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IBF orders Kosei Tanaka vs Willibaldo Garcia final eliminator

Kosei Tanaka is 4-0 since falling to Kazuto Ioka in 2020

BOX-WBO-JPN-CHN Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images
Patrick Stumberg is a freelance writer for SB Nation, first joining the network in 2011 before linking up with Bad Left Hook in 2015.

Nearly three years after a destructive loss to Kazuto Ioka halted his multi-weight warpath, Kosei Tanaka is one fight away from re-entering title contention. Julius Julianis reports that the IBF has ordered Tanaka to face Willibaldo Garcia in a super flyweight final eliminator that would put the winner in line to challenge Fernando Martinez.

A torrid five-year stretch, starting with just his fifth pro bout, saw Tanaka (19-1, 11 KO) win and defend titles at 105, 108, and 112 before running afoul of Ioka in a bid for four-weight glory. Though he’s stayed out of the Superfly spotlight since, he’s picked up some decent wins over the likes of Sho Ishida, Masayoshi Hashizume, and Yanga Sigqibo.

Mexico’s Garcia (20-5-1, 12 KO) is better than his record suggests; four of his five defeats were split/majority decisions and his only losses since a 1-3 (1 NC) pro start came against Alexandro Santiago and Paul Butler. We know he’s got the grit and skill to fight through heavy adversity, making him a genuinely interesting test for Tanaka.

It’s a good fight on its own merits and the prospect of Tanaka subsequently facing the all-action “Pumita” is tantalizing. Let’s hope negotiations go smoothly and we see the two square off on one of Japan’s year-end extravaganzas.

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