In the final meaningful bout of the year we got something spectacular as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defended his title, for the second time, and stopped 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) in a late contender for Fight of the Year.
The bout, which had been hugely anticipated by boxing fans world wide, was the first ever time two multi-weight Japanese world champions had ever faced off, and after the 2020 we'd had it was a bout that had, genuinely excitement going in to it.
In one corner we had the experienced champion, the man who had repeatedly told us "this wasn't a special bout" and that this wasn't going to be a problem to him. In the other corner we had a young challenger who had repeatedly told us this was going to be a generational shift, and that he was ready to lead the new generation. Not only that, but Tanaka was looking to secure a place in history, by taking a 4th division world title in just his 16th professional bout.
There was so many substories going into this. Ranging from the worlds of the two men, and the fact both were looking to secure their place in history.
From the opening bell this started quickly, with Ioka firing in a right hand almost immediately. His hand speed, as it always has been, was wickedly impressive, and he boxed well with his his speed offense. Ioka on the other hand looked slower, but smart, picking his shots a lot more intelligently, and landed some solid body shots through the opening round. It was hotly contested through out, and very much a round that set the tone for this to be something thrilling.
The excitement continued in rounds 2 and 3. Tanaka seemed to buzz Ioka at one point, before Ioka fired back with some amazing counter shots. It still seemed like the handspeed difference could prove to be the vital difference in favour of Tanaka, but Ioka, to his credit, was riding shots well, countering smartly, and not taking too many clean, showing his fantastic technical ability to limit the punishment he was taking whilst also getting a read on Tanaka.
By the end of round 3 it seemed like Tanaka was starting to get to Ioka, who was starting to swell around the eyes, and seemed to be on the worse end of things. Ioka however saw out the storm and roared back in round 4, one of his best rounds he began to make the most of what he had learned from the first 3 rounds. He was now making Tanaka miss, countering brilliantly, and getting the last word in the exchanges.
At the end of round 4 both men's faces were looking like they were getting beaten up, yet both were still landing their share making for a truly compelling contest.
In round 5 we saw the fight further swing to Ioka. Tanaka had started well, but body from Ioka continued to land clean, slowing the challenger who looked to land big rights. Mid way through the round we had some real tit for tat stuff, with Tanaka outlanding Ioka, but taking the much heavier blows. The final blow of the round was the heaviest, and was a perfect counter left hook from Ioka that dropped Tanaka hard and left his nose a bloodied mess. Had the shot come 20 seconds earlier we could have seen the end of the bout, but Tanaka rose and the bell saved him, giving him the chance to recover before round 6.
Heading into round 6 we had questions about how Tanaka would look after the knockdown, and he looked surprisingly good, taking the fight to Ioka early in the round. He seemed to catch with a really good right hand at one point, but a flurried response form Ioka hurt him and a counter left hook a few moments later dropped Tanaka for the second time in as many rounds. Amazingly Tanaka not only got back to his feet but took the fight to Ioka immediately afterwards, rocking the champion in the final seconds of the round.
In round 7 Tanaka looked to try and turn things around, know, after being dropped twice, he needed to do something big. Sadly though by the end of the round he began to look desperate, firing his right hand and getting frustrated as it missed time after time, whilst Ioka was regularly landing jabs. Ioka wasn't just countering Tanaka, but was essentially making Tanaka's best weapon look useless at times. Mentally crippling the youngster, who was realising that the hole he was in, was just getting deeper.
The depth of the hole became too much in round 8 as Ioka landed a short left hook-come and a clean right hand, leading to the referee immediately jumping in. It was an excellent stoppage as Tanaka's legs buckled beneath and the referee essentially held him up, letting him steady himself, before letting him congratulate Ioka on the win.
