With home field advantage, Ryoichi Taguchi closed out 2017 as the new unified light flyweight world champion.
Taguchi became the new unified WBA/IBF light flyweight champion by beating now-former IBF champion Milan Melindo in Japan on New Year’s Eve, the final world title fight to take place in 2017. Taguchi capped off the win in a bloody performance that saw him become the unified champion with a unanimous decision win (117-111, 117-111, 116-112).
Melindo started the fight with ease and found an early rhythm, but that all went away when the third round started. Taguchi started landing better punches as Melindo abandoned the jab and Taguchi’s body punches were starting to make their mark. As the fight progressed, Melindo kept getting hurt until then unleashing a flurry of punches midway through the fight.
The comeback attempt by Melindo ended up short as Taguchi and Melindo accidentally clashed heads with each other, producing a deep and bloody cut on Melindo. Taguchi gave Melindo another cut in the 12th round, leaving the former champion a bloody mess by the end of the fight. Melindo’s physical state was similar to that of his last fight, when he barely escaped with the title when he beat Hekkie Budler on September 16.
For Taguchi, this was the seventh straight successful defense and it came on the three-year anniversary of Taguchi winning the world title. As the new unified champion, Taguchi already has a couple of fights set up for 2018. After the fight against Budler, Melindo was ordered by the IBF to fight Budler, but that fight never happened, meaning Budler is still the mandatory challenger to the IBF title. There’s also a potential unification bout against fellow countryman and WBC light heavyweight champion Ken Shiro, who retained his title on December 30 with a quick win over Gilberto Pedroza.