Typically Japanese fighters have not travelled well over the years, and many lost world title bouts on foreign soil. Today however we saw WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] take his chance to shine on US soil as he stopped hard hitting mandatory challenger Angel Acosta (22-3, 21) in Tuscon, Arizona. In what was a show case of Nakatani's ability and Acosta's will to win through serious adversity.
The opening round saw Nakatani begin slowly, getting his jab into play early on, before opening up his arsenal, and shaking Acosta several times through the round. Acosta, to his credit, showed no quit, and landed some solid shots through the opening round, but looked under-sized, under-powered and like a man who was really going to struggle with the size and power of Nakatani. Despite this being his US debut, it was the perfect round for Nakatani, and it ended even better with Acosta suffering a suspect broken nose at the very end of it.
That nose would be a major problem for Acosta was was a bloodied mess very early in round 2 as Nakatani continued to land big shots to both head and body. The left hand of Nakatani was a major weapon, landing clean, landing hard and really leaving Acosta in trouble time and time again, but it was the blood that was the major issue and part way through round 2 the doctor took a look at the challenger. After a long deliberation Acosta was allowed to fight on, and he knew he was in trouble, looking to land a hail Mary from when the bout continued. Sadly for him the urge to land something big saw him eating more big shots from Nakatani, who landed numerous big shots, and really didn't seem to feel the power of Acosta, when the Puerto Rican landed his shots.
After Acosta was bloodied, beaten and battered in the first two rounds, it seemed like the bout wasn't going to last much longer. To his credit however Acosta fought like a man willing to give everything, even with a blood pouring from his nose. He looked to land bombs, and did land one or two very clean shots of his own. Shots that, at 108lbs, would have potentially swung the bout his way, or dropped a fighter. Nakatani tasted the power of Acosta and just came forward, looking to break down Acosta. The Puerto Rican managed to get through a second doctor's inspection, but was pouring blood over the ring, taking huge body shots, and not looking like he had what was needed to turn things around. He had the heart and the desire, but not the accuracy, power, skills, or size to get Nakatani's respect.
At the end of round 3 it seemed clear the referee and doctor were both looking to stop the fight. Acosta was desperate for that not to happen and asked for more round. He was allowed out for round 4, but within seconds of the round starting blood was again pouring out of his nose forcing the doctor to say enough was enough, and stopped the bout.
The stoppage was explained as having been due to blood loss, it was a strange decision, though in fairness it seemed like Acosta being stopped was inevitable. He had lost a lot of blood, he had been hurt numerous times and had put a lot into rounds 2 and 3 to no real success, whilst taking brutal body shots. He had the heart of a lion, and that will not be questioned, but he also looked out gunned here by a truly sensational 23 year world champion, who looked a natural in his US debut.
Just moments ago at Korakuen Hall we saw a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned, in surprisingly 1-sided fashion. On paper the bout looked like a 50-50 clash, but it ended up being a coming out performance for a Japanese fighter who showed he really was something special. Not just a really good fighter, but a special one.
The man in question was Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人], who had long been seen as one of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing. He was up against Filipino Giemel Magramo (24-2, 20) in a bout that promised to be a really good one.
On paper it was Nakatani's skills, southpaw stance and size, against Magramo's toughness, power and aggression. Both men had impressed in the past, both men had looked really good in their other notable bouts, including an excellent win in China for Magramo last year.
In the ring however it was a a one sided procession. A beating. A bout between men who didn't look like they belonged in the same ring together.
From the off it was clear Nakatani had the size, reach and speed to make things easy at range. He could have boxed completely off the back foot against the slower, cruder Magramo. He however elected not to do that, at least not entirely. He spent much of the opening round boxing at range, but stepped on the gas late in the round and began to genuinely hurt the Filipino with his solid left hands, and his excellent body shots. It seemed like we were set to get a very early finish.
The fact the opening round was as one sided as it was seemed to make Magramo change his mentality, and in round 2 he began rushing in more and more. That wasn't a good idea as Nakatani was dominating on the inside, especially with his wicked body shots and uppercuts. It was another punishing round from the Japanese fighter who seemed determined to damage Magramo.
