Japan's Ryoichi Taguchi won a bloody, hard-fought unanimous decision against the Philippines' Milan Melindo to unify two junior flyweight belts in the final world title bout of 2017 on Sunday at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.
The 31-year-old Taguchi (27-2-2, 12 KOs), who was fighting in his hometown, retained his 108-pound world title for the seventh time while also taking Melindo's belt by scores of 117-111, 117-111 and 116-111. Melindo was trying to defend his belt for the second time.
Taguchi came on strong in the second half of the fast-paced fight in which he had problems with the shorter Melindo early on before making adjustments to better use his 4-inch height advantage and a reach advantage.
Accidental head butts may have also contributed to Melindo's fading down the stretch, as he was cut over both eyes and bleeding. He suffered a cut over his left eye in the third round and over his right eye in the sixth round. Taguchi suffered a cut on his forehead from one of the accidental head clashes in the ninth round.
They traded hard shots throughout the action-packed 10th round, and another head butt worsened the cut over Melindo's right eye in the 12th round, by which time it was clear that Taguchi was on his way to victory.
It was Melindo's second fight in Japan but certainly did not go as well as his first trip there. That was in May, when he scored a surprising first-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi to win his world title.
There were two other world title fights on the card:
• Japan's Sho Kimura made a successful first defense of his flyweight belt by knocking out mandatory challenger and former world titleholder Toshiyuki Igarashi in the ninth round.
Kimura (16-1-2, 9 KOs), fighting in his hometown, won the 112-pound title with an 11th-round knockout of Chinese superstar and two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming on July 28 and dominated countryman Igarashi (23-3-3, 12 KOs).
Kimura, 29, opened a cut over Igarashi's left eye in the third round and another cut over his right eye in the sixth round. The aggressive Kimura pushed forward throughout the bout while the bleeding Igarashi, 33, was regularly in retreat.
In the ninth round, Kimura forced Igarashi to the ropes, where he battered him until referee Katsuhiko Nakamura stepped in to stop the bout at 2 minutes, 34 seconds. Kimura was leading 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73 on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
• Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7 KOs), 24, also fighting in front of his hometown fans, defended his strawweight belt for the first time by knocking out Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1, 17 KOs), 26, of Nicaragua, at 2 minutes, 28 seconds of the eighth round. Kyoguchi dominated the bout and was ahead 70-63 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
Kyoguchi claimed a 105-pound world title by unanimous decision against Mexico's Jose Argumedo on July 23 at the Ota-City General Gymnasium.