Young Japanese star Kosei Tanaka has announced that he is vacating his WBO strawweight title to move up to junior flyweight on May 28, beginning the search for a second world title against Rene Patilano of the Philippines in Nagoya, Japan.
Tanaka (6-0, 3 KO) is a 20-year-old phenom of sorts, who won the vacant WBO 105-pound title last May, beating Julian Yedras by 12-round decision. He made a defense on New Year's Eve in Nagoya, struggling badly early against Vic Saludar before pulling out the exciting knockout victory. Tanaka was down twice in the fifth round, before he knocked out Saludar in the sixth.
Patilano (15-1-2, 7 KO) is a 24-year-old with the nickname "Mr. Nice Guy," who has a very empty record, facing only journeymen and club fighters in his career to date. This is more an exploratory fight at 108 pounds for Tanaka. There is a chance he could face WBO junior flyweight titleholder Donnie Nietes, considered by most the best fighter in the division, at some point in 2016, though Nietes has reportedly considered moving up in weight for a potential fight with one of the titleholders there. If that happens, Tanaka could find himself in a vacant title fighter soon, too, as titleholders moving up without losing are generally given preferential treatment, which to be fair isn't really unreasonable.