To his absolute credit however Magramo kept soaking it up, and as the rounds went on he was taking a real beating. Rounds 4, 5, 6 were punishing ones, with Nakatani bossing the fight at range, and dominating up close. It was supposed to be Magramo having success with the men together, but instead he eating leather, consistently. He was having his insides mashed with body shots, and his jaw cracked with uppercuts. It was decidedly one-way traffic and Magramo seemed to have no plan B. His only plan was to get inside, and that was a plan that was just leading to him being tagged over and over, and over.
In round 7 we finally began to see Magramo's resistance and toughness fall apart, with the Filipino clearly hurt towards the end of the round. It seemed as it he was finally coming to terms with the fact he had no answer.
The following round Magramo's toughness failed him. His heart and determination didn't, but durability did, as Nakatani finally dropped him. It had been coming since the end of round 7 and finally it occurred, with Magramo looking exhausted, broken and beaten. He got to his feet, at the count of 9, but Nobuto Ikehara looked at him and waved off the bout. It was a clear case of a former fighter doing what he should do in the referees position. He was looking at a man who had offered little threat, had lost 7 rounds, had been dropped, and needed saving from any more damage. Magramo had no answers for Nakatani at any point, and the referee knew it.
With the win Nakatani sets himself in a really good position. We suspect that Angel Acosta will be in the hunt for a title fight. Alternatively bouts against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi or Sho Kimura would be easy to make. As for Magramo, it is going to take a long, long time to come back from this. He never looked in the fight and is clearly a level, if not two, below world class. He got his game plan horribly wrong, had no plan B and really just took a beating by someone better in every area.
In the first of two male world title fights on New Year's Eve fight fans had the chance to see WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] put on one of the best performances of his career, despatching Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi (13-4-1, 6) [乌兰] with ease.
Whilst the bout was never seen as hugely competitive on paper Tanaka had a knack of making easy bouts hard for himself, and this was, on paper, one of the bouts where he was possibly going to end up getting himself into un-necessary trouble. Thankfully however the "KO Dream Boy" did what was he was he supposed to do, from the opening bell.
Straight from the off Tanaka looked razor sharp, and started banging the challenger with his jab. Wulan's response was a wild and crazy looking left hook. It was a shot of desperation, very early on, from Wulan.
It wasn't long until Tanaka was backing up the challenger, and finding a home for his body shots, which were a major part of round 2. He kept banging the drum with hard single shots through the second round, and was clearly taking the legs out of Wulan.
Wulan was staying up right through the first 2 rounds but had no answer at all for anything Tanaka did. Tanaka began beating him around the ring in round 3 a double uppercut, through the guard, from the champion finally dropped Wulan. The Chinese fighter lay on the matt, looking up, as the referee began the count, and made little effort to beat it.
Given how Tanaka looked last time, against Jonathan Gonzalez, this was the type of performance he needed. He looked excellent, sharp, defensively aware, and the finish was clinical. It was his most accomplished performance and his defensively intelligent performance in a long time.
As for Wulan, he looked like a lamb to the slaughter from very early on. He never got into this and it really showed that he wasn't world class. He was totally out of his depth.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
When people start talking about fight of the year or round of the year when there is still an Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) [八重樫 東] fight on the calendar they are making a mistake. They should always wait for Yaegashi to fight for the final time in the year before making any sort of lists! Today Yaegashi finished his year off as he challenged IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), and unsurprisingly we ended with an exciting action fight.
The bout actually began in a less than thrilling fashion with Yaegashi fighting on his bike, using his footwork and boxing smart. It's something he's always had in his arsenal, but was last seen being used properly years ago, when he beat Edgar Sosa, way back in December 2013. If Akira fought smart we weren't going to get a classic, but there's a good chance he could fiddle himself to a decision victory.
That, of course, isn't Yaegashi's style. There's a reason Yaegashi has such a cult fan base and a reason he is regarded as a warrior. That is because smart boxing isn't him. He can do it, but it's not him. Instead having a fight is Yaegashi's style. By the third round, Mthalane was inviting Yaegashi into fight, and Yaegashi took the invitation, standing his ground more and fighting toe to toe with Mthalane, with the two men taking it in turns to unload flurries of shots.
