Time feels like it's flying and we can't believe it's been a fortnight since we last had a "Fights we wish we had..." article. This week we move to the very lowest end of the scales for a bout between two men we wish we'd seen clash just a few short years ago. As we write this both men are still active, and world class, fighters, but they are now in very different divisions and the bout, for all intents, is now definitely not going to happen.
Kosei Tanaka Vs Knockout CP Freshmart
At one point both Kosei Tanaka and Knockout CP Freshmart were in the Minimumweight division and both were regarded as being among the top 10 fights at 105lbs. On paper it was a match up that few were talking about, but in reality it would have made for a very, very interesting clash of styles, strengths and weaknesses. Looking back at the potential match up now, it appears only one guy could have won, but at the time it would have been a very intriguing match up.
The window for this is, sadly, quite a small one and it's not really a wonder why the fight never took place. The only real time the fight was plausible would have been in late 2014 to the end of 2015.
During this time Tanaka won the OPBF and WBO Minimumweight titles, made one defense of the WBO belt then left the division in 2016. During the same time Knockout CP Freshmart won and defended the WBA "interim" title. At the end of 2015 they were ranked #3, Tanaka, and #4, Knockout, by Ring Magazine and it looked like a potential clash for the future.
Japan's Kosei Tanaka is one of the most notable names in Japanese boxing right now and one of the guy figures of the lower weight classes. The talented, speed, boxer-fighter is a must watch fighter who can do it all, though often makes things much, much more difficult for himself than they need to be. At his best he's a sensational boxer, able to keep opponents at range with his incredibly speed and solid straight punches, along with his under-rated body punching. The rest of the time he's someone who finds himself caught up in unnecessary wars, giving away his technical and physical advantages.
Since 2015 Tanaka has moved up the weights, winning world title titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight and is now targeting a Super Flyweight world title. As he's moved up the weight he has put on some of his more memorable performances, including brilliant wins over Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. Despite being unbeaten he has been notoriously inconsistent in his performances, struggling against the likes of Vic Saludar, Palangpol CP Freshmart and Jonathan Gonzalez, who have all dropped him.
Thailand's Knockout CP Freshmart, also known as Thammanoon Niyomtrong, is a technically boxer who received a lot of attention for his fighting name, but has since gone on to distinguish himself as one of the best fighters at 105lbs. Early in his career he looked exciting and was scoring stoppages, but later on he has removed the exciting aggression he once had, and polished off his boxing skills to the point where he's become "effective but dull" to watch. Despite being a but boring to watch he has secured a pretty decent resume with wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong.
Unlike Tanaka Knockout has remained at 105lbs for his entire career, as we write this, and seems unlikely to race up the weights like Tanaka has. Whilst that could hurt him in terms of legacy it doesn't seem like he's struggling too badly to make Minimumweight, where he looks strong and powerful. The one thing that is a question mark is his stamina, and despite often going 12 rounds he has often slowed down massively in the deeper stages of fights. It is worth noting that he is usually in a comfortable lead before taking his foot off the gas.
How would we see it playing out?
When it comes to Japan Vs Thailand one bit consideration is where the bout will take place. Japanese fighters have had a notoriously unsuccessful history in Thailand and with that in mind we wouldn't expect Tanaka's team to allow their man over to the "Land of Smiles" to face the unbeaten Knockout. As a result we're assuming this one would take place in Japan. We're also sticking with the time frame of late 2014-2015.
At the point in time Knockout was a lock way removed from the fighter he is today. In 2014 he had looked very raw and crude when he narrowly beat Carlos Buitrago in what was a bit of a controversial one. He looked like he was improving through 2015 however when he beat Muhammad Rachman and Alexis Diaz. As for Tanaka he looked brilliant in his gut check win over Ryuji Hara then eased past Julian Yedras before a very, very tough come from behind win against Vic Saludar. The win over Saludar made it clear that he was taking too much out of his body to make weight, and he was a much lesser fighter than he had been 14 months earlier.
The crude offense and relatively poor defense the Knockout had at the time would allow Tanaka to get his shots off and allow him to tag the Thai, but the pressure of Knockout and the weight problems Tanaka had could certainly play against the Japanese star. Likewise Knockout's physical strength and toughness would give Tanaka fits.
We suspect that if the bout took place in the first half of 2015, or earlier, Tanaka would manage to have enough in his body to take a clear, but hard fought, decision over the Thai. Had it been in late 2015 however we would, looking back, have been seeing a very competitive bout. Tanaka's punch resistance looked poor against Saludar, he looked like he had very much lost his way, and it took a sensational body shot for him to pull out the win. There's a chance, in late 2015, that Knockout could indeed have have taken the drained, weigh cutting, Tanaka out.
Would history of been changed?
Assuming the bout takes place before, or in, December 2015 we wouldn't have seen Tanaka take on Vic Saludar, meaning Saludar may have had to wait much, much longer for a shot at the WBO belt.
Regardless of the outcome we would expect to see Tanaka abandoning the division and not looking back. A bout with Knockout would make him realise it was too tough to make 105lbs we suspect he'd go on to make his mark at Light Flyweight, as he did anyway. His rise to a second, and third, world title would have been slowed down, and he likely wouldn't have tied Vasyl Lomachenko for the fewest fights to become a 3-weight world champion.
Had Knockout beaten Tanaka he'd likely still be holding the WBO title today, instead of the WBA belt. This could have mean some interesting match ups with Knockout taking on the likes of Vic Saludar, Ryuya Yamanaka and Tatsuya Fukuhara, certainly better than some of his competition. His name would be spoken about a lot more, and he'd be more well known now than he is.
In terms of wider history the Minimumweight division would look a lot different now, with Knockout either holding the WBO title or not a world champion at all, and the Thai would never have fought for the WBA title.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces