By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada
Unbeaten Japanese, Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8 KOs), 112, impressively kept his WBO flyweight belt as he survived a fourth-round visit to the deck, floored mandatory challenger Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (26-3-2-1NC, 13 KOs), 112, Puerto Rico, four times and finally halted him at 2:49 of the seventh round on Saturday in Nagoya, Japan.
It was a contest of the speedsters fully displaying hand speed, agility and reflexes. Tanaka decked Bomba with a body shot in the third, but hit the canvas with the challenger’s quick left hand in the fourth. It was in round seven that the more aggressive champ sent him to the deck three more times and finished the affair.
Bomba, a shorter southpaw by three inches, kept moving side to side from the outset, while Tanaka, four years his junior at 24, kept stalking the Puerto Rican counterpuncher. Kosei, who had already accomplished his three-division coronations (of the 105, 108 and 112-pound category), was a prefight favorite, but respected Bomba’s quickness so that he carefully kept watching his mobility and countering tactics.
It was Kosei’s well-timed straight right to the belly that scored the first knockdown of the game as Bomba revealed his fragility and weakness at the breadbasket, which would eventually become a lethal target of Tanaka’s onslaught.
The audience, some 3,500 at the Takeda Teva Ocean Arena (located near the Nagoya port), then optimistically expected Tanaka’s easy triumph sooner or later, but it proved wrong in the next session, when Bomba exploded a light but accurate left to the careless champ, who fell backward and quickly stood up. Gonzalez won back a 10-8 round by overcoming his previous deficit on point in the previous session.
The fifth and sixth were a Tom-and-Jerry game, as Tanaka maintained the pressure by stalking the shorter footworker, who, however, occasionally countered the unsuccessful willing mixer. Apparently frustrated by Bomba’s continual retreating and sidestepping, Tanaka made up his mind to forcibly mix it up and bring home the bacon soon.
Tanaka, in round seven, then turned loose due to his father/chief second Hitoshi’s strong instruction, and became so pugnacious that he caught up with the fast-moving challenger. He connected with a double right, flooring Bomba on the knees. Kosei exclusively aimed at the midsection of Bomba with a flurry of punches, and had him on the canvas twice more in the fatal round—four times in total in the bout.
Referee Celestino Ruiz, US, waved off to declare a well-received halt. Prior to the stoppage, William Lerch (US) saw the fast game 57-55 and Mike Fitzgerald (US) had it 58-54, both for Bomba, and Edward Ligas (Philippines) 56-56.
The crestfallen Bomba said, “I know Tanaka is an excellent champ, but didn’t expect his persistent body attack. I just wish his good luck in the future.”
Reviewing the combat, Tanaka said, “I don’t think this was my perfect game. I couldn’t do what I had intended to do since Bomba was so fast on hand and foot. But my body bombardments were effective and successful.”
The champ’s promoter and ex-WBC 122-pound champ Kiyoshi Hatanaka, 52, showed his blue print on Tanaka’s future. “Kosei will fight another defense in this class, and may look forward to his fourth belt next year.”
Japan now holds seven world champs as follows: Ryota Murata (160, WBA), Naoya Inoue (118, WBA, IBF), Takuma Inoue (118, WBC interim), Kazuto Ioka (115, WBO), Kosei Tanaka (112, WBO), Ken Shiro (108, WBC), and Hiroto Kyoguchi (108, WBA). We may see hot year-end competitions, as seen annually. What our people are so eager to watch will be the confrontation of Ioka and Tanaka, which may be materialized next year.
Promoter: Hatanaka Promotions.
Remarks: The Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) has confirmed that the result should be registered as TKO, not KO, since the referee didn’t complete the count upon his stoppage after Bomba’s fourth visit to the canvas.