Monday, January 30, 2023  |


Masataka Taniguchi urges boxing fans to appreciate 105-pounders

Taniguchi (left) dominated Kai Ishizawa in his first WBO strawweight title defense despite Ishizawa weighing in five pounds over the 105-pound limit. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

On Friday, WBO strawweight titleholder Masataka Taniguchi will look to defend his belt against Filipino challenger Melvin Jerusalem at the EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan. 

Taniguchi’s handler, Hitoshi Watanabe, naturally expects his fighter to win convincingly but acknowledges it may be a difficult evening’s work.

“I’ve heard good things about Jerusalem, although I study tapes only to get a rough grip on how he fights,” said Mr. Watanabe. “Otherwise, I do trust the trainers to analyze the opponents in detail and how to train and fight them. We are not taking Jerusalem lightly. Considering Taniguchi’s hard-fought career and tremendous growth he has made in the recent years, I believe he will score a fair win with his technical advantage, although it may not easy for him to overwhelm Jerusalem.”

Taniguchi lands a gut-punch on Ishizawa. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

For Taniguchi, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 105 pounds, this will be his first fight since April 2022, when he made the initial defense of his title with an 11th-round stoppage of Kai Ishizawa, who was dominated after coming in five pounds overweight. Taniguchi captured the belt in 2021 by upsetting Wilfredo Mendez, also by 11th-round TKO, on the undercard of Naoya Inoue vs. Aran Dipaen.

“I am so thrilled to face such a highly reputed fighter as Melvin Jerusalem on my second world title defense,” Taniguchi (16-3, 11 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “He is a [well] rounded fighter. He is a highly ranked contender in all four major organizations.”

Mr. Watanabe, who also works with the supremely talented Shigeoka brothers, was keen to explain the extended layoff.

“Taniguchi has had a weight issue due to his growing body size,” he said. “Although [Ishizawa] in the first title defense had a severe issue in making weight, Taniguchi also made a big effort to make his weight. Therefore, I decided that he needed enough physical and mental rest before his next bout. 

Indeed, the 28-year-old southpaw says he feels reinvigorated after the break.

“It worked very well,” said Taniguchi. “The nine-month hiatus reminded me of my deeply rooted love and passion for boxing. … After scoring a successful victory over a formidable challenger like Jerusalem, I want to move on to higher stages.

“Although the strawweight division regrettably remains a minor weight division among boxing fans all over the world, I want them to know and experience the unique pleasure that can be available only in fights in strawweight. So, please pay more attention to my next bout. I am ready to show them a fight that they can experience exclusively available in this division.”

According to Mr. Watanabe, this could be Taniguchi’s final fight at 105 pounds.

“Our basic plan for Taniguchi is a change of his weight class, although we haven’t made an official announcement yet,” said Hatanaka. “I will discuss this plan more in detail with Taniguchi and trainers to obtain consensus. 

Taniguchi after his successful title defense against Ishizawa. (Photo by Naoki Fukuda)

“[I have] no doubt the junior flyweight division is much more suitable for Taniguchi when looking at his remarkable body frame, especially unbelievably big shoulders for his height, which are as big as middleweight fighters’. … I look forward to his better performances in his new division, taking full advantage of his extraordinary athletic ability and physical strengths.”

Jerusalem (19-2, 11 KOs) turned professional in 2014. He bested former titleholder Florante Condes (MD 8) and experienced campaigner Jonathan Refugio (UD 10) on his way up. The Filipino gave then-WBC titlist Wanheng Menayothin all he could handle in 2017, ultimately losing a 12-round unanimous decision but only by a razor-thin margin, with the fight taking place on Menayothin’s home turf.

The 28-year-old surprisingly dropped a decision to Joey Canoy (UD 10) but has rebounded with eight successive victories, which included winning the OPBF title. 


Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].