In an action-packed slugfest that will be a contender for fight of the year, Kosei Tanaka won a majority decision to take a flyweight world title from Japanese countryman Sho Kimura on Monday at the Takeda Teva Ocean Arena in Nagoya, Japan.
Tanaka won 116-112 and 115-113 on two scorecards, while the third judge scored the fight 114-114.
Tanaka (12-0, 7 KOs), 23, who previously won world titles at strawweight and junior flyweight, claimed a belt in a third weight division in just his 12th professional bout. That tied the all-time boxing record for fewest bouts needed to win titles in three divisions, set May 12 when reigning pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko, who had won belts at featherweight and junior lightweight, moved up to lightweight and knocked out Jorge Linares in the 10th round to claim a lightweight world title. Tanaka vacated his junior flyweight belt to move up to flyweight, where he debuted with a victory March 31 to set the stage for his title shot against Kimura (17-2-2, 10 KOs), 29, who was making his third title defense.
The fight began with Tanaka and Kimura meeting in the center of the ring and blasting away at each other, and the action rarely relented as they traded bombs throughout the fight.
It was a fierce fight all the way, with Tanaka rocking Kimura late in the second round. They took turns landing power punches in rounds that were quite close. Both showed tremendous chins to take the force of each other's clean shots.
But by the eighth round, Tanaka's punches were visibly taking their toll as Kimura's right eye was swollen nearly shut. With Kimura's vision seemingly impaired, Tanaka took command in the final few rounds of the fight, but Kimura was relentless, pushing forward in a valiant effort to get the knockout.
There were grueling toe-to-toe exchanges over the final two rounds as they emptied their tanks, but in the end it was Tanaka, whose right eye sported a giant welt under it late in the fight, who edged the decision and made history.