Earlier today in Japan, former three-weight champ Kosei Tanaka returned to the ring for the first time since New Year’s Eve, when he was beaten for the first time, this by Kazuto Ioka.
Today, 26-year-old Tanaka edged countryman Sho Ishida over ten exciting, very evenly fought rounds in a junior-bantamweight clash to get the split decision win. Scores were 96-94, 96-95 for Tanaka, and 96-94 for Ishida. Tanaka is now 16-1(9). Ishida, who has never been stopped, falls to 29-3(15).
Tanaka, coming back, he hoped, to make a statement and showcase his news skills, was instead dragged into a tough fight. It was exciting, as it almost always is when Tanaka is in the ring, but it was too close for comfort – with some fans feeling Ishida did enough to have deserved the decision.
Ishida, the taller man with the longer reach, enjoyed a great start as he landed jabs and sharp punches. But Tanaka, a real warrior, battled back and once he got in close and was able to go to work it was a different story. Tanaka’s bodywork was effective and he certainly won his share of rounds.
The fight came down to how many of the early rounds one was willing to score for Ishida. In actual fact, a draw may have been the fairest result here. Tanaka had his chin tested, by Ishida’s left hand and by his right uppercut, and Tanaka’s hopes of achieving his goal of winning a belt at junior-bantamweight will not have been given much of a boost by today’s very hard fight.
Still, Tanaka got the win, as close as it was, and he may well have been suffering from some ring-rust having been out for a year. Then again, Ishida had also been out, since November of 2020, so this cannot really be used as an excuse.
The good news for Tanaka fans (this writer included) is the former champion is back, he is still hungry and he again gave us an exciting fight.
But has Tanaka peaked, even though he is still only 26 – or is the junior-bantamweight division simply a bridge too far for him? Basing things on today’s fight, it’s tough to see Tanaka beating any of the current champions at junior-bantamweight.