• Kyodo

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WBA light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi said Thursday he can beat hard-hitting Filipino Milan Melindo in their upcoming title bout if he executes his fight plan.

Taguchi (26-2-2) has been focused on his seventh title defense since learning he would faceMelindo in a unification match on New Year’s Eve at Ota City General Gymnasium.

Melindo (37-2) will be putting his IBF light flyweight title on the line after taking the belt from Akira Yaegashi with a stunning first-round technical knockout in Tokyo in May.

At a session where he showed off his footwork in two rounds of sparring, 31-year-old Taguchi said he could “prove (his) strength again” by beating Melindo, 29, but would need to control the range against his opponent.

“The midrange is dangerous. I want to use my jab to get into the body,” Taguchi said. “If I can move the way I’ve planned, I can win.”

Taguchi had his hopes of an all-Japanese unification match against undefeated 22-year-old Kosei Tanaka dashed after the WBO light flyweight champion fractured both eye sockets in his win over Rangsan Chayanram of Thailand in September.

The Tanaka, who has a 10-0 record, was banned by his gym from sparring for three months, ruling out the possibility of a showdown with Taguchi before the end of the year.

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