By Joe Koizumi
Unbeaten WBO flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7 KOs) will make his initial defense of his third world championship (all of the WBO) against former WBA 108-pound titlist Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12 KOs) in Gifu, Japan, on March 16. It was publicly announced by Hatanaka Promotions yesterday (Thursday) in Nagoya.
Tanaka captured the WBO belt by dethroning compatriot and defending ruler Sho Kimura in a grueling “fight of the year” in Nagoya last September. It’s the still 23-year-old Tanaka’s third coronation in as many categories in his only twelfth pro bout to his credit—as fast as Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Taguchi, 32, had been a long reigning WBA light-flyweight champ having kept his belt on seven occasions prior to his forfeiture by a hairline verdict (all 114-113) to Hekkie Budler last May.
In the end of 2017 when both were world 108-pound champs, they were supposed to exchange gloves for unification, but Tanaka then pitifully suffered an eye injury and it was unfortunately canceled. Then some people called Tanaka a coward running away from Taguchi, so it will be a grudge fight for Tanaka to wipe off such a disgrace this time.
Tanaka said, “I’m very anxious to face Taguchi since he has been my rival and target since 2017.” Taguchi, a physically legitimate flyweight who reportedly failed to defend his WBA light-fly throne against Budler due to his severe weight problem, said, “Tanaka is a strong champion, but I’ll do my best to win his belt.” The sensational confrontation, to be telecast from 4 pm nationwide by CBC/TBS TV, will take place at the Gifu Memorial Center near Nagoya, Tanaka’s home turf.