One of the world champions who defended their world title at the very end of 2019 was WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9). The man from Chukyo made his third defense of the title in impressive fashion, putting on a near punch perfect display against Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi, before clinically closing the showing with some sensational uppercuts.
With 3 defenses behind him and a potentially massive 2020 ahead of him it seems we're now at an ideal time to give Kosei Tanaka the "Five For" treatment, and look at five potential match ups for the "KO Dream Boy". Here are 5 options he, and manager Kiyoshi Hatanaka, should be looking at if they want to have a huge year!
1-Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26)
A bout between Tanaka and South African Moruti Mthalane would be a sensational match up between two men who are incredibly talented and smart in the ring, but go about things very differently. Mthalane, the current IBF champion, is a defensively sound fighter, with clean punches and a willingness to press forward behind a tight guard to force mistakes and open up counter opportunities. Tanaka on the other hand is a speedy fighter who likes to let his hands go, and will involve himself in a war far too easily. This could end up being a brilliantly exciting, yet high skill, war, though with Mthalane now in his late 30's we'd want this sooner rather than later.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
Leading into the end of year show to close out 2019 it seemed TBS and the WBO were both building to a potential all Japanese show down between Tanaka and WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. The bout would see Tanaka leaving the Flyweight division, just as it seems to be heating up, but for a bout against a Japanese icon like Ioka, with a 4th divisional title on the line it'd have been hard to fault Tanaka for going this route. Sadly since the show on New Year's Eve this bout has began to seem unlikely, at least for now. It seems both are on different paths, and if they do cross, it could well be 2 or 3 years from now.
3-Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12)
Although it seems WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez won't be available until the middle of the year, given he's pencilled into defend his title in late February, this is still a match up that genuinely intrigues us. On one hand you'd have Tanaka, a lightning quick boxer-puncher, blessed blink and you miss it speed. On the other hand you have "El Rey", a destructive freak of nature, who walks through opponents, with intense pressure and brutal power. Speed against power is always fun to see, and we can't help but view this as a super competitive bout between men with very different abilities, but abilities that would gel well. Oh and it'd be a unification bout!
4-Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14)
Another unification bout, and another we'd have to wait until summer for, would be a clash between Tanaka and WBA champion Artem Dalakian. Tanaka might not yet have truly shined as a Flyweight, though has beaten decent competition in his defenses, but Dalakian has completely wasted the good will of his title win. Despite being an excellent fighter Dalakian has done little of note since winning the belt in the US against Brian Viloria. Dalakian set to make his 4th defense in February, against Josber Perez, and that should be his final easy bout. With Dalakian turning 33 in August he needs big bouts, and he needs them soon, what better than facing Tanaka, in a unification bout in summer?
5-Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) II
The dark horse bout, though it really shouldn't be, would see Tanaka take on former foe Sho Kimura in a rematch of their 2018 Fight of the Year. Their first bout was a sensational war that helped put Tanaka on the map, and for him to give Kimura a chance to reclaim his title would be the right thing to do. If we ended up with a rematch half as good as their first contest then we wouldn't be complaining at all! We do imagine Tanaka would win a rematch easier than he won their first bout, but we'd still absolutely love to see these two share the ring one more time!
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).