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.
On Saturday night Vic Saludar (19-4, 10) saw his reign as the WBO Minimumweight champion come to an end, as he was widely out pointed by mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez (14-1, 5) in Puerto Rico.
The talented Saludar, who had won and defended the title in Japan, found himself in with a stylistic nightmare as Mendez, a talented though sometimes negative, fighter neutralised him with movement, skills and intelligence.
It was rare for Saludar to have any sustained success, though he did in round 5 when he dropped the Puerto Rican in what was his best round. Sadly though that was never going to be enough and after 12 rounds it was clear he hadn't done enough to retain his title, at least not on foreign soil. Instead the decision went to Mendez, with scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112.
For Mendez this was a huge step up in class, and sees Puerto Rico taking another world title, in fact he becomes the third Puerto Rican to hold the WBO Minimumweight title. Sadly for Saludar the bout ends his reign and also ends talk of a prospective unification bout with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart, which had been mooted in the Thai press in July.
Mendez may have taken the win though we do suspect he now has a target on his back, due to his style and lack of power. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see some notable prospects from the Asia region begin to target Mendez, who is a talented fighter, but a much less dangerous champion than Saludar.
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.