Following the bout Ioka took the microphone and spoke about the fight and, finally, gave a bit of respect to Tanaka. He stated "It wasn't a surprise match for me, but I've been saying that I'll show the difference, so I couldn't just say it as a man. I'm glad I could prove it as a champion. I don't know how long I can continue boxing, but he's the player who will carry the boxing world in the future. It was a good experience with him."
Ioka also revealed that he had been seeing double from his left eye from round 2, and was now hoping to fight against one of the other champions in the division, such as WBA "Super" champion Roman Gonzalez or WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
At the time of the stoppage the scores were all heavily in favour of Ioka, with scores of 69-62 and 68-63, twice.
For Ioka this win was a career defining one, and it will sit up there along with his wins against Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi and Juan Carlos Reveco. It is one of those wins that showed how good of a ring technician he was, how smart he was and how he manages to solve problems in the ring, something we saw him do a year ago against Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka is among the most adaptable fighters out there, and with Ismael Salas behind him, it seems like they are coming up with excellent game plans fight after fight.
As for Tanaka the 25 year old will be disappointed here. It wasn't how he wanted to end 2020. At 25 years old however, this isn't the end for him. In fact the stoppage by the referee, the excellent Michiaki Someya, may well have helped prolong his career. This was a less for Tanaka in the end, but it was a less he learned at the age of 25. It is one he come rebuild from. He can come again. It's back to the drawing board for him, and likely time to change how he boxes. He has the tools to be an exceptional boxer, he has incredible speed but mentally he gets too excited. If he can tone down the excitement factor following this loss, he can easily go on to to claim a Super Flyweight title in a year or two.
The one big question mark here, is why did DAZN or ESPN pick this up for the US and use it to advertise a future opponent for Gonzalez, Estrada or Jerwin Ancajas. This should have been shown in the US, and it's a massive shame it wasn't! A real shame American fans had to look online streams for this one.
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)
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.
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.
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)
Earlier today in Japan fight fans saw talented youngster Kosei Tanaka (10-0, 6) [田中恒成] score his toughest win to date as he stopped heavy handed Thai challenger Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) [คู่เอก พลังพล ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] to defend his WBO Light Flyweight title, in a bout which saw Tanaka dropped, cut, and looking the more beaten up man by the end.
The bout started very slowly, in fact for the two minutes there was almost no action to be excited by. It showed Tanaka was quicker but that was it. Close to the end of the round however Palangpol's power told as he dropped Tanaka with a single right hand that really turned the round on it's head, and secured a 10-8 round for the Thai.
Tanaka never seemed hurt by the knockdown and over the following few rounds found his groove, taking rounds 2-5 with no issues, as he used his speed, skills, movement and variety to look several levels above the Thai. Palangpol however knew his advantage was in his power and strength and every shot he seemed to land seemed to take a more telling toll on Tanaka who's left eye was looking bruised from early in the bout.
After a huge 5th round for Tanaka, which saw him hurting the Thai with body shots several times, it seemed like the end was nigh. Instead however Palangpol gritted his teeth and took the fight to Tanaka, cutting the champion on his right eye, leaving both of Tanaka's eyes a mess. The Japanese fighter suddenly looked worried, and as if his entire self belief had vanished. All the confidence and fire had been taken out of his sails and Palangpol looked like a fighter who was starting to take over.
Bizarrely Palangpol didn't push his advantages in rounds 7 or 8, in fact he seemed too relaxed to press the fight and was perhaps just too tired to take the fight to Tanaka. Had he take it to Tanaka there is a chance we'd have seen a new champion being crowned with Tanaka looking like a man who felt sorry for himself. By the end of round 8 however the chance for Palangpol had gone. Tanaka had started to rebuild his confidence and that showed to begin round 9, as he took the fight to the Thai.
A headshot from Tanaka dropped Palangpol, who seemed to bounce up in a matter of seconds. Tanaka then jumped on him, and they threw shots at each other with reckless abandon. Sadly for the Thai he seemed to still have his head full of cobwebs and he struggled to connect whilst Tanaka landed some huge bombs, eventually forcing the referee to step in after the Thai had stumbled twice.
