Kosei Tanaka has been presented with a new path in a bid to become a four-division titlist.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the IBF aims to order a title eliminator between Japan’s Tanaka and Mexico’s Willibaldo Garcia Perez. The two boxers—who are ranked number three and four, respectively, in the IBF 115-pound ratings—were given a 72-hour period to confirm their availability for a fight to determine the mandatory challenger to current IBF junior bantamweight title holder Fernando ‘Puma’ Martinez.
“In an effort to determine who the mandatory challenger will be, the IBF is ordering an elimination bout between Kosei Tanaka and Willibaldo Garcia Perez for the number 1 position,” IBF Championship Committee chairman Carlos Ortiz stated to the promoters for both boxers in a letter obtained by Boxing Scene. “The winner will be #1 and the mandatory challenger.
“Within 3 days of September 27, 2023 or no later than September 30, 2023 you should contact this office in writing advising your availability. In the event we do not hear from you in writing by 5 PM EST on September 30, 2023 we will assume that you do not wish to participate in this eliminator process and proceed down the list of rankings to the next available contender.”
Tanaka is guided by Mr. Kiyoshi Hatanaka of Hatanaka Promotions. Garcia is represented by Pedro Moran’s Big Star Boxing.
The ordered title fight places Argentina’s Martinez (16-0. 9KOs) in the voluntary phase of his title reign. The unbeaten boxer won the belt in a twelve-round decision over long-reigning champ Jerwin Ancajas last February. His first defense was a repeat and even more dominant win over the Filipino in their rematch last October before he disposed of the Philippines’ Jade Bornea via eleventh-round knockout in their June 26 mandatory title fight.
Tanaka (19-1, 11KOs) previously held WBO titles at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight. His September 2018 points win over Sho Kimura was regarded among the very best fights of the year and he also posted wins over former or current titlists Vic Saludar, Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta (16-0 at the time), Ryoichi Taguchi, Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez and the late Moises Fuentes as he emerged as a pound-for-pound threat.
A bid to become a four-division titlist ended with his lone career defeat. Tanaka suffered a stunningly one-sided seventh-round knockout to countryman and future Hall of Famer Kazuto Ioka in their New Year’s Eve 2020 WBO junior bantamweight title fight in Tokyo. Four wins have followed, including a tenth-round stoppage of Pedro Carrillo on May 23 in his hometown of Nagoya, Japan.
Garcia (20-5-1, 12KOs) does not boast a glossy record though two of his losses have come versus fighters who went on to win major titles.
The 33-year-old Mexican contender from Copala, Guerrero has won eight in a row since a June 2021 defeat to England’s Paul Butler, a former IBF bantamweight titlist at the time who won the WBO belt one fight later. Among his current stretch of victories is an eighth-round knockout of Marion Rios on April 22 with an IBF regional title at stake to advance in the rankings and into contention.
Garcia also dropped a September 2020 majority decision to countryman Alexandro Santiago, who went on to win and currently holds the WBC bantamweight title.
Per IBF Rule 9(c), neither boxer is permitted to enter another bout once the sanctioning body assigns them to a title fight or eliminator. Refusal to participate in the negotiation period or the fight itself will result in a demotion within the rankings and a minimum of six (6) months before said boxer will be eligible to fight in an IBF-sanctioned contest.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox