By Nick Giongco
NAGASAKI, Japan – It’s going to be champion versus champion on New Year’s Eve when Filipino Milan Melindo meets Ryoichi Taguchi in a light-flyweight unification battle in Tokyo.
Melindo will be risking his International Boxing Federation (IBF) crown against Taguchi, who will be staking his World Boxing Association title in a 108-lb twin title encounter at the Ota City Gymnasium.
“I want a resounding win,” said the 31-year-old Taguchi (26-2-2 with 12 KOs), who will be making the seventh defense of the title he won on New Year’s Eve of 2014.
Taguchi, who fights out of the Watanabe Gym in Tokyo, some 1,200 kilometers from this laidback city that suffered devastation from an Atomic Bomb dropped by the US on Aug. 9, 1945.
Taguchi has made it a habit to win at the Ota City Gymnasium, where he has fought his last seven bouts, winning four via the short route.
The 29-year-old Melindo (37-2 with 13 KOs) is likewise in the thick of his buildup for the second defense of the IBF diadem he won via an eye-popping first-round knockout over Akira Yaegashi in Tokyo last May.
Before heading into the weekend, Melindo applied for a Japanese visa in his homebase in Cebu City in the Philippines as his team, made up of chief trainer Edito Villamor and Michael Aldeguer, flies to the Japanese capital on Dec. 26.
Melindo is one of just three reigning Filipino world champions other than ALA Boxing Club stablemate Donnie Nietes and IBF super-fly king Jerwin Ancajas.
A few months ago, Melindo barely kept the title against mandatory challenger Hekki Budler of South Africa and intends to make up for that with another smashing showing on sacred Japanese soil.