by Cliff Rold
It’s the last big fight of 2017 for those who realized the year isn’t done just yet.
While many a US press outlet has put in their fighter and fight of the year bids, there is still one fight that could affect at least the honorable mention categories of both. Filipino Milan Melindo fell short in title tries at flyweight and Jr. flyweight before exploding with his best campaign to date. He finally won a title with a shocking first round thrashing of Akira Yaegashi and won a tough fight with former Strawweight titlist Hekkie Budler. Now he has a chance to unify two titles at 108 lbs.
If he does, his year rates as one of the best of 2017.
Taguchi won’t be a pushover. A beltholder since 2014, Taguchi has been a steady force in the class and has home field advantage. Barring a draw, someone is going to have their biggest win to date as they toast the dawn of 2018.
Let’s go the report card.
Title: IBF light flyweight (2017-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 107 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines
Record: 37-2, 13 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-2, 1 KO (3-2, 1 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Carlos Tamara UD10, Juan Francisco Estrada L12, Javier Mendoza Tech. Dec. L6, Akira Yaegashi TKO1, Hekkie Budler SD12
Title: WBA light flyweight (2014-Present, 6 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 107 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Tokyo, Japan
Record: 26-2-2, 12 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0-1, 4 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Naoya Inoue L10, Florante Condes UD8, Alberto Rossell UD12, Kwanthai Sithmorseng TKO8, Ryo Miyazaki UD12,
Pre-Fight: Speed – Melindo B; Taguchi B
Pre-Fight: Power – Melindo C+; Taguchi B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Melindo B-; Taguchi C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Melindo B; Taguchi B
Taguchi can always say he was the first man to take iron fisted Naoya Inoue the distance, even if it was only Inoue’s fourth fight. That he hasn’t lost since is why he’s here. Both men have solid experience against several title level fighters. Melindo’s losses both came to good pros, particularly in the case of Estrada.
Moving down from flyweight as been a sound move for Melindo, even after an early stumble in a lackluster outing against Mendoza. He works well off the jab and is patient. His jab will matter here because Taguchi likes to press and often neglects his own lead.
Size could play a part here. Taguchi is a few inches taller and appears to have a slightly larger frame. If he can impose that frame, his winging hooks could land before Melindo has the space he wants to work. Neither man is a huge puncher but Taguchi has shown more finishing touch since he won a title. A knockout loss would be a first no matter who wins.
This is a good mix of styles. Taguchi’s front foot approach could capture the eyes of the judges and Melindo is coming off a physical affair with the smaller Budler last time out. Melindo’s jab and footwork could serve him well in spots but he has to do something to keep Taguchi from smothering him and that will be touch to do for twelve rounds. The pick here is Taguchi in a fight where there could be some debate at the final bell.
Report Card Picks 2017: 45-18
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]