The first of 5 world title fights on December 31st will see former WBO Minimumweight champions face off in an attempt to become the new WBO Light Flyweight champion. The fighters in question are Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (7-0, 4) and experienced Mexican Moises Fuentes (24-2-1, 13), who is also a former WBO “interim” Light Flyweight champion who is looking to claim this title at the third time of asking.
Of the two men the Mexican visitor is probably the more well known. He's a man who has been a professional since 2007 and has gradually moved through the ranks. He claimed his first title back in 2010, the “interim” WBC Youth Minimumweight title, before upsetting Raul Garcia in 2011 for the WBO Minimumweight crown. As the champion Fuentes defended the belt twice, beating Julio Cesar Felix and the brilliant but faded Ivan Calderon. Following those wins he moved his attention to 108lbs and began his campaign there with a draw against the then WBO champion Donnie Nietes.
Following the draw to Nietes we saw Fuentes remain in the mix and quickly claim the “interim” title before getting a rematch with Nietes in 2014, a rematch that saw Fuentes suffer a 9th round KO loss to the brilliant Filipino. Since that loss Fuentes has strung together some solid victories over he likes of Oswaldo Novoa, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Rommel Asenjo to put himself into another shot for the Light Flyweight title.
At his best Fuentes is a big, aggressive, hard working fighter who combines a high level of aggressive output with under-rated skills. His most notable aggressive work is aimed at the body of opponents and in his first fight with Nietes it seemed that that body attack took a lot out of the Filipino, though in the rematch Nietes managed to move and counter more effectively and broke down Fuentes. Whilst Fuentes is a big, tough and aggressive fighter he is also a fighter who has had a long and hard career with 157 rounds under his belt and the 31 year old has had some very hard and damaging bouts.
Whilst less well known to wider boxing fans Tanaka is a fighter who is well known in Japanese boxing circles. He was a former amateur standout and one of the many to make his name on the High School scene as a teenager. That amateur pedigree saw his signature being one that promoters chased for when he decided to turn professional, eventually signing with former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka. Together they set some incredible goals and raced off to them double quickly. That saw Tanaka claiming the OPBF title in his 4th fight, stopping the then 18-0 Ryuji Hara, and the WBO Minimumweight title in Tanaka's 5th professional bout, out pointing Julian Yedras.
Despite the champion at 105lbs Tanaka was struggling to make weight and that became clear in his first defense, when he was dropped by Vic Saludar before gritting his teeth and stopping Saludar in the 6th round, whilst well behind on the score cards. It was a genuine gutcheck for Tanaka and one he passed, whilst also making it clear that he wasn't going to stick around any longer at 105lbs. Instead he moved up in weight and scored a dominant win over Rene Patilano back in May to announce himself at a higher weight.
At his best Tanaka is one of the sports most exciting youngsters. He's lightning quick with his hands and has some of the best combination punching in the sport, he's light on his feet, well schooled and has under-rated power. Sadly though he can be bullied, as seen in the Saludar fight, he can also switch off at times, as he did against Yedras, and his defense can fall apart a bit too easily. Offensively he is great but that offensive may only carry him so far before his defensive issues cost him, and that could well happen at 108lbs against a tough and aggressive fighter like Fuentes.
Coming in to this bout Tanaka is the clear betting favourite however we suspect he will be pushed all the way here in what will be a very tough and exciting bout. Fuentes' aggressiveness will be hard for Tanaka to deal with but given how Nietes beat Fuentes we suspect Tanaka will have a game plan based on countering, movement and speed. If he can counter Fuentes and force the Mexican to make mistakes he should come out on top, but will be given another serious test by a very determined visitor.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.