In the wake of Naoya Inoue’s emphatic decimation of Mexico’s super bantamweight old-guard Luis Nery, Japan has displayed on the world stage that it is the epicentre of the lower weight divisions.

More-so than ever before, Japanese fighters have been establishing themselves at the pinnacle, highlighting the sheer pedigree of the small island nation. Amongst the flurry of fighters and brouhaha of brawlers, there is one name that has been criminally undervalued.

This fighter, a super flyweight talent, shares accolades on the level of Vasyl Lomachenko; they both share the record for the shortest amount of time taken to become a three-weight world champion. An impressive feat, one largely neglected by the boxing establishment.

This fighter goes under the name of Kosei Tanaka (20-1), a 28 year old resident of Nagoya, Japan. Despite having Legg-Calve-Perthe disease, Tanaka would excel as an amateur boxer. ‘Dream Boy’, as he is sometimes referred to, would compete in the light flyweight division at this time, where he would earn himself numerous accolades within the national and regional scenes.

Sources are conflicted on his actual amateur record, with some stating that it stood at 46-5, whilst Boxrec only has eight officially listed bouts. Either way, what is known is that Tanaka was an excellent prospect; he was not stopped in his amateur career.

In 2013, at the young age of 18, Tanaka would hit the professional ranks with minimumweight force, picking up two unanimous decision wins before a crucial knockout of 17-7-2 Crison Omayao would put him on the radar in the Japanese scene.

It would also put him on the map of the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation Minimumweight champion; at the time 18-0 Ryuji Hara. Tanaka would put on a fine display in his first 12 round bout, securing a TKO finish in the 10th round in a highly contentious, busy bout. It was Tanaka’s willingness entering the second half of the rumble that would secure him the prestigious OPBF belt in only his fourth fight.

In only his next fight, the impressive ‘Dream Boy’ would morph into the ‘Monster of Chukyo’ one can see today, as he would challenge WBO World Minimumweight champion Julian Yedras, then 24-1. Tanaka would shatter the record established by the more famous ‘Monster’, Naoya Inoue, as Yedras would have his gold torn from him by Tanaka, earning a world title in the fewest amount of fights, in a bout that showcased his winning skill.

Overcoming a knock-down from Filipino Vic Saludar, Tanaka would knockout the crafty Saludar one round later. Moving up to light flyweight, it would only take Tanaka one stoppage victory to adjust to the weight, then making a play for the WBO World Light Flyweight belt; which had been vacant since Donnie Nietes left it to pursue higher weight classes.

His opponent would be Mexican warrior Moises Fuentes, whom Tanaka would brutally dominate, despite the determination of the spirited ‘Moy’. Tanaka would drop Fuentes in round five and he could simply not recover from there, holding up until the referee would waive the bout in favour of Tanaka.

For his first defence, the spry Japanese champion would face Angel Acosta, a challenge who had ended all 16 of his previous bouts via knockout. Tanaka, however, proved too willing for the Puerto Rican to handle and, despite the fight being scored highly in favour of Tanaka, it proved to be an exciting bout, with Acosta having moments.

Yet another TKO for Tanaka, against 14-1 Palangpol CP Freshmart, would prepare him for better pastures – or, at least, higher pastures; he would move up in weight once more, establishing himself as a flyweight with a ninth round stoppage over Ronnie Baldonado.

His 12th bout would be one for the history books. In an act only carried out once before by amateur genius and professional technician Vasyl Lomachenko, Tanaka would earn the WBO World Flyweight title in a hard-fought battle with fellow Japanese talent Sho Kimura; who had travelled across Thailand and China to hone his practice.

With a majority decision win to his name, as well as a more historic record, Tanaka would make two dramatic defences of his title, before coming up against the biggest challenge of his career thus far; the surging Japanese prodigy Kazuto Ioka.

On the closing day of 2020, the two men would go to war in Ota-City General Gymnasium, for Ioka’s WBO trinket. Ioka, at this point in his career, was seasoned and versatile.

In an all-action bout, the two ring-technicians would engage in gloved warfare, in a bout that was determined to not go the distance. And, that was the case.

In the eighth round of the championship fight, Ioka, despite being peppered with hard-hitting shots from Tanaka, was quicker to counter. With one single jolt, Tanaka was caught significantly, stuttering on his feet. The stoppage was swift; almost too swift, yet, Tanaka would suffer the first – and only – loss of his career.

Tanaka’s venture into the fourth weight class of his career had faltered in a way not too dissimilar to Ioka’s uncle, Hiroki Ioka. Yet, much like the elder Ioka, Tanaka was not deterred. And, unlike the elder Ioka, luck would be on the side of the Japanese ‘Dream’.

Collecting the WBO Asia Pacific title with a fifth round TKO of Masayoshi Hashizume, undefeated in 21 bouts at the time, Tanaka would put in diligent performances at the Asia Pacific level to stabilise himself within the rankings at super flyweight.

On the undercard of Alexandro Santiago versus Junto Nakatani, Tanaka would be yet another Japanese fighter on the roster to prove victorious; winning the vacant WBO World Super Flyweight title against Christian Bacasegua Rangel, with the Mexican ‘Rocky’ succumbing to a unanimous decision.

And, his ambitions have yet to stop.

So, in consideration of his nicknames, Tanaka is a fighter that could bare the names ‘Dream Boy’ and ‘Monster of Chukyo’ in equal measure; he is a boxer of multitudes, one who will only keep going.


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