• Kyodo


After having his Olympic debut on home soil delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese flyweight Ryomei Tanaka is looking at the postponement of the Tokyo Games as an opportunity.

The older brother of three-weight professional world champion Kosei Tanaka, southpaw Ryomei plans to use the additional 12 months of preparation time to get physically stronger while expanding his repertoire in his bid for Olympic glory.

Originally from Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, Ryomei, 26, and Kosei, 24, have followed separate paths since the younger — and, so far more accomplished — brother turned pro in 2013.

But after the Olympic postponement was announced in March, Ryomei asked to join Kosei at his training base in Nagoya, as the brothers looked to help each other stay focused during a crisis that has thrown the entire sports world into uncertainty.

While the Hatanaka Gym to which Kosei belongs is closed to the public during a nationwide state of emergency, the two have been working out there with a small team under their father, boxing trainer Hitoshi.

Ryomei, who earned Olympic selection despite a first-round exit at the Asia and Oceania qualifiers in March, is trying to remodel his fighting technique after realizing his current style, with an emphasis on defense, "lacked variety and explosive power."

He is now training in "the exact opposite style," working on becoming a more offensive boxer while building up his lower body to pack a stronger punch.

"My prospects of winning a medal next year are much higher than they would have been (had the games been held) three months from now," Ryomei said.

Following a successful defense of his World Boxing Organization flyweight belt in December, Kosei had been preparing to conquer a fourth weight class before the coronavirus brought the sport to a standstill.

The orthodox fighter with a 15-0 professional record revealed he felt "unable to improve his motivation" after disbanding his camp. Reconnecting with his sibling, however, has given him renewed focus, he said.

Seeing his older brother's drive for Olympic success had strengthened Kosei's resolve to improve.

"When we're together, the feeling is completely different to when we're apart," Kosei said. "When we train together, I feel inspired."

Though undertaking a different training regime, the professional, like his amateur brother, has the same goals of "never leaving myself open" and "maintaining concentration for all three minutes" of a round.

While his older brother has a clear-cut target of Olympic gold, Kosei says he is striving toward "keeping my body in shape by maintaining the mindset of a professional boxer."

Although the future remains clouded with uncertainty, the brothers' focus on helping each other prepare to return to the ring is now as sharp as ever.

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