Kosei Tanaka delivered yet another Fight of the Year performance in his first WBO flyweight world title defense.
Tanaka got a unanimous decision against former light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi on a boxing card in Tanaka's hometown of Gifu, Japan. Tanaka won with scores of 119-109, 117-111, 117-111. Fightful lead boxing reporter Carlos Toro had scored the fight 118-110 in favor of Tanaka.
The fight was electric from the start with both men throwing endless combinations to each other. Taguchi managed to land a series of short-range uppercuts to the chin to keep Tanaka from letting his hands go in the first round. That didn’t work out too well as Tanaka was still able to work the body and land his fair share of punches.
The second round saw Tanaka unleash a flurry of power punches that overwhelmed Taguchi at first but the challenger was able to hang on. Taguchi was able to seize momentum with an overhead right that made Tanaka’s knees buckle even after blocking the punch. Tanaka was able to recover and keep landing combination after combination.
As the fight got wore on, Tanaka would narrowly win rounds with his punch output and accuracy which forced Taguchi to step back and have to rely on counter punching at times. Tanaka started to rely on his jab a little bit more in the second half of the fight, still landing his shots with relative ease. Tanaka was able to keep Taguchi from throwing too many punches with the check left hook. Taguchi was unable to break through and seriously hurt Tanaka like he did early in the fight.
Although Taguchi was landing shots clean, it was not enough to even slow down Tanaka, who kept his rapid pace throughout the entire fight. Even in the championship rounds, Tanaka outworked Taguchi, connecting on dozens of punches with the cleanest one being a left hook to Taguchi's ribs in the 11th round. Taguchi hung on to the final bell, but did so having been hit with too many well-placed power punches to get a decision in his favor.
This was Tanaka’s first WBO flyweight title defense since dethroning Sho Kimura last September in a fight that won Fightful’s 2018 Fight of the Year award. Tanaka is one of the youngest fighters in boxing history to win a world title in three weight classes, having won titles at minimumweight and light flyweight.