A good week for Japanese fighters continued earlier today as WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (16-0, 11) [京口 紘人] retained his title, and stopped "regular" champion Esteban Bermudez (14-4-2, 10 ) in a brutal beating in Mexico.
The bout, which seemed like a potentially dangerous one on paper for Kyoguchi, ended up being more of a showcase of his ability, and the ineptitude of the referee, who we really don't ever want to see again.
Kyoguchi started razor sharp, and by the end of the opening round he was using Bermudez's head for target practice, particularly with uppercuts which seemed like they couldn't miss. Bermudez was game, strong, big and tough, but he simple lacked the defenses needed to avoid the uppercuts from Kyoguchi, which landed time and time again. Those uppercuts took a toll in round 2, as he left his man bloodied, from what seemed like 4 or 5 cuts around the face. By the end of round 3 Bermudez was fighting through a crimson mask, and it seemed a stoppage was imminent with Bermudez game, tough but totally out classed.
Amazingly however Bermudez toughed it out, and began to have more success of his own in round 4, with a huge left hook late in the round certainly getting Kyoguchi's attention. He also managed to create some space, limiting the opportunities from Kyoguchi to land the uppercuts that had served him well early on. At range Bermudez was having success and Kyoguchi was slowing down, though was still landing huge right hands and getting the better of the action. The blood from Bermudez began to cover Kyoguchi in round 5, as the two men stood and traded blows, with headclashes happening as a result. In round 6 those headclashes saw the referee deduct a point from Kyoguchi, in what a rather harsh deduction given the headclashes were incidental from both men wanting to fight up close and personal. The point deduction almost became immaterial immediately as towards the end of the round Kyguchi detonated a huge right hand on Bermudez and followed it up, and it seemed like Brmudez was set to go down, but something kept him up.
Sadly for Kyoguchi the deduction in round 6 was followed by another in round 7 as he looked to put the Mexican down and was deducted a point for a rabbit shot as Bermudez touched down. This one was more understandable as a deduction, but seemed a heat of the moment combination rather than anything too malicious. It was by the end of the round however that Bermudez was tiring, and the round had also seen him get through a doctor's inspection on the cut, which seemed like it was making it incredibly hard for him to see shots, and avoid them.
Heading into round 8 Bermudez was bloodied, tiring, battered, beaten and breaking up. Kyoguchi knew it and set off looking for a finish in round 8. He was all over Bermudez from the bell and backed his man on the ropes, unloading shots until the referee finally stepped in and saved Bermudez, who probably should have been saved several shots earlier.
For Kyoguchi this was almost the perfect performance, despite clearly having the crowd against him and the referee, who really had a stinker with the first deduction and with the late stoppage. The "Mad Boy" didn't look at all rusty, despite more than a year out of action, and took out a dangerous, tough and powerful fighter in a fashion that was exciting and would certainly help win over fans.
As for Bermudez, it was clear he was levels below Kyoguchi, however we suspect he also won over fans on the back of this performance. He proved his toughness, his will to win and we would love to see more of him against contenders, perhaps someone like a Shokichi Iwata, a Hasanboy Dusmatov, or a the winner of the scheduled bout between Masamichi Yabuki and Thanongsak Simsri.
As for the division in general, this bout will spark more life into a division that has a lot of potential, but really now needs fights between the top, top names. Any combination of Kyoguchi, Kenshiro Teraji, Jonathan Gonzalez, Elwin Soto or Daniel Matellon, would be great to see later this year.
For those interested, the scores at the time of the stoppage were 66-65, 66-65 and 65-66, with the final one of those cards being nothing short of bizarre.
Just moments ago we saw WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10) [京口 紘人] make his US debut in a spectacular bout against diminutive Mexican challenger Axel Aragon Vega (14-4-1, 8). It was a fight that was thrilling, exciting, and yet sadly anti-climactic.
From the opening minute this was a great fight with the two men willingly engaging in close quarter combat. There was no real feeling out process here as they quickly got to work on the inside and let shots go with their heads against each other. The first round was great with both men having success up close. It seemed both men were happy to fight toe to toe and both tried to instill their will.
