The Japanese boxing scene has seen more than it's share of wunderkinds over the last few years with the likes of 3-division world champion Kazuto Ioka, or 2-weight world champion Naoya Inoue. Thankfully though it seems like they aren't done, in fact they aren't even close to being done.
The next youngster hoping to graduate from “young prospect” to “world champion” is 19 year old Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2), who will be hoping to claim the WBO Minimumweight title on May 30th when he takes on Mexican foe Julian Yedras (24-1, 13). Tanaka is hoping to claim a title just a few days before his 20th birthday but those who have seen the youngster all agree that he's a fighter well beyond his years and with natural ability that many other fighters could only dream of having.
For those who haven't seen Tanaka in action you've been missing out so far, though thankfully there is still time to catch up on the youngster before his bout with Yedras, which is a little more than a fortnight away.
The next chapter?
The next step for Tanaka is, as we know, his bout with Yedras on May 30th. On paper it's a step up from the Hara bout and is a "World" title bout though in reality it looks to be a bout on the same level as the win over Hara, if not a slight step backwards.
If, as we suspect, Tanaka defeats Yedras then the next step is the interesting one. Does he sit on his title and trying to develop with the belt around his waist, like we see many quick risers do in the west or does he instead try to prove he is something special and go after things like unification bouts and fellow top fighters. We know there is talk of a unification bout with IBF champion Katsunari Takayama later in the year and a possible showdown with Hekkie Budler may be on the cards if Tanaka does indeed face, and beat Takayama.
Over the last week or so we've seen the two stand out fighters at Super Featherweight successfully defending their world titles, in eye catching fashion.
First we saw WBC champion Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) steal the headlines and attention as he blew away Australian challenger Billy Dib in 3 rounds on May 1st. This was Miura's 4th defense of his WBC title and saw him getting attention around the world due to the very eye catching finish. Just days later WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) restated his case as being the best in the division as he decimated Thailand's Jomthong Chuwatana in just 2 rounds, and recorded his 10th defense of the title.
For the last couple of years it's been hoped that the two men were on a collision course. Everyone has been wanting to see the two heavy handed Japanese warriors battle for a second time, following their sensational 2011 bout which saw Miura being stopped in his corner after 8 brilliant rounds. Sadly though it seems both men are teasing us whilst looking for other suitors, at least for now.
First it seemed that Miura was putting the bout on hold, at least for now, as he started talking about a contest with WBO champion Roman Martinez next time out. It's a mouth watering contest, and a great chance for Miura to become a global name whilst unifying titles against a man known in both the US and the Latin American countries. However it's not what fans are demanding, it's a good alternative, but's still an alternative to what fans want.
Now we've seen Uchiyama discuss his next bout and seem to hint at bouts with either former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa or current WBA Featherweight champion Nicholas Walters. Both of these bouts would be amazing contests and neither would be expected to go the 12 rounds, however they are again alternatives to what fans, especially in Japan, are calling for.
The reason that both men seem to be avoiding the obvious match up, for now, is that it appears both know the dangers of the rematch and both know the rewards. The reward is solid, but not amazing, financially and another belt though comes with the risk of a serious career shorting bout. It seems clear that both men want to fight but first they want international recognition. The division has been theirs pretty much exclusively in recent years, barring short title reigns by the likes of Martinez, Ricky Burns, Adrien Broner, Mikey Garcia and Rances Barthelmy, and yet they've not had the international acclaim they deserve. If they beat well established international fighters, such as Gamboa or Martinez, then they know their profile will raise and more people will give them the attention they deserve.
In recent years we've seen more Japanese fighters catch the attention of international fans. Kazuto Ioka being a notable example, the Kameda's being another though last year it Naoya Inoue who really caught the imagination as he blitzed Omar Andres Narvaez in a way that got fans in the west excited and made both the Europeans and Americans talk about the sensational youngster. For Uchiyama and Miura it seems they want to do the same before they knock the ever loving snot out of each other again. It's disappointing as a fan who knows both fighters but it's an understandable move and one we can't begrudge the men for wanting, especially if they do meet this coming December as the rumours seem to be suggesting.
For those who haven't seen the first bout between the two men it's below in it's violent entirety
(Image courtesy of TV Tokyo comes from the first bout between the Takashi's, and also features Akifumi Shimoda and Ryol Li Lee who traded blows in a memorable Super Bantamweight title bout)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.