For Tanaka the win was obvious vital, but given the facial damage he suffered he may well find his proposed December showdown with WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi being delayed until 2018. That damage is going to take a long time to heal. For Palangpol he really put himself on the map. He lost, but he showed everything needed to be given another shot at a champion down the line, even if he was a real unknown to those outside of Thailand before today. Like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai we saw Palangpol get a chance and shine, despite failing to score the win, and he will be seen as a notable player at Light Flyweight following this contest.
A bumper weekend of Japanese fights kicked off earlier today with WBO Light Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5) [田中恒成] making his first defense of the title as he over-came Puerto Rican challenger Angel Acosta (16-1, 16), in a genuinely exciting mandatory title bout.
The challenger started really well, using his aggression early and putting a slow starting Tanaka on the back foot frequently with his combinations. It seemed as if Acosta's reputation as a huge puncher had worried Tanaka, who tried to fight off his jab but was often swarmed by the Puerto Rican. It wasn't until round 3 that Tanaka began to find his feet in the bout and he certainly warmed to the task, specifically in the second half of the contest as he began to back up Acosta and land some nasty body blows.
Tanaka's improvement in round 3 continued through much of the bout, as he used his speed, strength and more accurate punching to pick away at the challenger and land some solid shots to head and body, including an uppercut in round 5 that helped drop the challenger, in what was the bouts only knockdown.
Acosta recovered really well from the knockdown, and reapplied his pressure as he began a valiant fight back, but was again damaged to the body by Tanaka, despite some solid flurries from the Puerto Rican. It was back and forth action, but it always seemed like Tanaka's shots were having more of an effect than Acosta's, which were wide and looping and seemed unable to hurt the champion. What also didn't help the challenger was that he began to look incredibly tired, and in rounds 8 and 9 he looked like a man who was seriously wilting.
Despite being clearly tired Acosta refused to back down from the fight, and ended strongly, arguable doing enough to deserve either of the final rounds, both of which were close with Acosta doing everything he could to try and change the bout around. Sadly for his effort he was unable to ever hurt Tanaka, never mind secure the stoppage that he was needing.
At the end of the bout there was no questions over who had won, with Tanaka winning clearly on the scorecards, with scores of 117-110, twice, and 116-111.
Following the bout Tanaka was joined in the ring by WBA champion Ryoichi Taguchi, and it seems clear that a unification bout between the two is something that the camps will begin working on in the near future.
When we talk about young Japanese stars the first name is Naoya Inoue, the WBO Super Flyweight champion who become a 2-weight champion in just 8 professional bouts. Today we saw another Japanese youngster match that achievement as 21 year old prodigy Kosei Tanaka (8-0, 5) [田中恒成] dismantled Mexican veteran Moises Fuentes (24-3-1, 13) to claim the WBO Light Flyweight title.
Tanaka, who had previously held the WBO Minimumweight title, set the tone from the opening round as he used his speed to befuddle Fuentes and land hard right hands up top as well as piercing jabs to the body. Fuentes had no real answer other than to stay there and take them whilst offering an occasional wild swing in return. The second round was marginally better for the Mexican as he had a few moments of his own, but it was another round where Tanaka's speed and accuracy was the key with the Mexican's successes, all early in the round, being over-shadowed by Tanaka's more consistent showing.
Sadly for Fuentes round 3 was a horror round as Tanaka began to not just out box and out speed him but also out fight him, forcing him on to the ropes and landing some massive shots to head and body. Although not quite a 10-8 round it was one where some judges might have leaned that way due to just how one sided things were becoming. It was the same again in round 4, when Fuentes looked totally out of his depth and seemed to be needing a miracle. That miracle was never to come and in round 5 Tanaka let his shots go, hurting Fuentes who backed up to the ropes and took a huge right before being taken down by a flurry of lightening quick shots. With Fuentes down,and having been beaten up, the referee quickly waved off the bout.