In round 2 they continued to fight in the trenches and it seemed like diminutive Vega got the better of things, though it was a hotly contested round with both landing uppercuts and hooks through out the round. The action and intensity that both fought at gave us one of the best rounds of 2021 so far and it seemed to set the stage for something special.
The pace started to slow down in round 3 though, as Kyoguchi began to use his jab more and create more space. It was still a very good round for Vega, but a round that seemed to show there was more to Kyoguchi's arsenal than just the inside fighting, which seemed to be Vega's only option. Sadly by this point the awful DAZN commentary had picked it's side and essentially ignored anything Kyoguchi did, though that was no surprise from a commentary team that have consistently been dire.
In round 4 the jab of Kyoguchi, which had been coming into effect in round 3, became a bigger weapon for him. Vega was still aggressive, but was being kept at range more often, and when he did get inside Kyoguchi was holding his own, landing some lovely clean uppercuts. Vega was very lively through the round, but seemed to be getting figured out, and slowing, and his face was also reddening from the headshots he was taking.
Through 4 rounds it was close. A score of 3-1 either way, or 2-2 was very reasonable, and it felt like they could end up trading blows on the inside at any moment. It seemed like one of those fights where both men were well matched, and where action could pick up at a moments notice. Sadly however in round 5 Vega ended up suffering a nasty injury when he tagged Kyoguchi. The injury instantly left him in pain and whilst he backed off in agony Kyoguchi rushed in looking to close the show, soon afterwards the referee jumped in, waving off the bout and stopping Vega.
It was horrible way for the bout to end, a truly anti-climactic ending to the bout, which had been thrilling. It wasn't the ending either man wanted. But it was a TKO win for Kyoguchi, who becomes one of the very, very few Japanese fighters to retain a world title on US soil.
It's expected that Kyoguchi's next defense will be about against unbeaten Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri, who he was supposed to fight late last year before needing to cancel the bout due to testing positive for Covid19, before a potential return Stateside later in the year.
A win here was important for Kyoguchi, and the performance will have left fans wanting more from him, though the way he got the win was certainly not the most compelling. Fingers crossed his next bout shown in the West will let fans really see what he's got in the locker.
The Light Flyweight division might be almost ignored in Western boxing media, but it continues to deliver amazing fights, as we saw today from Osaka thanks to MBS.
The bout in question saw Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] successfully retain his WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles with a decision win over fellow Japanese fighter Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20) [久田 哲也]. But simply saying Kyoguchi won a decision doesn't do the fight, or the fighters justice for what was a fantastic 12 round contest that saw both men show their will to win, and saw both men being hurt in what was a truly pulsating, action packed, violent and exciting war.
The bout began with Kyoguchi looking too crisp and sharp, winning the first round with his consistency over the 3 minutes, but Hisada held his own and proved he wasn't there to just make up the numbers. In round 2 we had real drama as Hisada's right hand, which landed a couple of times through the round, twice to seemed to worry the champion, at one point staggering him across the ring. Hisada tried to jump on the hurt Kyoguchi, but the champion put up the ear muffs and saw out the trouble, though was fully aware that Hisada was a dangerous challenger. Not only had Hisada landed solid right hands, but was finding a home for uppercuts as well.
Hisada was put on the back foot in round 3, but again had success, especially up close where his uppercuts again came into play. Kyoguchi's jab and right hand did catch the eye more often, but Hisada wasn't being over-whelmed, and instead fought back, trying to play his part in every exchange. The following round the challenger began to find more space and worked whilst Kyoguchi followed him around. It was another good round for the challenger, and the crowd responded by getting getting behind him with a "Hisada" chant. Despite both men being from Osaka originally it did feel like the crowd were behind the under-dog, who was exceeding expectations.
Despite Hisada's uppercuts catching the eye in the first half of the fight Kyoguchi had been putting money in the bank with solid body shots through out, and those shots paid dividends in the middle rounds as Hisada began to slow. The challenger still had heart, and in round 6 he showed that by finishing the round big, but his moments were coming in isolation, whilst Kyoguchi's successes seemed to be more consistent and pronounced. Surprisingly however it was Kyoguchi who seemed to be wearing his damage more, with the entire left side of his face turning red, a result of the right hands Hisada was landing.
