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ANALYSIS | Three of Japan's Best Boxers Showcased in a Triple World Title Delight

An important fight card took place in Tokyo on February 24, and three Japanese boxers enhanced their reputations in front of a global audience.



Kosei Tanaka lands a body shot in the sixth round of his fight for the vacant WBO super flyweight title against Christian Bacasegua on February 24, 2024 in Tokyo. (©SANKEI)

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GLASGOW — The eyes of fight fans across the world were on Tokyo's splendid Ryogoku Kokugikan, which normally hosts sumo tournaments, on Saturday, February 24. In the Japanese capital, three boxers put on three world title fights on a card that will be hard to match for value for money the rest of the year.

Three home fighters were given the opportunity to showcase their skills against tough opponents. For two of them, the assignment was to win a world title in a new weight class. And for the other, it was a title defense against a former world champion.

Japanese Boxers in the Spotlight

First up was Kosei Tanaka. Tanaka, 28, was aiming to become the third Japanese man to win a world title in four weight classes. Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue are the others who have achieved this.

Facing Tanaka was Christian Bacasegua of Mexico. Bacasegua (22-4-2, with nine knockouts heading into the fight) was ranked second by the WBO in its super flyweight rankings. Tanaka was ranked first by the organization whose vacant title was up for grabs for the winner.

Following that tussle, two-weight world champion Junto Nakatani was hoping to lift a world title in a third weight division when he took on defending WBC bantamweight champion Alexandro Santiago.


Santiago, from Mexico, (28-3-5, 14 KOs entering) arrived in Japan holding the title he won by beating Nonito Donaire in July 2023. He wanted to retain his title and slow Nakatani's path towards the pound-for-pound top 10 in the process.

In the final fight of the evening. Kanagawa Prefecture native Takuma Inoue was making the first defense of his WBA bantamweight title.

Inoue was in tough against former IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines. Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs as the opening bell rang) was boxing in Japan for the first time and had experience on his side. It looked like a tricky title defense for Inoue.

With major sports channels in America, Mexico, South Africa and Australia carrying Saturday's card, a large audience from most of the major boxing markets on the planet watched to see how the title bouts would unfold.

Christian Bacasegua absorbs a punch from Kosei Tanaka in the 12th round. (©SANKEI)

Tanaka Wins WBO Super Flyweight Title in Points Decision over Bacasegua

Although he spoke of winning by stoppage before the fight, the main thing for Tanaka was to win and become a four-weight world champion.

Bacasegua tested Tanaka, especially early in the contest when his aggressive come-forward style saw him land a few notable punches on the home fighter.

Great fighters adjust, though. From the third round on, the 28-year-old Tanaka fought a clever and controlled fight. He engaged at close quarters with Bacasegua, finding a regular home for his right uppercut.

Bacasegua wanted to match fire with fire, but after the opening rounds, it seemed like Tanaka knew exactly what was coming from his Mexican opponent. Most of the punches from Bacasegua were avoided or blocked by Tanaka's arms.


Tanaka's dominance was underlined when he sent Bacasegua to the canvas in the eighth round with a combination of head and body shots. 

To his credit, Bacasegua fought gamely until the final bell. But Tanaka had him hurt in the penultimate round and showed no mercy in the final session as he closed strong.

The scorecards read 116-111, 117-110 and 119-108 in Tanaka's favor.

Kosei Tanaka is declared the new WBO super flyweight champion as he stands next to Christian Bacasegua after the fight. (©SANKEI)

Analysis and What's Next for Tanaka

Tanaka's composure under fire was the most impressive thing about this showing. He gave Bacasegua the opening two rounds but then used the confidence the visiting fighter took from that against him.

By demonstrating sensible distance control and superior footwork, Tanaka was able to manage the remainder of the fight on his terms. While the stoppage didn't arrive, Tanaka tried to deliver it for his fans. That type of effort is always appreciated by boxing fans.

With this win, Tanaka moved his record to 20-1 with 11 knockouts. He also achieved his goal of joining Ioka and Naoya Inoue as a four-weight world champion. A fine achievement.

Ioka wasn't far from Tanaka's thoughts after the fight. The current WBA super flyweight champion is the only man to have defeated Tanaka. That bout took place in December 2020.

Could a 2024 rematch take place in what would be a unification fight between two modern greats of Japanese boxing? Keep your eye on this space. 


Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Colin Morrison

Morrison is a freelance sportswriter. Find his stories on SportsLook. Writing since 2016, his byline appears on boxing website NYFights.com and multi-sports platform Spitballingpod.com. His main areas of interest are boxing, soccer, golf and rugby union. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @Morrie1981.

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