With the win Tanaka further cements his place as one of the hottest emerging talents in boxing. A 2-weight champion in just 8 fights and at the age of 21 his career has so much potential and he seems to be improving with every contest. As for Fuentes it's hard to see him bouncing back from a beat down like this.
As we all know 2015 is coming to an end, however to end the year boxing fans get 5 world title fights in Japan. The first of those happened earlier today in Aichi where fans saw a WBO Minimumweight thriller between Kosei Tanaka (6-0, 3) and Vic Saludar (11-2, 9).
The fight started fast with Tanaka looking the more polished, faster and intelligent fighter, however Saludar took the shots well, mostly on the guard, and looked like the sort of strong and tough fighter who was going to take a lot to stop. He also looked very dangerous every time he let his hands go, though did struggle to land much of note. It was a round where Tanaka's movement and speed were his key weapons.
The challenger may not have shined in round 1, but he did in round 2 as he gave Tanaka absolute hell. Tanaka gave away his advantages in footspeed and decided to trade on the inside which was a foolish game plan giving Saludar a chance to use his strength and power up close and prove that he wasn't there to just make up the numbers, he was instead there to become a world champion. The success of the challenger continued in round 3 where he finished the stronger man and left Tanaka with a bloodied nose and left fans wondering why Tanaka was continuing to to brawl with a brawler.
The in fighting continued in round 4, a pretty even and exciting round, and again in round 5, a round in which Saludar's power finally told as he dropped Tanaka with an very solid right hand. It was the first knockdown of Tanaka's career and came from as much from his wrecklessness as it did from Saludar's power, as he left himself wide open. Whilst Tanaka was to blame for the knockdown he was up quickly, at the count of 5, and showed his survival skills to see out the round.
By the following round it seemed like Tanaka had recovered his senses, but not his pure boxing, and instead of boxing and moving he continued to apply the pressure and force a fight on the inside. Although, still, fighting the wrong type of fight he did quickly find a home for his left hand into the body of Saludar. The Filipino continued to fight back, but was, eventually, caught by a peach that dropped the Filipino for the count.
It's fair to say that Saludar was over-looked by Tanaka, who was seemingly looking beyond him, towards a move to Light Flyweight. It was however a mistake to do so and it almost cost him, whilst also showing up the champion as a fighter who still has real maturing to do. He needs to get back to what he's good at, which is out boxing, being speedy and not brawling. In fairness to Saludar however, there is a good chance he will have a title reign in the future.
(Image courtesy of Nikkan Sports)
Kosei Tanaka showcases his ability, and his flaws, as he defeats Julian Yedras for WBO belt and Japanese record!
In late 2013 we began raving about a Japanese youngster who was preparing to make his professional debut. At the time he was just 17 or 18 and was just getting his B class license. That was Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2), now just 5 fights later the youngster is the WBO Minimumweight champion, and the new Japanese record holder for the fewest fights to win a world title.
Earlier today Tanaka took the title with a dominant win over Mexican Julian Yedras (24-2, 13) in a performance that could be described as “comfortable but flawed”.
The early going was perfection from Tanaka who claimed the first couple of rounds with amazing boxing. It was the sort of boxing that every fan wishes to see. It saw Tanaka using his movement to open up opportunities for his lightening quick hands, making Yedras look incredibly slow and showing signs of not just being a special talent but a future pound-for-pound level boxer. There really was every thing you could ask for, world class foot work, frightening combinations and sharpness on every punch. It was near flawless for the first 6 minutes.
In the third round things began to change, significantly, as Yedras found a way to cut the distance with his pressure. In theory the close Yedras could get the more the bout favoured him, in reality however Tanaka showed he could more than hold his own on the inside or in a brawl. Yedras was beginning to have success but was forced to take some solid shots in return as Tanaka showed he was capable of beating Yedras up close.
