Some fighters are must watch fighters who really do provide amazing entertainment and action every time they are in the ring. One such fighter is Kosei Tanaka (18-0, 7) [田中恒成] who again delivered a FOTY contender, as he recorded his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title and defeated former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) [田口良一].
The bout, as we've come to expect of Tanaka fights, started fast and it never really slowed down. The opening round wasn't a typical opening round, instead it was an action war, fought at a frightening tempo, more a typical round 4 or 5, when both men have settled. Both unloaded shots with Tanaka having the edge in speed and power and Taguchi landing some very solid looking right hands. The second was all Tanaka, it was a clear demonstration of his gameplan, overwhelming Taguchi with combinations, getting in and out, and finding ways to connect to the head and body of Taguchi. Taguchi had moments but they were easily out numbered by those of Tanaka.
Round 3 saw Tanaka being wobbled but he seemed to out land Taguchi by some margin, especially with heavy shots, and although Taguchi never looked hurt, it was clear the blows were taking a toll on him and that he was slowing down. The proved to be the case in every round afterwards, with Tanaka finding it easier and easier to out work Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi never gave up, but through rounds 6, 7 and 8, he took a real pound as Tanaka tightened his grip on the bout and seemed to begin looking to break down the challenger. Taguchi seemed to realise and in round 9 he began to really make things messy with clinching and spoiling, slowing the pace of the fight. It was an effective tactic in some ways, though didn't win him rounds.
As we headed into the championship rounds it was clear Tanaka was in the lead. He could have cruised his way over the line. Instead he seemed to want to put on a show, and did so, especially in round 12. The round saw Tanaka go all out, looking for a stoppage. Taguchi, to his credit, held, spoiled, fought and survived the onslaught, to make it to the final bell, in what was really a moral victory. He had looked, for several rounds, like a man who was on the verge of being stopped.
After 12 rounds the judges turned in score cards of 119-109, and 117-111, twice, to give Tanaka a clear decision victory. For him the future is incredibly bright and there was talk earlier in the weak about a move up to Super Flyweight in 2020. For Taguchi however the end seems nigh, and it's really hard to see how he becomes a world champion again.
On Saturday night we had a WBA Light Heavyweight title bout, that saw defending champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] successfully defend his title against heavy handed American challenger Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20). On paper this looked like it could have been a potentially tricky assignment for Bivol, but he managed to really just neutralise the dangerous challenger in what was a clear but unexciting win for Bivol.
Smith showed ambition from the off, and came forward, trying to set the pace but quickly found Bivol's footwork and movement to be too much. Bivol would land, get out of range and watch Smith miss. For the first 3 rounds it was clear that Bivol was too good, too sharp and too smart for Smith who had been made to look second best through the early stages.
Thankfully for Smith he did change things in round 4, when he began to let his hands go a bit more, and up the intensity. It worked and Smith would land one of his more notable shots, seemingly shaking Bivol for a moment with a right hand. The danger of Smith loomed but Bivol was too smart through the middle rounds to really come face to face with the danger. In fact the only real damage in the middle rounds was in round 7 when Smith's knees buckled big time from a huge left hand of Bivol's, though to his credit Smith withstood the follow up attack.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Smith was needing to land something huge, and he actually managed that, right on the bell to end round 10, when he sent Bivol stumbling to his corner. It was too late in the round to follow up on, but did show that the power was there for the American. The shot seemed to leave an effect on Bivol who was less with it in round 11, but never looked in any trouble as he continued to control the bout late on.
In the end there was no questions about the judges scorecards, with the judges turning in scores of 119-109, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Bivol. It was a clear win for the champion, but a bit of a dull one, and it does seem like Bivol is becoming less and less interesting, a real shame. There is however a feeling that he will be heading down in weight and it may be that facing smaller men than Smith will allow Bivol to put on more entertaining performances than this.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.