In round 8 it was clear that Kyoguchi had more to offer than he was showing, and he spent much of the round skipping around on his toes, landing big shots and making Hisada look his age. This was where the body shots from early really showed, and Hisada was looking tired, whilst Kyoguchi looked full of energy. Despite slowing Hisada wasn't going to roll over, and in round 9 he came out with gusto, pressing Kyoguchi early in the round, before being punished for his ambition, and being dropped. Although he was quick to his feet he seemed buzzed and Kyoguchi went for the finish, pressing through the 9th round, and landing huge power shots time and time again. It was a credit to Hisada's toughness and will to win that he survived the round.
Despite being in all sorts of trouble in round 9 Hisada gritted his teeth, bit down on his gum shield and fought and inside, toe to toe war in rounds 10 and 11. Again Kyoguchi was getting the better of it overall, but the action was incredible, with both men trading shots on the inside, trying to match each other punch for punch. It favoured Kyoguchi, was quicker, sharp and heavier handed but it made for awe inspiring action as the two fighters just tried to beat each other up. The champion's shot just seemed to much more eye catching, and the two he landed at the end of round 11 were stunning, it was hard to understand how the challenger was staying up at times. It was all action at that point.
In the final round it seemed very much like Kyoguchi was sent out to play safe. It seemed he was in comfortable control on the cards, he had to be up and by quite some margin. Rather than trading he got on his feet, moving around the ring, whilst Hisada threw bombs, looking for the home run punch. That punch never came and in the end it was clear Kyoguchi had done enough to retain his title.
After 12 rounds we went to the socrecards with the judging turning scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112. Whilst the bout was, overall, competitive on a round by round basis, it always felt like Kyoguchi was the clear winner. He was winning the exchanges and doing that bit more overall. Despite that Hisada can hold his head high, he out did what fans had expected.
Whilst Kyoguchi took the win he knew he was in a fight, and his left eye was swollen shut at the final bell. Ideas of unification are still on his mind, but he really needs to tidy up before getting in there with another champion, who could make him pay. As for Hisada, this is probably the curtain call for his career, but he deserves to much credit for his effort and for playing his part in a fantastic bout.
Earlier today fight fans in Japan had the chance to see WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) [京口 紘人] make his first defense, as he over-come Thai challenger Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5), aka Tanawat Nakoon.
On paper the bout looked interesting, with two unbeaten men clashing for the titles. In reality however it was expected to be a mismatch, with the Thai stepping up massively to face a 2-weight world champion, in what was Satanmuanglek's first bout outside of Thailand. Surprisingly though it was neither a mismatch, not a hugely competitive one. Though it was a solid one, with plenty of action, some really good rounds, and some interesting back and forth.
The bout started with Kyoguchi on the front foot, applying pressure and forcing the Thai backwards, as was expected. Satanmuanglek showed, however, that he was a smart fighter, someone who had learned a few things from his long and illustrious Muay Thai background. He managed to neutralise a lot of the pressure that Kyoguchi applied, and although he did get dragged into Kyoguchi's fight at times, including round 2, he managed to have moments of his own, especially at range.
Kyoguchi, who had been expected to be be on the front foot and breaking down Satanmuanglek, did make the Thai's job a little easier, often standing off and not quite showing the intensity and work rate we've come to expected from the fighter from the Watanabe gym. When Kyoguchi did put his foot on the gas he looked excellent, destructive, and exciting, though had to contend with the toughness, smartness and defensive skills of Satanmuanglek, who took the best Kyoguchi had to offer and never looked close to going down.
Whilst the Thai was showing his ring craft, his toughness and his ability to dictate the distance, he did struggle to get Kyoguchi's respect. He was more of a bothersome foe, than a true threat, his punches that landed did little to really hurt the champion, but the champion clearly felt them, hence his lack of all out aggression. When the champion did pick up his work rate the Thai dropped his, notably in the second half with round 10 being a particularly good one for Kyoguchi, but Satanmuanglek would bounce back the following round showing that he was still there, and wasn't going away.
