Fresh off his “Fight of the Year” battle against Sho Kimura, Kosei Tanaka’s first flyweight title defense will see him face off against another Japanese star.
Tanaka will defend his WBO flyweight title against former light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi at the Gifu Memorial Center in Gifu, Japan on March 16. This will be Tanaka’s first fight in the Gifu prefecture, his hometown, since 2016 when he won the WBO light flyweight title at the same venue.
The 23-year-old is coming off a 12-round slugfest against Kimura this past September that saw Tanaka win the WBO flyweight title by majority decision. That fight earned critical acclaim from the global boxing community, winning Fightful Boxing “2018 Fight of the Year” award. Tanaka has now won a world title in three different weight classes, win belts at 105, 108 and 112 pounds.
Taguchi, a long-time WBA light flyweight champion, briefly held the IBF belt and was the unified champion from December 2017 to May 2018. Taguchi lost the belts to Hekkie Budler in a close decision that saw all three judges score the bout 114-113 in favor of Budler. The loss snapped Taguchi's 10-fight unbeaten streak that started after Taguchi's loss to Naoya Inoue back in 2013. The 32-year-old Taguchi has never fought above 108 pounds at any point throughout his pro career.
The title bout between Tanaka and Taguchi is the first world title fight announced to take place in Japan in 2019. No other fights were announced for the undercard.