Mental training is working…!
On December 9, WBO minimumweight champion Masataka Taniguchi, who will make his second defense next month on December 6, sparred a total of 12 rounds with three partners.
While exchanging fists with fighters in higher classes such as super flyweight and bantamweight, Taniguchi was good on offense and good on defense, dominating the ring from start to finish. He never slowed down during the full round of the fight.
Today, Taniguchi felt that he had a solid response to his boxing.
This is the second time in this camp that I have sparred for 12 rounds straight,” Taniguchi said. I checked my tactics for each round and was conscious of my lower body movements. After all, in a world championship, there are rounds where you lose points. Rather than forcing myself to regain the points, I focused on regaining my rhythm while firmly sticking to my jab. I want to eliminate mistakes and improve the accuracy of each punch.
Taniguchi, who won the world title on December 14 last year, has definitely peeled off as a boxer. Although he was originally considered the most physically gifted fighter in the gym, he has experienced three defeats, two against Japanese fighters and a black star in his first world title challenge.
In the fall of 2020, Taniguchi began coaching with a counselor once a week to discuss his issues and practice menus to organize his thoughts. He has been talking with a counselor once a week about his challenges and practice menu to organize his thoughts.
The results have been tremendous,” he said. I think that my mental well-being is tied to my ring performance. In addition, the gym environment is helping me grow. Especially, my classmate Kohto Kyoguchi is a big part of that.
Taniguchi and Kyoguchi fought six times as amateurs, with Taniguchi winning two and losing four. Immediately after graduating from college, Taniguchi moved to Tokyo and joined Watanabe Gym together with Kyoguchi. He also took his professional test on the same day.
I recognize that Kyoguchi is ahead of me,” Taniguchi said. I am not jealous or impatient with him, but he inspires me. I was proud of Kyoguchi’s recent appearance against Teraji Kenshiro (Kyoguchi lost to Teraji by TKO in the 7th round) as a friend. He advised me about the January 6 match, saying, “You don’t have to force yourself to beat him. Kyoguchi’s words really hit home (laughs).
When I entered the school, WBA light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi was there, and we sparred several times, and he taught me what it means to be a world champion, and I also learned a lot from Gin-chan (Ginjiro Shigeoka), who is challenging for the IBF title in this semi-final. He is always calm, stoic, and never wavering. He will probably start his real career after winning the world title. It is a joy to have friends to compete with in friendly rivalry.
Taniguchi looks back on his own growth.
When I first challenged for the world title against Vic Sardar (February 26, 2019), I didn’t think anything of it and believed that I could win if I just went through rigorous training. But now, I go through a hard menu after stringing together what kind of practice I need to do to win. Also, in the ring, I am taking into account the damage to my opponent and observing his state of mind while I fight. By seeking meaning in everything, I am able to grasp specific themes.
Taniguchi commented on the challenger, Melvin Gersaem (Philippines), saying, “He is ranked high in all four organizations.
I have the impression that he is a well-rounded fighter, with the strength of a top-ranked fighter in four organizations and the skill to counter. However, I am also stepping up my game, so as long as there are no accidents, I feel I can defend.”
Taniguchi, who graduated from Ryukoku University with a degree in literature, wrote his graduation thesis on the theme of “Tang Dynasty Maidens. Hitoshi Watanabe, president of Watanabe Gym, said.
He must have been very serious since his school days. It is true that Kyoguchi, a classmate of Taniguchi’s, rose in the ranks earlier than Taniguchi, but even after coming to our gym, Taniguchi has always been cheerful and worked hard. He is a hard worker. Look at that body, especially the muscles in both shoulders. It’s a testament to how far he has come.
He is now old enough to be called a veteran, but he has a high level of technical skill, so he will be able to bloom again. I am confident that he will win his next match with good content.
Jun Hoki, Taniguchi’s trainer, also spoke up.
He is a strong challenger, so I am training him not to be on the receiving end. We will probably spar a little more than 100 rounds in total. He is a champion who thinks for himself, so my only instruction to him is, ‘Let’s think about the balance between offense and defense.
Taniguchi is an intelligent boxer, who has set himself a dual education in both the literary and military arts during his college days. He is also interested in international affairs and has thoughts about Ukraine. He is greatly influenced by the style of Oleksandr Usyk, the current WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion, who moves his legs as well as his feet when he consistently delivers strong and weak punches.
“When I saw the news about the war, I learned that Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko (former WBA/WBC/WBO lightweight champion) had enlisted in the military. Both Usyk and Lomachenko are southpaws like me, so I was paying attention to their fighting style, where they would pump out their hands with about 60% of their strength and the way they would break their opponents’ guards. I was interested in their moves to defend their country. I also saw reports of athletes from other sports losing their lives in Ukraine.
Now I realized how happy I am to be able to concentrate on boxing in Japan, where it is safe. I was also able to reconfirm that this is not something I take for granted. I am happy to be living as a boxer. That is why I feel that I have to be prepared for each and every day.
When asked what he would like to show in his next match, Taniguchi answered, “I would like to show my strength. Taniguchi answered.
I would like to win by dominating the highly-regarded challenger, surpassing him in every aspect. Like the Kyoguchi vs. Kenshiro match, I believe that it is only when the real thing clashes with the real thing that emotion is generated. I hope to be able to show that kind of match.
Taniguchi will enter Osaka in the best possible condition on January 6 at the EDION Arena Osaka. All eyes will be on Masataka Taniguchi.
Interview & Text： Soichi Hayashi
Photo： Takeshi Kinugawa