After 12 rounds there was no doubting the winner, with the judges scoring the bout 117-111, 117-111 and 117-112 all in favour of Kyoguchi, but if we're being honest the champion didn't shine as expected, whilst the Thai showed he id a good fighter. Our guess is that, in the future, this win will age well, and Satanmuanglk will bounce back very well with a potential wold title around his waist in the future.
One of the rarer feats in boxing, especially with men, is for a fighter to drop in weight and have success. We regularly see fighters out growing divisions and moving up, but very, very rarely do they come down and manage to make a mark. It does happen, with Sung Kil Moon being a notable example and the current Bantamweight run of Nonito Donaire, but it is very rare.
Today we saw one fighter trying to do that, and come up short, as former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) [木村翔] challenged WBA Light Flyweight "regular" champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17), and lost a clear decision.
At the weight in things looked good for Kimura, who appeared to make weight with ease, but making weight and being 100% fit to fight your fight are different things and that showed with Kimura lacking his trademark late fight stamina and work rate.
Early on it looked good for Kimura, who was employing the tactics we'd come to expect. He was applying pressure, using a high guard and pressing forward. Canizales was forced to work super hard to create space, using a lot of foot work to make room for his shots and to prevent Kimura from getting inside and using his strength and weight. It seemed the perfect gameplan from Kimura, playing the long game.
Canizales boxing and moving saw him taking the first 4 rounds, as many would have expected, though he was taking the odd heavy blow to the mid-section, which again seemed to suit the obvious game plan of Kimura. Make Canizales work, and take his wheels away. That lead to Kimura having success in round 5, a round that was clearly his, and some some success in round 6. Sadly for his success in the sixth he was rocked on the bell, and it seemed like Canizales then got his second wind, whilst Kimura began to slow. This was the point where Kimura was supposed to come on strong, as he had done in previous bouts, but instead he looked heavy legged, zapped of his hunger and energy.
As we went through the later rounds Canizales began to using Kimura's slowing tempo to his advantage and conserve his own energy, moving less and and picking his spots more conservatively. It was a smart game plan, and compensated for a potential late charge form Kimura, a late charge that never really came.
Kimura managed to have some moments in the final rounds, but they were few and far between, his foot work was as if he was going through lead, his punches were incredibly slow and his pressure was almost completely ineffective. Things weren't helped by accidental fouls, which caused breaks in the action, breaking up any momentum Kimura could get.
Instead of being the stronger man, it was Kimura who was actually the man being hurt, especially at the end of round 11 as Canizales launched one of his most eye catching assaults with Kimura pinned in a corner.
To his credit Kimura never stopped trying, fighting hard in round 12, a round that saw both men looking spent, but ended in thrilling fashion with both throwing hayemakers.
It was a brave effort from the Aoki gym fighter, but it was a performance that lacked his usual energy, his well known late charge and his typical fire. The move down in weight may have seemed easy, but in reality it had a price and that price was paid by taking some of Kimura best assets away from him.
As for Canizales it was another brilliant performance from him, building on his 2018 wins over Reiya Konishi and Lu Bin, and it seems almost certain that he will return to Asia for a bout for the WBA "super" title, currently held by Hiroto Kyoguchi, at some point down the line. His performance can't be downplayed by Kimura coming down in weight. If Canizales fought anyone else in the division the way he fought today, there is a very real chance he's have beaten them as well.
We love to see fighters chasing history, and records. Sadly this morning history wasn't to be made as China's Lu Bin (1-1, 1) [呂斌] failed in his attempt to claim the WBA Light Flyweight title, as he took on hard hitting champion Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) and came up short, despite an impressive performance.
The opening round saw both men come out swinging, and looking to land big shots. The stances of the two men, with Bin being a southpaw and Canizales being orthodox, seemed to cause both men issues connecting in the first 3 minutes. The second round saw both men having more success, with both finding spaces for their power shots, and landing them. Neither man seemed hurt at any point but it was clear that Bin had the more technically correct foot work whilst Canizales looked like the more aggressive fighter with the more damaging power.
The two continued to trade shots in round 3, but by then it was clear that Canizales was the stronger more physical fighter and he was able to back up Bin with ease. His pressure seemed to give Bin fits and despite Bin landing some solid left hands to the body he was taking significantly more shots than he was landing himself.
