Masataka Taniguchi will return to a familiar venue in a new role versus an old foe.
A press conference held Tuesday in Yokohama, Japan revealed plans for Taniguchi’s first defense of the WBO strawweight title. It will come in a rematch with countryman Kai Ishizawa (10-1, 9KOs) on April 22 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The event will headline PBX Phoenix Battle 87, airing live in Japanese IPTV service Hikari TV.
Taniguchi—a 28-year-old southpaw from Kobe who now resides in Tokyo—defends the title he claimed in an 11th round knockout of Wilfredo ‘Bimbito’ Mendez last December 14 at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. The win extended his current four-fight win streak following his previous title bid, a twelve-round decision to then WBO strawweight titlist Vic Saludar in February 2019.
The win streak began with an eight-round win over a then-unbeaten Ishiwaza in September 2019, which also took place at Korakuen Hall.
“I think it's completely different from two and a half years ago,” Taniguchi admitted during Tuesday’s press conference. “I know his ability and I'm very cautious. I’m prepared to do my best."
Ishizawa also carries a four-fight win streak following the lone loss of his career to Taniguchi. The 25-year-old contender from Sagamihara—less than an hour from Tokyo—enters his first career title fight on the heels of arguably his best win to date, an eighth-round stoppage of unbeaten countryman Katsuki Mori this past January 11 also at Korakuen Hall where Ishiwaza will fight for the eleventh time in twelve pro fights.
“This is revenge,” insisted Ishiwaza, who has vowed to not once again leave the fight in the hands of the judges. “My mission is to capture the world title by knockout.”
The event marks just the second male world title fight of 2022 to take place in Japan, whose health restrictions to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant have disallowed foreign travelers to enter the country. The lone other male title fight on the schedule in-country is the rematch between WBC junior flyweight titlist Masamichi Yabuki (13-3, 12KOs) and former champ Kenshiro Teraji (18-1, 10KOs) which takes place March 19 in Kyoto.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox