By Jake Donovan
Kosei Tanaka’s incredible rise to stardom continues.
The unbeaten three-division titlist successfully lodged the second defense of his flyweight title after stopping Puerto Rico’s Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez in seven rounds Saturday evening at Takeda Teva Ocean Arena in Tanaka’s hometown of Nagoya, Japan.
Tanaka rose from a 4th round knockdown to score four of his own, including his thrice flooring Gonzalez in the fateful seventh round.
The very venue hosted Tanaka’s record-tying flyweight title win over Sho Kimura in the 2018 Fight of the Year last September. His gutty 12-round win to claim the belt put him alongside Vasiliy Lomachenko in the record books for winning titles in three weight divisions within the fewest amount of pro fights.
Just one defense has since followed, a 12-round decision over former 108-pound titlist Ryoichi Taguchi. In Gonzalez, Tanaka (14-0, 7KOs) had a durable Puerto Rican southpaw who didn’t show any fear in fighting on the road for his first career title fight.
Tanaka enjoyed every in-ring advantage along with being the taller fighter and the more accurate puncher. Playing to such strengths produced a convincing round two win after having previously found the elusive Gonzalez (22-3-1, 13KOs) a frustrating target to pin down.
By round three, the defending titlist had his opponent’s timing down altogether.
Gonzalez attempted to continue offering lateral movement—at times flat out moving out of harm’s way—but was eventually forced to stand his ground. Tanaka effectively worked behind his jab to neutralize Gonzalez, enabling the unbeaten 24-year old to cut off the ring and commit more to his power punches. It paid off in a big way, landing a long right hand to the midsection of Gonzalez, who immediately went to a knee for the first knockdown of the bout.
As was the case in the evening’s chief support—where Tanaka stablemate Kento Hatanaka floored Jaysever Abcede in round three only to hit the deck himself in round four—Tanaka suddenly found himself following the same exact trend. Nearly three full minutes after getting dropped, Gonzalez returned the favor while bailing himself out of trouble in the process. A counter left hand behind the ear sent Tanaka to the deck just prior to the end of round four.
The local hero beat the count but looked worse for the wear throughout round five, the frame ending with his breathing heavy and offensive attack suddenly slowed.
Gonzalez’s confidence increasingly grew, constantly beating Tanaka to the punch in rounds five and six while offering enough lateral movement to befuddle his foe. Tanaka spent much of the middle rounds plodding forward, his jab virtually nonexistent while seemingly confused in how to slow down his once again elusive target.
Then came the second half the fight.
Tanaka reclaimed momentum, walking through Gonzalez’s flicking shots to corner the Boricua southpaw. It produced his second scored knockdown of the night, all courtesy of raking body shots.
Gonzalez beat the count but was clearly on the slide by that point. Constant movement and grunting with every punch disappeared in an instant, as Tanaka plowed forward with every intention of closing the show. Two more knockdowns did just that, the last of which saw Gonzalez rise to his feet just before the bell but deemed finished for the night by referee Celestino Ruiz.
The official time was 2:59 of round seven.
However much longer Tanaka remains at flyweight remains to be seen. There have been talks of his eventually moving up in weight, as he will closely monitor the progress of the mandatory super flyweight title fight between countryman and defending titlist Kazuto Ioka and Puerto Rico’s unbeaten Jeyvier Cintron.
A win by Ioka could set up an historic collision by the time the two meet presumably in early 2020. Tanaka will gun for a title in his fourth weight division—Ioka currently the only male boxer ever from Japan to have accomplished that feat. Such a win by Tanaka would enter him in the record books as the quickest to do so, although for now he will gladly settle for being a top flyweight and a rising pound-for-pound entrant.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox