A doubleheader title fight is planned for the first weekend in 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 (16-3-1, 11KOs) will attempt to defend his unlikely WBO title. His reign began with a stoppage of Wilfredo Méndez in the eleventh round last December 14 at Tokyo’s Kokugikan Arena. The 28-year-old Southpaw defeated Kai Ishizawa in round 11 of their April 22 rematch at Korakuen Hall, Tokyo. Taniguchi had previously defeated 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. In February 2019, he lost to Vic Saludar in twelve rounds for the same title. He was defeated in 12 rounds by Vic Saludar for the same title in February 2019. His last appearance at EDION Arena was 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) is a candidate for his second career title.
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. Jerusalem’s only loss was a ten-round defeat to Joey Canoy, his countryman. Jerusalem has since won seven consecutive bouts on the road, including a second-round stoppage in General Santos City on August 24.
“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 (8-1-1, 6KOs), is bidding for his first major title. But the 23-year-old southpaw enters with high 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 first-time title challenger did not lose any of the high praise.
“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 that the Kameda family has teamed up with me. I will win this fight, one hundred percent.”
Valladares (27-3-1; 15KOs) is certain that he will return home with his title still intact.
The 28-year-old Monterrey, Mexico resident leaves his country for the first-time in his career. He is also defending his title. Valladares defeated Rene Mark Cuarto 12 rounds to win the IBF strawweight championship in San Nicolas de los Garza Mexico. After a three-fight losing streak, which included a technical draw in four rounds with Pedro Taduran (IBF titlist) in February 2020, Valladares won his fourth straight victory.
“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 editor at BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox