A title fight doubleheader is in store for the first weekend of the new year.
KWORLD3 - headed by former titlists and now first-year promoters Koki and Daiki Kameda—held a press conference on Friday to formally announce a pair of strawweight title fights to grace a January 6 show from the 5,000-seat EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan. Tokyo’s Masataki Taniguchi defends his WBO strawweight title against The Philippines’ Melvin Jerusalem, while visiting Daniel Valladares attempts the first defense of his IBF title against unbeaten contender Ginjiro Shigeoka.
Taniguchi (16-3, 11KOs) wlll attempt the second defense of his unlikely WBO title reign that began with an eleventh-round stoppage of Wilfredo Mendez last December 14 at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo. His lone fight of 2022 saw the 28-year-old southpaw stop countryman Kai Ishizawa in the eleventh round of their April 22 rematch at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Taniguchi previously outpointed a then-unbeaten Ishizawa in September 2021.
“This is the first championship match of the new year, and I will defend it in a way befitting a world champion,” Taniguchi said during an entertaining press conference.
The reigning titlist was joined by the show’s participants as well as long-retired former WBA middleweight titlist Shinji Takehara, Taniguchi requested for Takehara—the first Japanese boxer to win a middleweight title—to slap his face “to get fired up.” The former titleholder honored the wish, pulling his punches in delivering a playful slap.
Taniguchi’s win over Mendez was his second attempt at a major title. He came up short in a twelve-round decision to Vic Saludar for the same title in February 2019. It was his last defeat, with his first loss marking his lone other appearance at EDION Arena back in April 2017.
“I was a university student when I lost at this venue,” noted Taniguchi. “I would like to wipe out that bad memory.”
Jerusalem (19-2, 11KOs) enters his second career title bid.
The streaking contender from General Santos City, Philippines came up just short in a January 2017 WBC strawweight title challenge of then-unbeaten Wanheng ‘TBE’ Menayothin in Phitsanulok, Thailand, his lone career bout on the road. A ten-round points loss to countryman Joey Canoy marked the only other defeat for Jerusalem, who has since won seven in a row including a second-round stoppage on August 24 in General Santos City.
“This is my second world title match. I see it as a great opportunity,” stated Jerusalem. “I will definitely bring the belt back to the Philippines.”
Taniguchi gets top billing on the show but it’s his stablemate and fellow titlist who has drawn the most favorable reviews.
Shigeoka (8-0, 6KOs) bids for his first major title, though the 23-year-old southpaw comes in with lofty expectations nationwide. Through four years and just eight pro fights, he has already drawn comparisons to three-division champ and high-ranking pound-for-pound entrant Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue (23-0, 20KOs).
“I have found an unbelievable monster,” Koki Kameda—a former three-division titlist—insisted of the red-hot Shigeoka, the description clearly in reference to Inoue.
The high praise was not at all lost on the first-time title challenger.
“Naoya Inoue is pound-for-pound number-one. I am also aiming for that and want to break many records,” stated Shigeoka, who is coming off a knockout win in July. “I watched Koki-san when I was little. I am grateful to have the Kameda family team up with us. I will win this fight, one hundred percent.”
Valladares (27-3-1, 15KOs) is confident of returning home with his title reign still intact.
The 28-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico leaves his country for the first time in his career, coming in his first title defense. Valladares won the belt on his second try, outpointing Rene Mark Cuarto over twelve rounds to win the IBF strawweight title on July 1 in San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico. The win was his fourth straight following a three-fight winless streak that included a four-round technical draw with then-IBF titlist Pedro Taduran in February 2020.
“I am going to Japan for my first title defense, but of course plan to bring home the title,” vowed Valladares. “Get ready, Ginjiro. This hungry Mexican accepts your challenge.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox