Three-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka will put his WBO flyweight crown on the line for the first time when he faces countryman Ryoichi Taguchi at the Memorial Center in Gifu, Japan on Saturday.
Tanaka, who is ranked No. 2 by The Ring at 112 pounds, previously held WBO straps at 105 and 108 before unseating Sho Kimura in one of the best fights of 2018 by hard-fought majority decision last September.
That win saw him equal Vasiliy Lomachenko’s record of becoming a three-weight world champion in 12 fights. Now the 23-year-old is looking forward to his next challenge.
“I am pleased that we have a big flyweight fight for Japanese boxing fans as well as for boxing fans around the world,” Tanaka told The Ring through Marivic Kamiyama.
“As his opponent becomes more aggressive and powerful, Taguchi also shows his power to them. He punches well, has impressive stamina and his jab is good.”
Tanaka and Taguchi had been scheduled to meet on the now customary New Year’s Eve show at the end of 2017 when both held junior flyweight titles. Terms had been agreed but both men had to first win interim fights.
While both did, Tanaka suffered a double eye-socket injury against the unheralded Palangpol CP Freshmart, curtailing the intriguing unification bout.
However, being unable to face Taguchi stuck with Tanaka and he is pleased to honor the initial agreement now.
“I felt we had unfinished business, I felt responsible about it [not happening],” he said. “The position and rank have also changed, and it is a different fight from that time, but I am pleased we are fighting.”
Taguchi, who is currently ranked No. 3 by The Ring at 108 pounds, will be stepping up to flyweight for the first time.
The 32-year-old edged Milan Melindo to add the IBF crown to his WBA belt and also won the vacant Ring 108-pound championship in December 2017. He lost his titles to Hekkie Budler last May, who was then dethroned by Taguchi’s stablemate Hiroto Kyoguchi.
Tanaka has mostly prepared in Nagoya although he did travel to Thailand in January for sparring. He says he focused mainly on his fundamentals and getting himself in a happy frame of mind ahead of what is expected to be a close fight.
While much is made of Tanaka’s achievements in the west among hardcore boxing fans, he is taking everything in his stride.
“I am choosing the best (weight) class according to the growth of my body,” he explained. “Multiple class domination is not a big goal. I think that we will win world titles in five different weight classes, but the goal has not been set by myself yet.”
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