He began the year on the high of a great fight with Stamp Kiatniwat, who he stopped on December 31st 2016. Going into the New Year he looked like the de facto #1 Flyweight, and a man who looked set to have big fights. In April he went on to end the long winning run of Noknoi Sitthiprasert [นกน้อย ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] and their was serious talk about travelling to China to challenge the then WBO champion Zou Shiming [邹市明], in what would have been a huge fight for Asian boxing.
Whilst all looked good for Ioka in the world of boxing issues were arising outside of the ring as his father, Kazunori Ioka - pictured, critcised Ioka for his relationship with pop singer Nana Tanimura. Later in the year Ioka and Tanimura got married. The fighter would begin to show frustration with the relationship with his father, and promter, who seemed to be continually promising big fights, but not delivering on them.
Shiming would later lose the WBO title to the little known Sho Kimura [木村翔] and it seemed as if the loss of the title by Shiming was another issue that had frustrated Ioka,as he saw a massive fight fall through as a result of Shiming's defeat.
With tensions in the Ioka camp rising we began to see rumours emerge from Osaka in September suggesting that Kazuto Ioka, one of the biggest stars in Japanese boxing, was set to vacate the WBA Flyweight title, and potentially retire. That was happening whilst the WBA were ordering Ioka to takeon Ukrainian Artem Dalakian (15-0, 11) in a mandatory title defense.
In October it seemed like a deal was done, and Dalakian's promoter reported that a bout between their man and Ioka had been agreed for December 31st in Osaka. That however doesn't seem like it was ever actually agreed, and today Kazunori Ioka held a press conference, announcing that Kazuto had vacated the WBA title, citing a lack of preparation time.
At today's press conference Kazunori Ioka stated that his son had taken some personal time after the marriage in May. He saw Kazuto abouit 6 weeks ago and stated that as a parent and as a gym chairman he was decided that Kazuto wasn't going to be fit to fight. That extend as far as stating that Kazuto's future as a boxer is in oubt and that it down to Kazuto to decide whether or not he has the motivation to return or will be retiring, and if he choses to retire they will do a proper retirement ceremony for him.
Interestingly it was also revealed that Kazuto has moved to Tokyo, perhaps further distancing himself from his father. According to Kazunori his son would need 3 months to get into fighting shape.
Notably today's press conference was the first one form Japan to officially give any indication about the end of year bouts that will be taking place in the country. It confirms that Ioka will not be in action on December 31st, ending a run that began way back in 2011, and although other bouts are said to have been made it does leave the end of year run for Japanese boxing looking very different to recent years, which also featured former WBA Super Featherweight world champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) [内山 高志].
The Flyweight scene, which has really been put on notice by the rise of Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) [比嘉 大吾], is obvious set for a big shake up and it seems likely that Dalakian will now have to face Thai Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (47-3, 32) [ยอดมงคล ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] for the vacant title in the new year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)