The success for Tanaka appeared to go to his head slightly and it saw rounds 4, 5 and 6 become more and more tricky as Yedras seemed to build on his success round after round. Tanaka's lovely movement was becoming less visible and instead he seemed to hunt the knockout and allow himself to take some silly shots that really weren't necessary. That was particularly clear in round 6 as Tanaka seemed to take a lot of flush shots in the final minute of what was Yedras's first “clear” round, though could well have been his third on the spin if you'd felt like being generous, as one judge seemed to but more about that later.
Having clearly realised he was making this harder for himself Tanaka got back to his boxing in round 7 and seemed to thoroughly dominate the round with his speed, power, shot selection and accuracy which were all sensational. It was a round that ended in brawling though had seen Tanaka showcase everything about himself as a fighter and even seemed to show him hurt Yedras at one point. It was a round that seemed to show Tanaka had plenty in the tank but wasn't willing to show his hand all the time.
Sadly the seventh round was followed by another disappointing round from the youngster who seemed to take more than he needed. It was a close round, and could easily have gone Yedras's way, though it seemed like Tanaka was fighting in neutral as opposed to letting his hands go as he had the previous round. It was also another round that Yedras got inside and had success, particularly to the body.
Having looked slightly tired in round 8 there could have been questions about the youngster's energy reserves but then, in round 9, he came alive and had a thoroughly dominant round. We saw a return to the hurtful but lightning quick flurries, the smart movement, the breath taking accuracy and the skills that will take the young man very far. It was one of the clearest rounds of the fight and was a round that seemed to show Tanaka had a lot in reserve. The same skills were again on show in round 10 as Tanaka continued to show case the skills that had excited the hardcore Japanese fans prior to his debut.
The big question, for many, was how Tanaka would handle the championship rounds. Prior to this bout he had never been beyond 10 rounds. It then seemed very clearly he could handle the distance with ease as he toyed with Yedras in the eleventh. The Mexican looked like an amateur as he missed time and time again whilst being picked off at range and tagged up close. It was showcase stuff from the youngster who looked like an experienced, championship level fighter.
Going in to the final round it was clear that Yedras would need a knockout, even the most generous of judges had to have had him behind by a sizeable margin. Unfortunately for the Mexican he never came close to landing anything to turn the fight around. That was despite Tanaka show boating right in front of him, trying to draw a lead which was eventually punished by another amazing combination. The final round was full of magical moments from Tanaka which also included him turning the Mexican on the ropes whilst making it look effortless.
After the final bell we had it 118-110 to Tanaka, having given Yedras rounds 6 and 8. The closest we could possible see it was 116-112, having given Yedras rounds rounds 4 and 5, though that was being generous. Two of the judges had it in the middle of that window with scores of 117-111. Those cards really couldn't be argued with. The third judge however managed to score the bout a very confusing 115-113 to Tanaka, some how finding another pity round for the Mexican.
The close card, turned in by Puerto Rican Luis Ruiz, was far too close. We know he's not got much experience at this level but with a performance like that we can see why.
Despite the poor card of Mr Ruiz he couldn't take away from the performance of Tanaka which was, at times, amazing. The youngster is now likely to fight in a much bigger bout, possibly against IBF champion Katsunari Takayama who was ringside for television channel CBC, and whilst he showed some flaws here we suspect they came out of contempt as much as anything else. It was clear early on that Yedras couldn't hurt Tanaka and the Japanese fighter didn't seem to mind taking a few shots. The only major flaw was that the youngster got a bit too reckless when he thought he had Yedras hurt, but for a young man competing in just his 5th professional bout there's no real shame in being a little bit excitable.
It's clear than Tanaka doesn't have the KO power of fellow Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue, who's record Tanaka broke with this win, but he has everything else a fighter could want and at just 19 years old the world really is his proverbial oyster. Unification and multi-weight titles are certainly in his future.
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.