On June 29th we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight champion Masayoshi Hashizume (19-0-2, 11) look to make his first defense, though unlike many champions he's not cherry picked and easy opponent. Instead the unbeaten Hashizume will be taking on former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (16-1, 9) in a brilliant bout to headline an Ohashi promoted card at Korakuen Hall. For Hashizume the bout marks his first major step up in class, and lets him take a huge stride towards a world title fight, if he can win here, whilst Tanaka will be looking to establish himself as a top contender in the talent heavy Super Flyweight division, and move towards a second world title fight at the weight.
Unlike most bouts the challenger is the more well and the betting favourite here. The once beaten Tanaka, 27, has long been one of the faces of Japanese boxing and someone widely regarded as a truly special fighter. The Hatanaka promoted fighter was destined for success the moment he turned professional and within a year of his debut he had claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title, doing so on an Ohashi promoted card at Korakuen Hall when he stopped the then unbeaten Ryuji Hara. Just a fight later, in just his 5th professional bout, Tanaka claimed his first world title, the WBO Minimumweight belt, just 19 months later he added the WBO Light Flyweight title and in 2018 added the WBO Flyweight title to his collection, needing just 12 fights to become a 3-weight champion. Sadly however his winning run came to an end in late 2020, when he was stopped in 8 rounds by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. In just 17 fights Tanaka has a genuine legacy for taking on top fighters, taking on challenges, and for have a resume many fighters will never be able to match. In just 17 bouts he has beaten the aforementioned Hara along with Yulian Yedras, Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes, Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura, Ryoichi Taguchi, Jonathan Gonzalez and Sho Ishida.
Whilst Tanaka has been matched insanely hard he has had the talent to back up that ambition. He is lightning quick, with both his hands and his feet, he has some of the best combinations in the sport, great body shots, an amazing will to win, and an ability to fight through genuine adversity. As he's gotten older, and bigger, he has had tougher and tougher nights and it does feel like Super Flyweight is the highest he will have success at, but with his skills, his heart and his speed there is no reason he can't reach the top in the division in the coming years. Even in a division as tough and as stacked as the current Super Flyweight.
Whilst Tanaka is known, in has had fights shown globally including his 2018 Fight of the Year contender Vs Sho Kimura, the same can't be said of Hashizume. In fact Hashizume is something of a forgotten fighter even in his Japanese homeland. He turned professional in 2013, debuting 2 months before Tanaka, and he would win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014. That should have set him up for big things, but sadly he spent the following few years being matched incredibly softly against very poor Thai imports. Those low level Thai bouts did little for his development and in 2017, when he finally faced a domestic opponent again, he was lucky to escape with a draw against the out of form Kota Fujimoto. Thankfully that draw seemed to make Hashizume and his team sit up and get serious, and he would step up the following year, beating Takahiro Murai and Marjun Pantilgan before getting a shot at Japanese Super Flyweight champion in December 2018. Sadly for Hashizume he would be denied by Okumoto, with that bout ending a draw that seemed harsh on Hashizume. Since then he has scored 3 wins, with his latest coming this past February when he beat Akio Furutani for the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles.
In the ring Hashizume is a big, strong looking Super Flyweight. He's also a smooth boxer, with nice speed, good combinations, a nice jab and impressive composure. Sadly he does a bit passive at times, and whilst he is solid all round, there is nothing that stands out as being sensational about him. He stalks, he comes forward and he looks to get to opponents, using a mix of boxing skills, pressure and physicality. There's a lot to like about him, including his willingness to march forward, and his commitment to his right hand. Sadly though he is defensively pretty basic, with a high guard that drops as bouts go on, and leave him easy to tag up top. He also gets sloppy in the later stages of bouts, especially if he's chasing things.
Hashizume has the physical traits to make life hard for Tanaka. He has the size, the strength and the power to ask questions of Tanaka up close. Sadly however for Hashizume that's really all he does have going for him. Technically Tanaka is better, the huge difference in speeds favours Tanaka, as does the level he's been fighting and the proven ability to find ways to win. We suspect that Hashizume will have moments, especially early on as he comes in behind a high guard and looks to force Tanaka where he wants. As the bout goes on however the speed difference, and the ability of Tanaka's to mix things up, draw mistakes and punish them, will show through and we suspect by the mid point Hashizume's face will be swelling up, before Tanaka begins to go to the body, where he will take out Hashizume with a body shot, or a series of them.
Prediction - TKO9 Tanaka
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