Those who know enough to wait until December 31 before hailing a Fighter of the Year are tracking the progress of Milan Melindo in his title fight unification clash with Ryoichi Taguchi.
On that very card appeared another overlooked gem in the form of Hiroto Kyoguchi. The unbeaten 24-year old wrapped a four-win 2017 campaign with an eight round bludgeoning of veteran contender Carlos Buitrago to defend his strawweight title Sunday evening at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.
The bout was one-sided from the opening bell, further underlining the incredible potential of Kyoguchi in becoming the first to stop Nicaragua's Buitrago. An array of power shots reigned down from the unbeaten titlist, who only turned pro in April '16 yet has already established himself as among the very best strawweights in the world today.
It was a lesson that Buitrago learned the hard way over the course of his fourth bid at a piece of the strawweight crown. The visiting boxer—whose only previous losses have come at the masterful boxing hands of Knockout CP Freshmart—never stopped trying but could never get into a fighting rhythm as he was outboxed and outpunched at every turn. Kyoguchi laid the foundation for a stoppage with a steady stream of power shots both upstairs and to the body, the first signs of a potential early night coming in round four when his two-fisted attack caused reddening and swelling around Buitrago's right eye.
The title defense further developed into a showcase for Kyoguchi, who never relented in a determined effort to break down his challenger. Buitrago bore a defeated look on his corner stool during each one-minute rest period from round four onward but never hinted at throwing in the towel as he bravely soldiered on at the sound of the bell to start each next round.
Kyoguchi finally gave cause to force an end to the contest, raining down right hands on a near-defenseless Buitrago in round eight. A pair of overhand rights was enough to alert referee Roberto Ramirez to intervene and rescue a far too courageous Buitrago (30-3-1, 17KOs) from absorbing additional punishment.
The official time was 2:28 of round eight.
With the win, Kyoguchi runs his still infantile record to 9-0 (7KOs), but already 2-0 in major title fights. His reign officially began with a 12-round points win over Jose Argumedo at this very venue this past July. In becoming the first to score a stoppage win over Buitrago, the rising young star has staked his claim as the man to beat along the road to strawweight supremacy.
In a year where winning one big fight or simply appearing on US TV three times in a year has become enough to garner Fighter of the Year consideration, one can only think greater attention would be paid to the likes of Kyoguchi, Taguchi and Melindo if afforded similar exposure.
The card as a whole is due to air via same-day tape delay on TBS Japan, with this particular bout having aired live on Canal 4 in Nicaragua and streamed live on its legal website and Facebook page.