Through rounds 4, 5 and 6 we had none stop action, each of those rounds could be considered for round of the year, with each of the rounds swinging one way then the other. One man seemed hurt, then they responded with a flurry of their own, hurting the other man. Not only were they hurting each other, but they were fighting an insane pace for two men who are the wrong side of 35. Sooner or later the tempo was going to catch up with one of them.
Sadly in round 7 it was Yaegashi was caught by the pace, and by a body shot from Mthalane. He tried to recover, tried to walk it off, and "old man" Mthalane, but the South African was having none of it, and kept the pressure up, not allowing Yaegashi to recover. To his credit Yaegashi's toughness kept him up right, and kept him fight, but it was clearly a diminished Yaegashi, who was starting to run on fumes, and take huge unanswered shots. Those fumes were however running out themselves and in round 8, with Mthalane landing an ever increasing number of shots, a stoppage began to look inevitable.
With Yaegashi's face swelling up, engine running low and the momentum clearly swinging in favour of Mthalane it seemed as if the Japanese warrior was going to need a miracle. Sadly for him that miracle never came as Mthalane continued to beat him up. It was getting one sided and in round 9 the referee seemed to be looking for a moment to stop the fight. His moment was a weird one, given that Yaegashi had stumbled a few moments earlier but was beginning to return fire, but it's hard to complain too much at the stoppage. Yaegashi, as he has often been, was too tough for his own good and the referee knew it.
Given Yaegashi turns 37 in February and has been in far too many wars for his own good it now seems like a good time to bow out, and retire, following yet another sensational fight. Round 4 in particular will be a hard one to forget. He could have made life easier for himself through much of his career, but the high, and lows, of Yaegashi's career have made him a Japanese legend. Hopefully retirement is next for a man who has given the sport so much during his often dramatic, always thrilling, rollercoaster like career.
As for Mthalane, the timeless South African is still a sensational fighter at the age of 37. He's ancient for a Flyweight but rarely have we seen him look his age, or looking on the verge of being stopped. He's tough, smart, and can change the direction of a fight. Whilst we suspect he's probably only got 1 or 2 more big fights, like this, in him he is a man who is racking up a Japanese-Killer reputation, with 3 successive wins against Japanese fighters, and is stacking his record with notable wins. It's a huge shame his first reign as the IBF champion ended the way it did, but he's making up for it in style now. A bout with Giemel Magramo, the highest ranked IBF contender, would be something that would be very appealing, and may well be next for the exceptional champion.
Japanese youngster Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) got one of his toughest tests today as successfully retained the WBO Flyweight title, making his second defense, and over-came Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13).
Prior to the bout Tanaka really struggle to make weight and showing signs of dehydration at his medical. He has looked unhappy through fight week and rumours had grown that he had really taken a lot out of himself to make Flyweight.
That looked to be the case early on, as the Japanese fighter didn't look his usual sharp, aggressive self. Instead he looked clumsy, almost plodding, as he struggled to keep up with Gonzalez. The Puerto however looked sharp, crisp and like a man who was confident of picking up the upset. Gonzalez fought off the back foot excellently, moving and landing his straight left hand with alarming regularity.
Tanaka managed to have a huge break through in round 3, when he dropped Gonzalez with a huge body shot. To his credit Gonzalez got back to his feet and continued the round, though was perhaps fortunate there was only seconds of the round left. He looked badly hurt and had the shot come 30 seconds earlier the bout could have looked very different.
Tanaka looked to try and build on his knock down in the following round but was dropped himself in round 4, from a Gonzalez left hand behind the ear. It was a balance issue, rather than Tanaka being hurt or buzzed but it essentially wiped out his success from round 3.
