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Kazuto Ioka vs Kosei Tanaka in the works for later this year

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Tanaka became Ioka’s mandatory challenger after a successful reign at 112 pounds

BOX-WBO-JPN-PUR Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

When the WBO initially ordered Kazuto Ioka to defend his super flyweight title against rising three-division champ Kosei Tanaka, Tanaka’s team initially hoped for their charge to take a tune-up and get accustomed to the new weight. According to Asian Boxing, that’s no longer the case thanks to the coronavirus, and the two sides are “close” to a deal to duke it out later this year. Reportedly, “the only thing yet to be agreed [is] the when and where.”

Tanaka (15-0, 9 KO) is quoted as wanting an audience for the bout, which, as the article mentions, could point towards it taking place on one of Japan’s customary New Year’s Eve events. Whatever the date turns out to be, mark it on your calendars.

Ioka (25-2, 14 KO) has enjoyed a similar career arc as his younger foe, winning titles at 105, 108, and 112 before unexpectedly retiring in 2017. He returned a year later to campaign at super flyweight, where, after a controversial loss to Donnie Nietes, he finally became a four-weight champion by stopping Aston Palicte in a vacant title fight. He was last seen beating mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron in December.

Tanaka cemented his status as one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters in his wars with Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. He made his second and third successful flyweight title defenses with a come-from-behind knockout of Jonathan Gonzalez and a three-round mauling of Wulan Tuolehaz on that same Ioka-Cintron card.

This is, irrespective of weight, one of the most potentially incredible fights on the immediate horizon. Let’s hope it comes together.