Junior flyweight title unification fights are rare, but one will take place when Milan Melindo and Ryoichi Taguchi, the top two 108-pound boxers in the world, meet Dec. 31 at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Melindo promoter ALA Promotions and Taguchi promoter Watanabe Gym made the announcement Friday at simultaneous news conferences, with ALA Promotions hosting its press event in Melindo's hometown of Cebu City in the Philippines and Taguchi promoter Watanabe Gym having its media event in Taguchi's hometown of Tokyo.
The 29-year-old Melindo (37-2-0, 13KOs) will be making his second title defense, and Taguchi (26-2-2, 12 KOs), 30, will be making his seventh title defense. On Sept. 16, Melindo won a controversial split decision over former strawweight titlist Hekkie Budler, of South Africa, and was ordered to give him an immediate rematch. However, the unification fight was allowed to take precedence with Budler in line for the first shot at the winner of the fight.
"I have waited for this, and finally it's here," Melindo said at his news conference. "I am confident as always. I love fighting in Japan, and I am excited to face their champion. I recovered and rested well after my battle with Budler. I believed my training will be enough for this one."
Melindo's only previous fight in Japan came two fights ago, in July, when he shockingly knocked out Akira Yaegashi in the first round to win his world title.
"This is something big not only for ALA Promotions but for Philippine boxing," ALA promotions' Michael Aldeguer said. "The Japanese boxers are dominating the boxing scene in the small weight divisions right now, and it is a great challenge for Milan to put them on notice."
On the undercard, strawweight world titleholder Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6 KOs), 23, who also is from Tokyo, will make his first defense when he takes on Nicaragua's Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1, 17 KOs), who will turn 26 two weeks before the fight. Kyoguchi claimed the 105-pound world title by unanimous decision against Mexico's Jose Argumedo on July 23 at the Ota-City General Gymnasium.