Gonzalez would manage to build on his knockdown, using his speed and ring craft to out landing, out move, out speed and out box this lethargic looking Tanaka. Tanaka was being caught regularly by Gonzalez's flurry's and looked incredibly conservative with his output. Not the Tanaka we'd seen recently. Whilst a lot of that could be put down to Gonzalez's skills, and movement there was a lack of crispness to Tanaka's work as he followed Gonzalez around the ring, looking to land single big shots, and was being out worked as a result.
Thankfully in round 7 Tanaka finally moved through the gears, chose to let his hands go. The flurry's we all loved from Tanaka were finally on show, and they were having success, especially the body shots. One thrown early in the round hurt Gonzalez and a follow up dropped him. From then on Tanaka could smell blood, dropping Gonzalez twice more in the round. Every time Gonzalez got up ready to continue, but he had done little to show there was anything left in the tank and the referee wisely chose to stop the fight, rather than let it continue on.
For Gonzalez this was a great chance to show how good he was, and he looked excellent at times, though it also showed his flaws. His lack of power and lack of durability, two issues that have been brought up in the past, were again apparent here. He can come again, but those issues will always be issues, and won't be things he can easily change. We do however wonder whether or not he could make 108lbs.
As for Tanaka the bout, or rather the performance, surely spells the end of his time at Flyweight. A move to the talent laden Super Flyweight division would have him in with more recognisable names, and an all Japanese super fight with Kazuto Ioka is one he has mentioned in the past.
Sadly Tanaka has had these hot and cold performances in the past, and this was similar, in some ways, to his performances against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. Like both of those bouts he was dropped and pushed hard. Notably after both of those bouts he also moved up in weight, citing issues making the Minimumweight and Light Flyweight limits respectively.
On Saturday night in Ukraine fans had the chance to see WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14) record his latest defense, as he dominated and stopped mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-2, 15) [เด่นนภา ตราใบห่อ], aka Sarawut Thawornkham. The challenger, from Thailand, was out gunned and out classed from the off, though showed his toughness and bravery to last as long as he did, though was eventually stopped in round 10.
The Thai had travelled in confident spirit though that confidence couldn't make up for the gulf in class, with Dalakian taking control very early on, and never really being tested afterward, with the Thai rarely able to land clean.
As the bout went on Dennapa's face wore the damage of the action, reddening and and becoming stained with his blood, though he continued to bravely plow on, attempting to turn things around. That effort was wasted effort, and all he did was take more punishment, with Dalakian essentially playing with his food at times, rather than upping the gears and seeing off the Thai, who had been rocked in round 8.
In round 10 the Thai was finally saved, with Dalakian getting the stoppage, his third since winning the title.
Given the depth at Flyweight, a division that isn't as good as it was a few years ago, the hope now has to be that Dalakian considers unification bouts, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka, Moruti Mthalane and Charlie Edwards. As for Dennapa the hope is that he returns back to Thailand to continue on the regional scene, where bouts against the likes of Junto Nakatani or Ryota Yamauchi would be very interesting.
The Flyweight division has given us some amazing bouts in recent years, such as 2018's war between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura, and today we got another, as Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] battled tooth and nail with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) in a sure fire FOTY contender, up there with another of the amazing bouts we've seen in 2019 so far.
The bout started with Kuroda looking to use his slight reach advantage but it wasn't long until Mthalane got up close and drew Kuroda into a fire fight, with both unload a high volume of shots on the inside. It was a great back and forth with both landing their share of solid clean shots. Of the two Mthalane seemed to be the smart man, landing cleaner and defending better, but Kuroda was landing more shots, going to the body excellently.
Through the first 4 rounds there was almost nothing to split the two men. It could have been 4-0 either way with no complaints. Sadly for Kuroda he began to show some signs of tiring in the middle rounds, Mthalane on the other hand remained consistent with his work, cutting the left eye of Kuroda in the process. Kuroda would battle hard, and have a huge burst at the end of the round trying to steal it but it was too little too late. The same again applied in round 6, with Mthalane out working Kuroda through much of the round, before the challenger rallied at the end, with a huge onslaught that was driven by both the crowd and Kuroda's will to win.
