese ring of the Monster Naoya Inoue. Prior to Inoue however there was another world title bout.
The world title bout saw Japanese local Masataka Taniguchi (15-3, 10) [谷口将隆] score a career best win and become the new WBO Minimumweight champion as he stopped Wilfredo Mendez (16-2, 6) in 11 rounds to dethrone the skilled Puerto Rican.
Coming in to the bout both men had serious questions to answer. For Taniguchi the question was whether or not he could win the big one. He had come up short in his three most notable bouts prior to this and was a worry among some fans in Japan that he just couldn't get over the line in his big fights. By the same token there was plenty of worries regarding Mendez's inactivity, given he hadn't fought in almost 2 years and had never fought in Asia before.
For those worrying about Taniguchi, their mind was to put ease early on as he controlled the distance for much of the first round, neutralising one of the big strengths of Mendez, who has long been a master at creating space, and using his jab. Mendez had moments through the first round, but he was certainly not controlling things like we'd seen from him in previous bouts. Taniguchi would then get another boost to his confidence as he dropped Mendez in round 2, from a hard straight left hand, showing his power was legitimate at world level.
To his credit Mendez got back to his feet, shook off the knockdown and looked composed when the bout resumed. Sadly for him however he was under pressure from round 4, as Taniguchi began to show his physical side. That was always something he had in his locked than Mendez didn't and it showed as he looked to impose his will on Mendez, making the defending champion work really hard to create space, burning energy and sapping his legs in the process. The pressure from Taniguchi wasn't always hugely effective, but it did it's job in taking the wind out of Mendez's legs, and gave him some counter opportunities at the same time. It also resulted in Mendez being deducted a point for holding in round 6 as he struggled to contain the pressure and determination of Taniguchi.
Being well behind Mendez knew he needed a big finish, and to his credit he tried. He had a fantastic round 8, using his crisp punches well to get Taniguchi's respect and he gritted his teeth to have strong rounds in the 9th and 10, but it came at a cost and he put a lot into those rounds, whilst being a very, very long way down.
In round 11 Taniguchi managed to hurt his man, who tried to get away and make space to clear his senses. Taniguchi however refused to let Mendez have the chance he needed, jumping on him and unloading on him, until the referee was forced to step in and save Mendez, 78 seconds into round 11.
At the time of the stoppage Mendez was the one needing a KO. He was done 97-91 on two cards and 95-93 on the other.
The first world title fight on Japanese soil in 2019 took place earlier today at the Korakuen Hall as the WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) faced off against Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆]. As expected the fight was a hotly contested and fierce one, with both men landing big shots through out, despite being well contested, it ended in a rather clear win for Saludar who seemed to have that extra experience and know how.
Reports from ringside stated that both men looked to land their back hand early on, with Saludar looking to land right hands and Taniguchi looking for left hands. It was Saludar who seemed to get better of those early exchanges before he managed to create distance began to fight well at mid-range, something that Taniguchi couldn't match him at. Fighting at range and grabbing the bout by the neck was smart, given the huge reach advantage that Saludar had.
Taniguchi began to cut the distance in round 5 and had notable success in the middle rounds, clearly taking round 7 and seemingly doing enough to take round 8 as well.
Whilst Taniguchi had been turning the momentum in his favour his sustained success were short lived and it wasn't long until Saludar would take control again, taking the final rounds as his more proven stamina, and ring craft proving to be the difference.
By the end of the bout that no real doubt over who had won, with Japanese fans ringside all suggesting their man hadn't done enough, and that proved to be the case with the judges scoring the bout to Saludar with scores of 118-110, 117-111, twice.
The win sees Saludar scoring his first defense, and building on his great win from last year over Ryuya Yamanaka. For Taniguchi however this is a third loss, a third decision loss, and he really will need to work incredibly hard to earn another world title fight following this defeat.
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.