Ryoichi Taguchi ready for unification showdown with Milan Melindo
Junior flyweight titleholders Ryoichi Taguchi and Milan Melindo will contest the vacant RING Magazine junior flyweight title when they meet in a WBA/IBF 108-pound unification bout at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, on Sunday.
Taguchi (26-2-2, 12 knockouts) has held the WBA title for three years since dethroning Albert Rossel at the same venue. He’s made six defences of the title. Taguchi, who is rated No. 1 by THE RING at 108 pounds, is eager to take advantage of his opportunity against THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior flyweight, Melindo (37-2, 13 KOs).
“I am very excited about this fight, as much as when I challenged for my own WBA title,” Taguchi told RingTV.com through Tomoyuki Kataoka. “Although I am WBA champion, I would like to go to the ring to fight with the IBF champion as a challenger since I have always fought every championship fight with the mindset of a challenger.
“Melindo is a powerful fighter but I will fight very hard in order to definitely become the unified champion of both the WBA and IBF.”
Taguchi, who earlier this month turned 31, is determined to win and appreciates what it could do for his career.
“It is a very important bout that I cannot fail to win in order to prove that I am the real champion at junior flyweight.” he said.
The Tokyo native has deep respect for his Filipino opponent’s abilities and fully expects a tough evening.
“His defense is tremendously good and I think that he is a very clever boxer,” he explained. “I should be careful of his offense since he has the ability to deliver continuous punches.
“I cannot find out any specific weakness on him. However, I would like to prepare sufficient countermeasures through discussions with my trainer.
“As a plan for the bout, if I am able to put pressure on him to make him go backward, I think that I will win against him. The most important point at the end of the bout is to keep my mind on winning. I have a strong motivation to win.”
His promoter Hitoshi Watanabe’s biggest star, Takashi Uchiyama, retired earlier this year, which left the gym needing someone to step up and fill the sizeable void. Taguchi has done that but Watanabe has also seen several others rise to the fore.
If Taguchi wins it would be huge for the Watanabe gym.
“The importance of this bout is to prove and appeal to the fans, audience and media that Taguchi is really powerful and brave,” said Watanabe. “Taguchi himself has wanted to fight with any powerful opponent, like Melindo. A win against Melindo will make Taguchi more popular and further make the broadcaster, TBS, want to air his future bouts.
“Now, my gym has 10 [male or female] champions [Japanese, OPBF and world titleholders], maybe because of the centripetal force of Uchiyama. I am convinced that this current moment shall be the best in the history of my gym. I will continue doing my best as a promoter.”
Originally, Taguchi was going to face Kosei Tanaka in an all-Japanese unification. Both men had interim fights designed to help create a further buzz and move towards a meeting on December 31. That plan was scuppered when Tanaka injured both his eye sockets in a September defense against Palangpol CP Freshmart. Tanaka recently vacated and will campaign at flyweight.
It left Taguchi needing a new opponent and full credit to his promoter, he went out and procured the services of Melindo, who in May stunned Taguchi’s countryman, the hugely respected Akira Yaegashi, in one round, to claim the IBF throne.
Watanabe already has a working idea of what will be next: “If Taguchi wins, he will face Hekkie Budler to defend titles of WBA and IBF under their sanctions around next May.”
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