Canizales would continue to build momentum through rounds 4, 5 and 6 as his pressure was doing damage round after round. Bin was competitive but out muscled by Canizales who seemed to cut the ring off very easily, and find a home for both his straight right hand, his ramrod jab and his left hook. The success of the champion was only really slowed in round 7 as Bin began to use some excellent lateral moment, as he out boxed Canizales and then forced the champion onto the back foot. The same tactics were used by Bin in round 8 and for the first 2 minutes Bin looked in the ascendency. Sadly a hard right hand from Canizales hurt Bin who seemed to have his confidence broken by the shot and went into survival mode for what remained of the round.
The power of Canizales them seemed more potent in every subsequent round. He badly hurt Bin in round 10, dropped him in round 11, with Bin using the ropes to keep himself up right, and continued to pile on the pressure. Sadly for Bin he was looking like a beaten man going into the final round and Canizales seemed determined to chase the stoppage, dropping Bin with a series of hard right hand with only seconds of the bout left. Bin got to his feet but the referee had seen enough, with a second of the bout remaining the bout was stopped.
Bin chased history and was forced to pay as he felt the power from Canizales over, and over, and over. The bout will act as a learning experience for the former amateur standout, though it may come at a serious cost as this ended up being a damaging and painful defeat. For Canizales the win was a great opportunity to raise his profile to a world wide audience, and he will he gained a lot of new fans, who may not have seen his title winning performance against Reiya Konishi earlier this year.
Last year was a huge one for Japanese boxing, with fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Daigo Higa bursting into the world scene, and there was a great string of results for the county which ended the year as one of the dominant forces in global boxing. The year's final show saw Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一] defeat Milan Melindo to unify the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles. Today, almost 6 months later, Taguchi returned to the ring to try and make his first defense, taking on former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10).
Budler, who had actually lost to Melindo last year in an IBF title fight, started this fight like a man possessed and quickly took the fight to Taguchi. The Japanese fighter tried to respond but often seemed to slower fighter and was about half a step behind the busier, more aggressive and eye catching Budler. The South African kept up the intense pressure through the first half of the fight, badly hurting Taguchi in round 4 and bursting his nose in what was a really strong round for the challenger.
Budler's success came from getting inside on Taguchi and working the combinations, with Taguchi struggling to return fire. The movement of Budler was fantastic as he ducked out out of the way of headshots and turned Taguchi, giving him angles that the champion simply couldn't respond to. Taguchi tried, and battled through the bloodied nose, but really struggled to match the out put and success of the challenger.
By the mid-way point it seemed like Taguchi was going to need something very special to turn the fight around and he wasn't really looking like he was able to do it. He was having success with big single body shots, but wasn't really able to follow that up.
The second half of the fight saw the pace slow down, and this helped Taguchi, who managed to hurt Budler in round 9, and leave the challenger with a bloodied nose. It was the first clrar round for Taguchi in some time and although Budler fought back well after being hurt, it was a very clear round for the champion. Taguchi build well on that success and seemed to do just enough to take round 10 and 11.
Knowing he had to be behind, even if it was close, Taguchi went all out in round 12 and quickly hurt Budler before sending him down, in a decision ruled as a slip. Taguchi would continue to press and attack through the entire round whilst Budler was in survival mode, holding, spoiling and taking punishment as Taguchi hunted a remarkable come from behind win. Sadly though for him he couldn't get the stoppage and we went to the cards.
Whilst waiting for the cards Budler's crash to the canvas was reviewed and reversed into a knockdown, which it hard originally looked like, but still even with the 10-8 in his favour Taguchi simply hadn't done enough, and the judges all had the bout 114-113 in favour of the South Africa.
With the win Budler becomes a 2-weight champion and Japanese boxing misses out, again, on what could have been a massive domestic unification bout between Taguchi and WBC champion Ken Shiro.
Whilst last year was a big one for Japan this year has been a faltering and frustrating one. The country has seen Kenichi Ogawa being stripped of the IBF Super Featherweight title, for what was seemingly a skin medication, Daigo Higa lose the WBC Flyweight title on the scales, and now Taguchi's loss here. There is still time left to finish this year on a high, and demand for a rematch between Taguchi and Budler has already began, but it's not been a good few months for Japanese boxing.
