The final title fight of 2017 is officially set, as Ryoichi Taguchi and Milan Melindo both easily made weight for their anticipated 108-pound title unification clash. Their bout takes place Sunday evening at Ota-City General Gym in Tokyo, Japan.
Taguchi (26-2-2, 12KOs) came in at 107.5 pounds, his lightest weight in more than three years as he prepares for the seventh defense of his portion of the junior flyweight crown. His visiting opponent and fellow title holder, Philippines' Melindo came in slightly lighter at 107.3 pounds—his lightest weight in 2 1/2 years—as he attempts his second title defense.
The bout will air live on TBS television in Japan as part of a New Year's Eve "Kyokugen 2017" block programming celebration and via two-day delay on ABS-CBN in the Philippines.
Taguchi has long served as a chief support to mentor and former stablemare Takashi Uchiyama, the former longtime super featherweight titlist whose reign ended at the hands of Jezreel Corrales last summer. The final fight of Uchiyama's storied career came last New Year's Eve, dropping a decision to Corrales in their rematch on the same night in which Taguchi was held to a disappointing draw versus Carlos Canizalez on the undercard.
Previous New Year's Eve showings have provided far fonder memories, including his title winning effort over Alberto Rossel in Dec. '14. The showdown with Melindo comes on the three-year anniversary of his title reign, while also riding a nine-fight unbeaten streak since a points loss to Naoya Inoue way back in Aug. '13.
Most recently, Taguchi successfully defended his title in a 9th round stoppage of Roberto Barrera in this very venue this past July.
As for Melindo, a win will not only mean two titles in one year but also strong consideration for a 2017 Fighter of the Year race that has been anything but definitive for any of the leading candidates.
The diminutive Filipino enjoyed great success in his previous trip to Japan, scoring a shocking one-round knockout of longtime boxing cult favorite Akira Yaegashi to win his portion of the 108-pound crown this past May. His first title defense came in a split decision victory over former long-reigning strawweight titlist Hekkie Budler in September.
With a victory, Melindo will have beaten three current or former champions in 2017, and all in a span of just over seven months. Such a feat would more than measures up against the years enjoyed by Terence Crawford, Srisaket Sor Rungvisa, Mikey Garcia, Vasyl Lomachenko and Anthony Joshua.