The year 2020 continues to make things challenging due to COVID-19 and boxing has been extremely busy trying to finish the year strong. There have been some major PPVs, some still coming up and a Canelo fight on DAZN.
A “fight of the year” on paper will take place in Japan on December 31st. That night will feature WBO Super Flyweight Champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2) going up against Kosei Tanaka (15-0).
Last year, Kosei Tanaka flew to the U.S where he visited Las Vegas and Southern California gyms in an effort to get quality sparring from fighters in those regions. I was able to catch up with him while he was here and introduced him to all of the Nyfights.com readers. (Click HERE for that article)
Fast forward to a year later and Kosei Tanaka is headlining one of the biggest boxing events in Japan on New Year’s Eve. This is a tremendous fight that hardcore boxing fans have been eagerly anticipating. The result of this fight will lead to even bigger fights at the Super Flyweight Division for the next year or two.
With such a significant fight coming up, I checked in with the twenty-five-year-old Tanaka right before he gets really deep into training camp and locks in.
(Coordination and translation of questions & answers was provided by Kosei Tanaka’s manager Yosuke Andre Ueda)
AG: In our last interview, you flew to L.A to get some good sparring in at the Maywood Boxing Gym. Shortly after, you faced Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1) and knocked him out in three rounds. Did you see or feel a difference in that December fight after getting some quality sparring here in the U.S?
KT: It was a really great experience of sparring in L.A. and L.V. for the first time. I was actually spirited to work in unfamiliar circumstances.
AG: Shortly after that fight, COVID hit everywhere around the world. How did the pandemic effect those living in Japan?
KT: People seemed at a loss in the unprecedented situation. Of course, the economy was down, and some were in trouble to make a living. The gym where I train regularly was closed for one or two months, so I could not train freely, time was limited.
AG: During the time where your country was trying to get a grip on the pandemic, what did you do to stay busy?
KT: During this unusual time period, I was thinking seriously about what I have to do as a top boxer, and what I really want to be. Actually, it was a good chance for me to think of my way and future. Then, I figure, I want to challenge whatever in front of me, I won't miss any chance.
AG: You are fighting on New Year’s Eve in Japan. New Year’s Eve is largely celebrated in the states. It looks as though historically, it is celebrated there just as big while also hosting a boxing event. Can you please explain the significance of fighting on New Year’s Eve? Why is it so important to get on the card on that date?
KT: Boxing events on New Year’s Eve is huge and now our tradition. I believe that is the day that this sport gets the best attention in a year. When I fight there, that means I have to do my best to entertain people. That will be my job this time.
AG: You are facing WBO Super Flyweight Champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2) on December 31st. This is by far the biggest challenge of your career. What is your mindset coming into this fight? Are you flying in sparring partners or utilizing the fighters that reside in Japan?
KT: I am sure this is a life changing fight for me. I have no choice but victory. I will get ready for this with sparring domestic quality boxers.
AG: For those that have never seen you fight… If they can get to watch you in December, what should they expect to see?
KT: I would like people to see my prominent speed and also my will to dominate the opponent to finish it up.
AG: If successful against Ioka, you will become the fastest fighter in history to 4 championships in 4 different weight classes. How important is that to you and was that the purpose of taking this fight as your next one?
KT: I won the world titles at three weight divisions within 12 pro fights, which ties the world record of Lomachenko. Now I will make the record to win the fourth one, and keep making it in fifth, sixth, etc.
AG: The pandemic slowed things down for a lot of fighters. In 2021, are we going to finally see the arrival of Kosei Tanaka in the States? Also, barring any major cuts, would you want to return in the first quarter of the year?
KT: I really want to fight in the U.S. Hoping for a chance in 2021.
AG: If you had your choice of champions to face next and knowing that “Gallo” Estrada and “Chocolatito” Gonzalez are going to potentially be unavailable, who would it be?
KT: I want to face Estrada!
AG: Where can they follow you on Social Media?
My Three Cents: “The Super Fight at Super Fly”
This is such a tremendous matchup that I would really be surprised if no one picks it up here domestically. A win for Tanaka puts him in the record books and gives him the type of clout that makes his U.S debut that much bigger. As mouthwatering a fight with any of the champions at SuperFly beckons, but he has to take care of Ioka first, which isn’t guaranteed.
Kosei Tanaka has the boxing IQ and skills to really be a great champion for years to come. He outgrew the flyweight division and as a Super Flyweight is looking to make his presence known.
If this fight doesn’t get picked up by a network, try your best to find a stream that will broadcast it. If you don’t, you may miss out on a classic.