The Light Flyweight division is probably the most over-looked in the sport today, but has been consistently delivering over the last few years. Today it delivered again with messy, wild, intense and thoroughly compelling war for the WBA “regular” title.
The bout in question saw former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5) battle against hard hitting Venezuelan Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) in what was a massively entertaining contest.
The bout started with Canizales looking the boss, and enjoying a very good first round before Konishi's pressure and work rate came in to play and he appeared to take round 2. The most decisive round of the fight was the third, and it was a huge one for Canizales, as he dropped the Japanese man with a right hand, and came close to forcing a stoppage as he landed right hand after right hand. Konish seemed to have no way of dealing with the power or physicality of Canizales and the bout was looking unlikely to go long given how damaged Konishi looked.
Surprisingly Konishi didn't just make his way through round 4, but actually won the round as his pressure and work rate made Canizales look uncomfortable. The body work from the Japanese man appeared to have an effect with Canizales almost running away at times and looking negative, uncomfortable and some how like the weaker puncher. Through the middle rounds Konishi continued to build on his success, snowballing his offense through the middle rounds as he made up for the torrid round 3 and looked to be on his way to taking a decision, with Canizales looking tired and worn out.
In round 8 Canizales began to find his rhythm again, it wasn't as aggressive as he'd been in round 3 but with Konishi beginning to slow Canizales managed to catch the eye of the judges again and land solid single shots. Konishi, to his credit, refused to back off, but he seemed unable to get as close as he had from rounds 4 to 7, and Canizales was able to get his crisper work off.
After a few, very close, rounds, the bout was hanging by a thread as we entered the championship rounds. This is where the bout changed, rather than Konishi being on the front foot and chasing Canizales the two men began to spend large swathes of time in center ring, brawling in a phone booth. The action wasn't the prettiest but it was incredible, with both just taking it in turns to let their shots go, and both connected. It looked, in some ways, as if Canizales knew he had to change how he was fighting and it made for 2 amazing rounds to end the fight.
Given the good start for Canizales, the mid fight surge from Konishi and the competitive latter stages the decision was always going to be a tight one, though it did feel like Konishi had done just enough with his work rate and pressure. Sadly it wasn't to be with the judges all scoring the close bout to Canizales, with scores of 114-113, 115-112 and 116-111. The closest of those cards could well have been right, though a score of 116-111 for Canizales does perhaps need to be questioned, as it didn't seem particularly accurate.
The win for Canizales will likely set up a Japan return and potential rematch with Ryoichi Taguchi, with who he has previously drawn against. For Konishi another world title fight is likely around the corner, and he showed that he belonged at this level.
In the final fight of 2017 fans were treat to a Light Flyweight unification as WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) [田口良一] battled is IBF champion Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) in a highly anticipated match up. The contest was frustrating at times, compelling at others and genuinely a fantastic way to end out what has been an amazing 2017 for boxing fans.
The fight started with both looking to feel the other out. It was however Melindo who maanged to take the opening round as he settled quickly and looked very sharp very early. That sharpness shone through in round 2, though by the end of the round it was clear that Taguchi was finding his footing and it seemed he was beginning to settle well, after some rocky moments.
In round 3 Taguchi really got going and arguably took his first round as he managed to get in an out, fight at a range of his choosing and have success both inside and outside. Sadly on the inside the heads came together and it wasn't long until Melindo was cut from a clash of heads, likely re-opening old scar tissue from a previous fight., As soon as Melindo was cut he seemed to have something taken away and Taguchi's success grew in a very messy and forgettable round 4. There was some moments of success for both but on the whole it was a frustrating and messy round.
