By Thomas Gerbasi

On paper, it may look easy. Three titles in three weight classes in 12 fights, all at the age of 23. But that’s not the way it’s gone for Kosei Tanaka, who had visited the deck twice and gone through hell with Rangsan Chayanram en route to his perfect record. And that was all before he earned that third title and 12th win on September 24.

He should have expected 12 rounds of hell when he was matched against WBO flyweight champion Sho Kimura. And if he didn’t, he got it anyway, with the result being BoxingScene’s 2018 Fight of the Year.

Like the 2006 Fight of the Year between Somsak Sithchatchawal and Mayhar Monshipour, this was one for the diehards, the folks who have no problem getting up at four in the morning to watch a prizefight. Often, that dedication goes unrewarded. In this case, it was worth any lost sleep as two fighters in different segments of their careers combined for a special bout that was a reminder of all that is good in the sport.

With the surprisingly raucous crowd at Takeda Teva Ocean Arena in Nagoya firmly in the corner of their unbeaten local hero, Tanaka tried to set the tone early with rapid-fire jabs and quick combinations. Kimura, despite having just 21 pro bouts at the age of 30, is the definition of grizzled vet, and he tried to make it a fight, digging in with body punches as the two stood in the pocket.

The pocket was where the fight stayed for most of the 12 rounds. No battles in the corner or along the ropes, virtually no need for referee Mark Nelson to get involved. Tanaka and Kimura were determined to take care of their own business, clinches replaced by forehead to forehead breaks where they briefly recharged for the next exchange.

And though Tanaka held the edge early on, even staggering Kimura late in the second round, Kimura refused to give ground, and he just kept throwing punches. The grind suited Kimura, while Tanaka tried different approaches to keep his foe at bay. In the fourth, the hometown favorite sat down on his punches, and swelling began to show on the champion’s face, but he was undeterred.

A look at Tanaka between rounds saw a young man who knew he was in a fight, and with several frames to go, it had to be a daunting prospect to know his night was far from over. Yet by round six, Tanaka made the adjustments he needed to, and with lateral movement and slick defense, he found the formula he needed to surge ahead, and entering the championship rounds, he was comfortably ahead.

But championship rounds are presumably when champions show their mettle, and Kimura fought like someone who had no intention of giving his title away. In the 12th, the two teed off on each other with right hands, followed by an emptying of the tank by Kimura, who would ultimately lose his belt by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 114-114.

It wasn’t Gatti-Ward or Corrales-Castillo in terms of action. The drama was subtle, not obvious. But those who appreciate John Coltrane over Cardi B understood that Tanaka-Kimura was boxing at its best.


Jarrett Hurd-Erislandy Lara
The drama in this unification bout was evident, as it took a 12th round knockdown by Hurd to earn him the split decision win in a fight that confirmed Hurd as the kind of fighter that can make a fight with any opponent exciting.

Murat Gassiev-Yuniel Dorticos
The beauty of the World Boxing Super Series was fights like this one, pitting two unbeatens against each other in a tournament format. Gassiev ultimately put himself in the final against Aleksandr Usyk, but not before getting pushed to the limit by Dorticos until three knockdowns in the last round gave Gassiev the win.

Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin 2
Rematches rarely surpass the original, but Alvarez’ redemptive win over Golovkin after the controversy of the previous year was a fight worth celebrating as the two best middleweights in the world sat in the pocket and played a brand of violent chess that thrilled fans around the globe, even those that didn’t agree with the decision.

Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz
The first gut check of Wilder’s career wasn’t Tyson Fury, but Ortiz, who gave the still raw WBC champion all he could handle in March before “The Bronze Bomber” went back to his old reliable power to end the fight with a pair of knockdowns in the tenth round.

Vasyl Lomachenko-Jorge Linares
High-level from start to finish, Lomachenko passed his stiffest test with style, rising from the canvas in the sixth round to halt Linares in the tenth stanza.

Alex Saucedo-Lenny Zappavigna
Saucedo appeared to be cruising to a victory in front of his hometown fans in Oklahoma City in June, dropping game, but seemingly outgunned Lenny Z in the third round. Then Zappavigna hurt and nearly stopped Saucedo in the fourth, and all of a sudden, an instant classic was born, one ultimately won by Saucedo via seventh-round TKO.–135093


Emanuel Steward & Wladimir Klitschko

By:  Pedro Fernandez –


San Francisco, CA– Nothing is more intimidating than “size” when it comes to heavyweights.  While I rate Larry Holmes #1 historically, the “Easton Assassin” might end up being displaced by current WBO & linear champion Wladimir Klitschko as the Ukrainian native has amassed an almost unequaled status in 17 years of boxing. And before anybody pitches a bitch about opposition, you can’t here as the younger Klitschko brother has beaten everybody put in front of him with “gusto,” but only after the late Emanuel Steward taught Wlad how to fight.


It was just last month in Budapest, Hungary, at the WBO’s 26th Boxing Congress where I announced Wladimir as the “WBO Fighter of The Year,” an award WBO President Francisco Valcarcel will give to him prior to this Saturday’s bout in Moscow against unbeaten Russian Alexander Povetkin. It truly is a fitting honor seeing Wladimir is now 60-3 with 50 guys leaving the ring earlier than they had hoped.  A professional since winning Olympic Gold in 1996, Wlad has had went 19-2 in WBO title fights alone. With the expected win over Povetkin Saturday, Wlad will be eclipsing Larry Holmes’ 19 defenses of the linear title, which is second only to Joe Louis’ magic number of 25.


As alluded to in paragraph one, the 6’7 Klitschko, younger brother of WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko, fights tall and with his height, reach, conditioning and longevity, may in fact be the greatest heavyweight champion in history.  Seeing I tend to rate the “retired,” the still active Klitschko brothers won’t be given their final rating until it is all said and done.


When I watched him early on with the late Kronk Gym Goldfather Emanuel Steward, like the 2004 DaVaryll Williamson fight in Las Vegas, Klitschko, not the confident fighter he is today, was instead a bit apprehensive with the former US amateur stand out and got dropped.  There is no way I thought that Wlad, then in his eighth year as a professional would improve to the point where I’d be saying that at the end of his day, might be the greatest heavyweight champion in history.


The people that rap Wladimir say he was drilled thrice, the initial time by Ross Puritty, whom he ran out of gas against. The losses to Lamon (Don’t call him Lamont) Brewster and the late Corrie Sanders were two occasions where Wlad was slightly unfocused and got hit with punches he didn’t see incoming. The improvement, again credit goes to Emanuel Steward, will surely be in play Saturday when he hammers Povetkin at will until the fight is stopped somewhere before round nine.