Junto Nakatani will not waste any time in his bid to become a three-division titlist.
The rail thin WBO junior bantamweight titlist is off to bantamweight, where he will challenge reigning WBC title holder Alexandro Santiago. Their intriguing matchup is confirmed to headline a February 24 title fight tripleheader on Amazon Prime-Japan from the famed Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan.
Teiken Promotions and Amazon confirmed the show on Thursday afternoon in Tokyo. A U.S. platform was not mentioned during the announcement, though it is believed that the show will air on ESPN+.
The show—which will air on ESPN+ in the U.S.—will also include the rescheduled Takuma Inoue-Jerwin Ancajas WBA bantamweight title fight. The final of the three title clashes sees Nakatani’s recently vacated WBO junior bantamweight title at stake between Kosei Tanaka and Mexicali’s Christian Bacasegua.
Nakatani (26-0, 19KOs) previously teased a move up in weight, shortly after he became a two-division titlist with a highlight reel 12th round knockout of Andrew Moloney this past May in Las Vegas. The 5’7 ½” southpaw was always on borrowed time at the lower weights, particularly at flyweight where he held the WBO title for nearly two years.
His junior bantamweight reign ends after just two title fights—the knockout over Moloney and his September 18 decision win over two-time title challenger Argi Cortes at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
Santiago (28-3-5, 14KOs) claimed his title at the right time as the streaking bantamweight has hit the jackpot. He hit paydirt in a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over former four-division champion Nonito Donaire on July 29 in Las Vegas to claim the WBC bantamweight title.
The bout versus Nakatani will mark the first outside the Americas for Tijuana’s Santiago, who has won his last four starts.
Inoue (18-1, 4KOs) aims to make the first defense of his title in the evening’s co-feature.
This bout was originally due to take place on November 15, only for Inoue—the younger brother of four-division champion and pound-for-pound entrant Nayoa Inoue—to suffer a rib injury and postpone the event.
Ancajas (34-3-2, 23KOs) returned to the win column with a fifth-round knockout of Wilner Soto on June 24 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The feat ended a two-fight losing skid, both at the hands of Argentina’s Fernando Martinez who claimed the IBF junior bantamweight title and subsequently defended both in separate unanimous decision wins over the 31-year-old southpaw from Panabo City, Philippines.
The confidence-restoring win over Soto was enough for Ancajas—who is promoted by Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions—to magically appear in the WBA bantamweight rankings in time to enter talks for a fight versus Inoue.
Tanaka (19-1, 11KOs) will get a second chance to become a four-division titlist. His previous attempt ended in his lone career defeat, a one-sided eighth-round knockout at the hands of countryman Kazuto Ioka on New Year’s Eve 2020.
Four straight wins have followed for the 28-year-old who hails from Nagoya.
Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9KOs) has won nine in a row as he fights outside of Mexico for the first time in his career. The first-time title hopeful takes a sizable leap in competition as he makes the trip with Santiago. Both are promoted by Paco Damian’s Paco Presents company.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox