After Hekkie Budler narrowly lost a "Fight of the Year" contender in 2017 to Milan Melindo, he would have to wait almost nine months in order to get another shot at the IBF light flyweight title, but the wait was worth it.
Budler managed to survive a knockdown to defeat Ryoichi Taguchi to win the unified WBA and IBF light flyweight title in Japan. Budler defeated Taguchi by unanimous decision (114-113, 114-113, 114-113) to capture his first two major world titles.
The challenger started the fight well, landing numerous combination punches to pressure the unified champion. Taguchi eventually rallied and dropped Budler with a strong left hook in the 12th round. The referee initially ruled it a slip, but after replays were showed, sanctioning body officials decided to overrule the referee’s decision and award the knockdown to Taguchi. But even with the knockdown, it was still not enough for Taguchi to win on the judges’ scorecards.
When Budler lost to Melindo last September by split decision, the IBF ordered a rematch, but Melindo elected to fight Taguchi, who held the WBA title at the time. Taguchi handily beat Melindo to unify the WBA and IBF titles, The fight against Budler was Taguchi’s first as the unified champion.
Also on that card, Hiroto Kyoguchi defeated Vince Paras by unanimous decision (117-110, 117-110, 117-110) to retain the IBF minimumweight world title. Kyoguchi had dominated the fight except the third round when Poras managed to land a left hook to knock down Kyoguchi.