In round 7 Kuroda began to show real swelling around his face, and was slowing. He was now picking moments to fire off, rather than trying to to press. He still had his moments, but he was taking more than he was giving, and was struggling to fight hard for 3 minutes. That continued to be the case in round 8, a round that Kuroda managed to land a lot of body shots in, but at the expense of taking a lot of head shots, as he face continued swelling. That was followed by a massive round 9 from Mthalane, who seemed to sense that he could get a stoppage, something that seemed plausible given the state of Kuroda's right eye, which was completely swollen shut by the end of the round.
By now Kuroda was fighting on will power and determination alone. His face swollen, his gas tank emptying and the momentum clearly behind Mthalane. He refused to sit back though and and pressed Mthalane through the round, taking punishment for his desire to be a world champion, landing shots but taking better ones in return. It was a brave and hungry effort, but one that saw him taking so much in return. By now it was becoming clear he would need a KO, and he was aware of it.
In the 11th round Kuroda managed to get his second wind, at least early in the round, but Mthalane soaked it all up and had a huge 2 minutes of the round, pushing Kuroda's determination to near breaking point. Kuroda looked done, completely blind in his right from swelling and like the referee might step in to save him from further punishment. It was a huge Mthalane round, until the dying seconds when, for the first time, he seemed to really hurt Mthalane, forcing the champion into survival mode for the final few seconds of the round.
Given he had hurt his man late in round 11 it seemed clear that Kuroda was going to give all he could in round 12, and he started out hot. Mthalane saw it coming however and boxed, using his foot work, his movement, timing and ring ring craft to see out the pressure before landing some glorious combinations late. Kuroda's desperation left him open and Mthalane was making him pay lighting up his face as we went to the bell.
After 12 rounds it seemed we had a close but clear winner. The first half of the fight had been wonderfully contested, and Kuroda had played his part in the latter stages with his incredible toughness, but there was only one man who looked like getting the win. The judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it, with Mthalane getting the unanimous decision, 116-112, twice, and 117-111.
There was no denying Mthalane was the better fighter, the worthy winner and a true warrior. His future is likely going to be a unification bout, potentially with WBC champion Charlie Edwards or WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, if Tanaka's team can lure him to Japan. For Kuroda a long, long rest will be needed. His face really was a swollen, damaged mess. Hopefully this isn't the end for him, but if it is, we can safely safe that the Last Samurai really did go out on his sword in a true FOTY contender.
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.
The second, of 3, world title fights in Macau today saw IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) battle against little known Japanese challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) [坂本真宏]
On paper this was a mismatch, a 2-time world champion, with notable wins against the likes of Muhammad Waseem, John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete against a man who is best known for losing to a then little known Sho Kimura. It was however a bout that turned out to be a very, very entertaining contest with Sakamoto showing no quit and a lot of ambition.
From the first round it was clear that Sakamoto saw this as his chance to perform on the big stage, even though the bout was only shown in a few countries, not including Japan. He bit down hard on his gum shield and look to land combinations against the crisp punching and defensively sound Mthalane. We, as many, didn't really expect the Mechnical Engineering student to fight with such tenacity, but he did. Sadly for Sakamoto the clean shots from Mthalane were taking a toll.
Through the first 6 round Sakamoto really did much, much better than expected. He was clearly losing, and taking a fair bit of damage thanks to the clean, crisp, accurate shots of Mthalane, but he wasn't giving up. He was taking the fight to the champion and fighting on the inside, looking to wear Mthalane down with flurries.
Sadly for Sakamoto his effort, and the lack of pay off from the effort, took a lot out of him and he was looking exhausted at the end of round 6, with his face reddening and his right eye swelling shut. That eye would and his exhaustion would bee a major issues, with Mthalane landing more and more shots as the rounds went on.
Eventually, with their man a long way behind on the score cards, his face a swollen mess and his energy tank running on empty Sakamoto's corner pulled him out of the bout at the end of round 10.
For such an unknown, and we're not joking when we say that, Sakamoto put up a very brave performance in a bout that even those in Japan gave him little chance of winning. For Mthalane the win was expected, he was given a surprising tough work out here, and will now be looking towards a mandatory defense against another Japanese fight, Masayuki Kuroda in Spring.
