Former World Boxing Organization light flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka said Tuesday he will fight Filipino Ronnie Baldonado in a non-title bout on March 31 in Nagoya.
Tanaka, who relinquished his WBO crown last December in order to move up a weight class, will be making his first appearance at flyweight against Baldonado.
The match will also be his first since fracturing both eye sockets in a ninth-round technical knockout victory over Thailand’s Rangsan Chayanram last September in Osaka.
The injuries derailed plans for a domestic blockbuster bout between Tanaka and WBA light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi at the end of last year.
Tanaka, 22, said he had been sparring without any problems stemming from the injuries and was looking forward to competing at a heavier weight.
“I will perform better (at flyweight) than at light flyweight,” he said. “I chose to go up a class because it was difficult to keep weight off.”
Tanaka has a 10-0 record with six knockouts, while Baldonado is 10-0-1 (seven KOs).
Tanaka turned pro at the age of 18 in 2013. In November 2014, Tanaka defeated previously unbeaten Ryuji Hara by round 10 TKO to win the OPBF minimumweight title. In his next fight, Tanaka decisioned Julian Yedras (117-111, 117-111, 115-113) to win the WBO minimumweight title.
Tanaka holds the Japanese record for winning a world title in the fewest number of fights, at 5 fights. His only title defense at minimumweight came against Vic Saludar, whom he knocked out in round 6 after a left hook to the body.
In December 2016, Tanaka challenged former minimumweight title holder Moisés Fuentes for the WBO junior-flyweight title. Tanaka dominated Fuentes, dropping him in round 5 before referee Raul Caiz Jr stopped the fight, giving Tanaka a TKO victory.
After two defenses, Tanaka sought a unification bout against WBA titleholder Ryoichi Taguchi in December, injuries would prevent him from fighting on that date. Instead, Tanaka vacated the title and made a decision to move up.