The sport of boxing has always been something that attracts people from all over the world since its conception in 3rd millennium BC.
Boxing has seen waves of Japanese fighters make their way to the U.S in order to raise their profile here, most recently, it’s been unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue.
There is another fighter from Japan looking to make a similar splash next year and he is the WBO flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (14-0).
The 24 year-old Tanaka, who is referred to as “The Monster of Chukyo,” is from a city called Tajimi, the central part of Japan, which has an average population of about 110,000 and best known for its ceramics.
Tanaka like most fighters these days, turned pro at the age of 18 and would later go on to match the record of unified lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachecnko, by capturing titles in three different weight classes in under twelve professional fights.
While Tanaka was fighting professionally, he earned an economics degree from Chukyo University.
The flyweight champion Tanaka has aspirations in becoming a star in the sport while also making the cross-over to the U.S and getting widely recognized here. One of the first steps in that direction came recently when he visited The Maywood Boxing Club in Southern California, in an effort to find quality sparring and also see how he matches up with some of those tough competitors that frequently train out of that gym.
While visiting L.A, I was able to secure an interview, so without further ado, I present to you the WBO Flyweight Champion Kosei Tanaka. (Translation was provided by boxing journalist Yuriko Miyata. @yuriyuri0803)
AG: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Please tell the readers what growing up was like in Tajimi, Japan. Were you raised by both parents and how many siblings do you have or are you an only child?
KT: I was raised by my parents with my older brother and younger sister. As a child, I loved sports which included playing soccer when I was in kindergarten.
AG: I read somewhere that you took up Karate as a kid. How did that prepare you to be mentally and physically ready to compete in the world of boxing?
KT: I started karate when I was three-years old. I did all types of Karate, Tae Kwon Do, traditional style and Kyokushin (full contact). When doing Karate, it was natural for me to face somebody. Since it was Karate, I was not afraid of facing someone which helped me become a boxer. I was not afraid of fighting when I started boxing. Initially, I only did boxing as part of my training regimen for Karate.
AG: You turned professional at the age of 18, what made you feel like you were ready to compete in the professional ranks?
KT: Although I won several national championships in the amateurs, that wasn’t the reason I went Pro. Kiyoshi Hatanaka (a former world champion and my manager), who doesn’t easily let his boxers turn professional, allowed me to so I took the test to get licensed. (Note from Yuriko: In Japan, all boxers must take a test to be licensed by JBC in order to go pro. The process is similar to getting a driver’s license here in the states.)
AG: A year after turning pro, you won your first world title at the minimum weight class. Describe what that feeling was like winning your first world title at 19 and prior to the fight, did you feel you were ready for that type of level of competition?
KT: Since I turned pro, it was my first goal to capture a world title in my fifth professional fight in order to break the national record. I was so relieved when I really made it.
AG: In just four years as a pro, you did something that only the Unified Lightweight Champion Vasyl Lomachenko has done and that is to become a three weight class champion in just 12 fights. Was that something that was on your mind or did it just naturally happen? Also, how does it feel being in the same category for something that significant with a great world champion like Loma?
KT: After I became a world champion in just five fights, I felt like I was just doing my job and fighting whoever my manager put in front of me. I didn’t care for any record and allowed for it to just happen. I am happy to be a three division world champion in just 12 fights. I have never compared myself to Lomachenko. Sharing the record (three division champion in 12 fights) with him does not make me think I am better than Lomachenko. He is current P4P king. I am far from that.
AG: Currently, Angel “Tito” Acosta has moved up to the flyweight division and will more than likely become the mandatory in the near future for your title. You fought him a few years ago which resulted in you winning by unanimous decision. Is that a fight that interests you and do you think it would raise your profile in the U.S given Acosta’s current popularity?
KT: I heard that Acosta got applauded in his last fight by people in the U.S. when he fought at the Fantasy Springs. That means he is recognized here, right? Beating him could give me credit so I would be happy to have that rematch. Currently, I have no idea how I am recognized here in the U.S. which is why I want to fight here in America.
AG: Are you planning on fighting before the end of the year? If you decide to wait until next year, would it be to jump up to the very entertaining and stacked Super Flyweight division?
KT: Nothing is certain yet. One of my options is to move up to Super Flyweight and get a title shot sometime next year.
AG: If you had your choice of Super Flyweights to face, which is the one that interests you the most and who would really motivate you?
KT: All champions. All champions motivate me to fight. At 115 lbs, all champions are of high profile. If I can face them one by one, and win, that ends up elevating me to a certain position in the world boxing scene.
AG: What brings you to L.A and how soon can fans expect to see you fighting in the U.S?
KT: This is my first trip to America. I just wanted to come visit. I flew to Las Vegas first and sparred with former IBF Minimum weight Champion Dee-Jay Kriel at Bones Adams Gym. I came here to L.A to train at Maywood Boxing Club and also to do some sparring.
Aside from training, another reason to visit L.A was to watch IBF Super Flyweight Champion Jerwin Ancajas fight in person. Since that fight was cancelled, I am going to fly back to Las Vegas to watch Canelo vs Kovalev in MGM.(Questions were answered a day prior to the Canelo vs. Kovalev fight.)
AG: Where can fans follow you on twitter and Instagram?
Kosei Tanaka has the skills and power to make a huge splash in 2020. With possible mega fights down the road at Flyweight and Super Flyweight, the skie is the limit on how far he can go. One thing is for sure, the next time he is scheduled to fight, you won’t want to miss it!
You can follow me on twitter @abeg718 for ringside reports, interviews and anything else involving boxing.