KOBE (Kyodo) WBC bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa will defend his title for the eighth time against top-ranked South African Vusi Malinga at Kobe World Memorial Hall on March 12, his Shinsei gym said Tuesday.

“It will be the first time in a long time that I fight in my hometown. I hope to celebrate wins with (Takahiro) Ao,” Hasegawa told a press conference, referring to the Japanese featherweight hopeful who will get his second shot at a world title on the same day in Tokyo.

Hasegawa won three title matches last year and has a 25-2 win-loss record with nine knockouts. Malinga is 18-2 with 11 KOs and a draw.

Ao will challenge WBC champion Oscar Larios, 32, again after losing a split decision to the Mexican world champion last October, his Teiken gym said Tuesday.

Ao holds a 16-1 record with eight knockouts and a draw, while Larios is 64-6 with 40 KOs and a draw.

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