Having spent the last 2 weeks in none stop talks with a CBC representative to get a legal feed to the WBO Flyweight title bout between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka we went into Monday with real fear. What if the bout we had done so much to hype failed to deliver, what if the stream failed, what if it ended inside a round or two, or ended because of a technical decision.
Thankfully our fears were averted and instead we got a genuine contender for fight of the year, and a fight that reminds us how special all-Japanese world title fights are. In fact it reminds us that sometimes the bouts we are most looking forward to really can deliver and that fighters don't always “just want to win”, sometimes they want to win in a fashion that lasts long in the memory.
Coming in to the bout we had Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] as the defending WBO Flyweight champion faced off with mandatory challenger Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成]. The champion was seeking his third defense, following a title win last year against Zou Shiming and succesful defenses against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Zou Shiming. Tanaka on the other hand was looking for his place in history, as only the second man to claim world titles in 3 weight classes in just 12 fights, following Vasyl Lomachenko.
As we've become accustomed to with Japanese fights there was no feeling out round. There was no gradual build up to a crescendo. Instead the two men started fast, with the opening round playing out as the first of 12 action packed rounds of brutality. The naturally stronger Kimura applied the pressure straight away and forced Tanaka to box and move, through Tanaka regularly stood his ground anded traded blows, relying on his speed and reactions to out land Kimura. The champion was hurt in round 2 from a huge counter left hook from Tanaka, which lead to Tanaka going for the finish, though Kimura was no where hurt enough and he began to fire back as Tanaka realised it was too soon. Kimura was hurt again in round 3 from a right hand, but held his own for much of the round.
Kimura began to build some momentum of his own in round 4 and in round 5 he began to grind down Tanaka, who was taking a lot of hard shots, despite having moments of his own. Kimura, who is typically a fighter who gets stronger the longer bouts go, seemed to be dragging Tanaka into his fight with body shots and his pressure taking a toll.
That sustained success from Kimura didn't last too long with Tanaka turning it back on it round 6, as he began to try and turn the fight back in his direction. That was partly because Tanaka changed his game plan and started to use more movement. Whilst Kimura was strong and aggressive he was being made to chase shadows at times and at one point Tanaka looked Lomachenko-esque switching from side to side on Kimura who was unable to respond.
Kimura's pressure began to amp up again in round 8, especially late in the round as he tried to put the pain on Tanaka, but again Tanaka's movement saved him from too much harm, despite a real desire being shown from the champion. In round 9 it seemed Tanaka again took control as he began walking down Kimura, a tactic that was unexpected but seemed to work as Kimura's right eye began to close rapidly. The champion was soon fighting one eyes, and on the back foot. Despite being defensively tight Kimura was eating shots on a regular basis with Tanaka pushing him backwards.
Tanaka looked like he was in the lead, but was wanting to leave an impression in the final rounds as he hunted a stoppage. It wasn't a smart move and instead it left the door open to Kimura who gritted his teeth and had real success late on, leaving Tanaka's face swollen and bruised. The tactics of Tanaka late were impressive, backing up Kimura, but were unnecessary and Tanaka kept getting caught by the heavier shots of Kimura.
At the end the bout seemed to be very competitive at times, with both men having a few clear rounds. Both men had been to hell and back, both were swollen messes, both had taken serious punishment. To us it seemed like Tanaka had won a clear, but competitive fight, but the judges seemed to have it very close with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112, giving Tanaka the majority decision.
With the win Tanaka joins the growing list of Japanese 3 weight champions, having achieved that feat quicker than any other Japanese fighter in history. Also we believe he's become the youngest 2 weight champion in history. For Kimura the loss ends his Cinderella man run of results, though given this performance and his growing popularity in China and Japan we suspect we'll see him return to title level in the not so distant future.
We'd like to send a massive thank you to the people at CBC for helping us get an official feed and thanks to the two men in the ring for a FOTY contender. It's just a shame it wasn't shown live across Japan, and won't be aired in much of Japan until the middle of the week.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.