The charge of Taguchi continue into round 5 and by now he was really getting some momentum going, despite both clashing heads numerous times. It was a very good round for Taguchi, who landed several clean and clear right hands as Melindo seemed to be showing some frustration at the cuts. Although accidentally Melindo did also land a shot after the bell, though neither Taguchi or the referee made much of it
Melindo managed to have some notable success in round 6, but Taguchi held his own whilst managing to drag Melindo into his style of a fight. It was exciting again as both men began to let rip with combinations. The combinations of Taguchi continued to shine in round 7, one of his best rounds, as he showed he could box at range and looked crisp doing so as he made the most of his reach advantage. Melindo tried to fight back, and landed a nice counter near the end of the round, but showed frustration towards the end of the round. Taguchi's success from 7 got even better in round 8 as he really did look like a fighter enjoying his time in the ring, and enjoying the success he was having against an ever more frustrated, and wilder, Melindo.
Round 9 was, for all intents a messy one. Melindo looked to turn things around but often rushed in, spoiled his own work and, despite cutting Taguchi with a headbutt, really struggled to look fluid for long. He had some lovely moments, and arguably took the round, but it wasn't a fun to watch round with a limit in terms of class action. Sadly for Melindo that success was easily forgotten by the end of round 10 as Taguchi had a huge round, really taking the fight to Melindo who was backing up as Taguchi moved into top gear. The Japanese fighter kept up the pace in round 11, with Melindo's face becoming a total mess, partly due to more headclashes. With Melindo's face really becoming a mess it would have been easy for him to look for a way out but instead he stayed in there, and was hurt close to the end of the round.
Knowing he was behind going into the final round Melindo threw the kitchen sink at Taguchi early on, but Taguchi then threw it back at Melindo as the act lead to more head clashes, a worsening of Melindo's cut over the right eye and real blood and guts action. It was a perfect end as both really just gave their all in a messy yet exciting final round.
Despite the excellent start by Melindo he really came undone in the middle of the bout and struggled to get things going again whilst Taguchi moved through the gears. By the end of 12 rounds there was little doubting of the winner, with Taguchi taking a unanimous decision, 117-111, twice and 116-112. We feel the 117-111 cards were harsh, but at the edge of reality, with 116-112 feeling like a more correct card.
Taguchi ends the year as the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine Light Flyweight champion, ending the year as arguably the key man at 108lbs, though that's a position countryman Ken Shiro may dispute. For Melindo it's a painful end to what had been an excellent year, and ends his slim hope of being the 2017 Fight of the Year.
We have long felt that WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (26-2-2, 12) [田口良一] is one of the most inconsistent world champions in the sport. When he's bad, as he has been in a number of recent fights, he's really poor. At other times however he looks sensational, with a great work rate, under-rated power with the skills to out box opponents and the physicality to bully them. Today he was great as he put on one of his best performance and breezed past mandatory challenger Robert Barrera (18-2, 12), who looked out of his depth for the most part.
Barrera actually started well, and had some success early in the bout, but that success wasn't enough to net him the round as Taguchi turned it on in the final minute and stole the round with his aggressive fighting and combinations. From then there always seemed to be a pattern of Barrera having moments, but ones that were easily forgotten as Taguchi answered back with vicious combinations, pinning Barrera on the ropes and really unloading to head and body.
It was the body shots of Taguchi that really took their toll, and more than once it looked like Barrera was breaking down, just from a the shots to the body. The challenger showed his toughness to stay in the bout, and in rounds 3 and 5 he had really some really good moments, but there was several times where he was forced to hold on just to survive.
As we moved in to the second half of the fight it began to look like the fight had been beaten out of the challenger, with rounds 6, 7 and 8 being very one sided in favour of Taguchi, who pinned the Colombian to the ropes numerous times.
Late in round 8 it looked like enough was enough, and that Barrera was staying in their on pride alone. Sadly for him the fight had been knocked out of him, but his mind refused to quit. The following round even the referee had seen enough, and waved the bout off after just 24 seconds of round 9.
The win for Taguchi moves him one step closer to a showdown with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, in what looks like a done deal, if Tanaka is successful in his next defense in September. For Barrera this was a humbling defeat. He looked second best throughout, and it seemed very kind of the judges to to have this 78-74 on all 3 cards when the bout was stopped. It could easily have been a shut out, and there was at least one round where we could have seen a 10-8 in Taguchi's favour.
Whilst the challenger was tough, his skills never looked close to matching those of Taguchi, who was due a good performance after taking a draw in a poor performance last time out.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.