Tokyo Hosts Tasty World Title Treble on February 24



Tokyo Hosts Tasty World Title Treble on February 24

Does anyone fancy a world title triple-header on Saturday? If so, your eyeballs should be trained on the action unfolding at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena. For fans in America, ESPN+ will be broadcasting the card beginning at 4 a.m. ET.

Three of Japan’s best boxers have the opportunity to showcase their talents in challenging bouts as they look to further their appeal at home and overseas.

The event has rather clumsily been titled “Prime Video Presents Live Boxing 7,” but that is irrelevant as this is the strongest card of 2024 so far.

Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11KOs) faces off against Mexican Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9KOs) for the vacant WBO super flyweight title.

Following that, Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4KOs) makes the first defence of his WBA bantamweight crown against former IBF super flyweight king Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23KOs) of the Philippines.

Rounding off the holy trinity of world title fights at the renowned sumo venue is the headline bout between Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14KOs) and Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19KOs).

Mexico’s Santiago has travelled to Japan to make the first defence of the WBC bantamweight title he won in July last year.

Nakatani, a former flyweight and super flyweight world title holder, is looking to become a three-weight world champion on Saturday.

Read on for more details on the three title fights.

Kosei Tanaka vs. Christian Bacasegua

Tanaka in action. He’s a fan friendly hitter

The WBO super flyweight title is vacant. The governing body followed logic by mandating that the numbers one and two fighters in its rankings should face off for the title.

Tanaka, number one ranked, will be expected by most observers to get the better of Bacasegua.

Tanaka is significantly more experienced in title bouts having previously held world titles at minimumweight (105-pounds), light flyweight (108-pounds) and flyweight (112-pounds).

Perhaps to counter this, it should be noted that this will be Tanaka’s first world championship bout since his only career loss to Kazuto Ioka in December 2020.

Bacasegua will be taking part in his first world title fight.

The 26-year-old who hails from Mexicali has never fought professionally outside of his homeland but he has earned his high ranking courtesy of a nine fight winning streak which dates back to 2019.

The Mexican, who carries the moniker ‘Rocky’ to the ring, also arrived in Japan in a confident frame of mind.

Responding to analysis on his come forward style being nullified by Tanaka fighting like a matador, Bacasegua cleverly remarked, “I will scoop him up in the air just like a bull with strong horns.”

Bacasegua made this comment during his media workout on February 15 according to Japanese outlet Boxing News.

Tanaka acknowledged his opponent’s aggressive style. “The important thing is to prevent an opponent who comes forward from hitting me,” he said to The Mainichi on February 12.

The Japanese boxer continued, “It would be best if I could get a KO. I don’t want to win in an anticlimactic showing.”

It sounds like Tanaka recognises that he may have to weather an early storm from Bacasegua before pressing for a stoppage as the fight progresses.

This one should feature some interesting momentum swings.

Takuma Inoue vs. Jerwin Ancajas

As first title defences go, it could be easier than facing a vastly experienced former world champion who brings a high knockout percentage and an awkward southpaw style to the ring.

That is exactly what Takuma Inoue will be up against when the bell rings and he walks forward to meet Jerwin Ancajas.

This fight was supposed to happen in November last year but had to be postponed after Inoue picked up a rib injury.

Not surprisingly, Inoue has fielded questions on his recovery. “I had my injured part completely healed and have had enough sparring. I’m in good condition,” Inoue told Boxing News.

There has been a push for Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya, to be more active.

His father and trainer Shingo told Boxing News: “Takuma should learn more active boxing. He tends to wait for his opponent’s move. I think Takuma should shorten that and come out strong on his own initiative.”

While his win over Liborio Solis in April last year saw him win the WBA bantamweight belt, this defence against Ancajas feels like a much tougher proposition for Inoue.

Ancajas arrived in Japan several days ago and spoke confidently during his media workout on February 20. “I have always wanted to fight in Japan,” the fighter who split his training camp between Las Vegas and the Philippines for this fight said to Boxing News.

The challenger concluded, “I have a lot of experience and adaptability. Most of all, I am hungry now.”

Out of the three title fights on the card, Inoue vs. Ancajas feels like the one which has the most chance of producing an away win.

Inoue will need to be at his best to win. Let’s see if he presents more activity in this fight.

Alexandro Santiago vs. Junto Nakatani

Imagine scoring a career defining win over a guaranteed future Hall of Famer then entering your next fight as a huge underdog.

That’s the scenario facing Santiago.

The Tijuana native upset the odds by defeating Nonito Donaire via unanimous decision last year to capture the WBC bantamweight title.

Just seven months later he is defending the crown away from home against a fighter many think could go on to become a top ten pound-for-pounder in the near future.

Despite not being given much of a chance against Nakatani in Tokyo, Santiago is determined to spring a surprise on Saturday.

“I will not let Nakatani get in the way of my career because it took me a long time to become a world champion. I want to become the undisputed champion of the division,” Santiago told reporters during a public workout on February 17.

When asked about Nakatani, the current champion observed, “He is a tall southpaw. I hope you people will watch how I will fight, particularly my cleverness. We two should have a great fight.”

Maybe Santiago is hinting that he will attempt to keep the fight at close quarters to take Nakatani’s height and reach advantage out of the equation.

Junto Nakatani is on the ascent. It’s always interesting when an elite fighter steps up in weight and instantly fights for a world title.

Junko Nakatani went to 25-0 on May 20 in Las Vegas

Nakatani grew his fanbase with this efficient showing.

It’s how great reputations are forged, and Nakatani is certainly tracking towards becoming a modern great.

“I am very motivated for this fight since this will be my first time going into a world championship bout as a challenger, fighting a world champion,” Nakatani told BoxingScene on February 16.

“I am very happy that I am able to immediately fight for my third division title. I think this fight will be one of the key fights that will build my career up for the future,” the Japanese boxer added as he highlighted the importance of winning Saturday’s fight.

With two confident fighters entering the ring expect fireworks in the main event. Nakatani should prevail.

By the time Santiago and Nakatani close the show we should have witnessed a memorable trio of world title fights staged at a distinguished combat sport venue. Tokyo and the boxers will put on a show this Saturday. Make sure you don’t miss it!

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.