Saturday, June 22, 2024  |


Kosei Tanaka wants to make a statement in his comeback bout against Sho Ishida

Fighters Network

The last time we saw Kosei Tanaka inside a boxing ring he was sounded defeated by Kazuto Ioka in eight rounds in his bid to become a four-weight world champion.

The loss was devastating and left Tanaka with a lot to ponder. He has made changes to his style and also team ahead of his return against former world title challenger Sho Ishida at the International Conference Hall, Nagoya, Japan on Saturday.

“I lost to Kazuto Ioka while putting everything I had been doing into the fight,” Tanaka (15-1, 9 knockouts) told The Ring through Hank Hakoda. “Honestly, I lost my confidence and naturally felt that I had to change my boxing. Without my world title and my motivation, I totally got stuck on what to do next for a while.

“I decided to take a step by incorporating new boxing that I had never tried before into my training. Working closely with new trainer Daisuke Murata, who replaced my father, gives me new advice.

“My biggest assets have been solid offense based on my gifted speed. We dared to seal some of my strengths up and adopted a drastic approach to seek and acquired a new boxing style that would be enough to win even without those. During my absence from the ring for about a year, I spent a lot of time on developing new skills such as my guard, distance, overall fight composition, in addition to the basics and ring generalship. Under such new environments and new attempts, I was making progress and change day-by-day, which eventually got me a new motivation to move on.”

The 26-year-old could have looked to test the waters with a more limited opponent but that has never been Tanaka’s way.

“There is no point in tune-up fights, and I do not need it at all,” said the former three-weight world champion. “Tuning-up should be done in the training session, not in the real fights. Sho Ishida, the No. 5 IBF contender with high skills, is the best possible choice for me in the current limited situation where it is not easy to invite world-class fighters from abroad.

“Although I have fought only once at junior bantamweight, I have to win against him to go for the world title shot again. Knowing he may be one of the strongest compatriots in this weight division. He is less dangerous than world champions in this division anyway. I am confident that I have fully developed my skills to clear this bout. In a nutshell, Ishida is a reasonably-fit opponent for my purpose in many ways now.”

Tanaka, who has diligently trained at home in Nagoya and also enjoyed some high-class sparring with pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue, intends to use his newfound skills against his compatriot to great effect.

“All the doors in front of me suddenly closed after my defeat last year, but I want to open it up again by beating Ishida,” he said. “It means a lot if I beat the taller and bigger Ishida by showcasing my new skills, such as ring generalship based on tactical maneuvers, without relying too much on my offense and speed.

“I will dare to fight in the new style against him to prove how much I have upgraded as a fighter, by picking up my own pace against a difficult fighter like Ishida. Returning from my one-year hiatus, I won’t be satisfied with a mere win over him, but I am being highly particular about the process to make it happen.

“My best scenario is that I take my time to build up the game and then knock him out eventually.”

Tanaka still has world championship aspirations, although he appreciates it will be difficult in the talent-laden junior bantamweight division.

“My ultimate goal is to be a four-division champion by earning a junior bantamweight belt,” he said. “I am eager to reach there as soon as possible. I know all the junior bantamweight titleholders are not easy to cope with, I am still willing to fight any of them whenever I get a chance.”

Ishida (29-2, 15 KOs) turned professional in 2009. The Osaka resident won his first 16 fights before unseating Japanese national champion Yohei Tobe (UD 10). He went on to notch five successful defenses before stepping up and losing a WBA 115-pound title fight against Kal Yafai (UD 12). He returned with four wins before losing an IBF eliminator against Israel Gonzalez (SD 12). The 30-year-old has got back in the win column, though he also hasn’t fought for a year.

Our correspondent Hank Hakoda coordinated and translated this feature.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter@AnsonWainwright