By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 8th, a modern day legend makes his much anticipated return to the ring, as Kazuto Ioka ends his retirement to face McWilliams Arroyo, in the States, for the WBC Silver Super Flyweight Championship.
Kazuto Ioka (22-1 / 13 KOs) is without a doubt one of the best Japanese boxers of the last decade. He proved his worth quite early, back in his amateur days, amassing an impressive record of 95 wins in 105 bouts, including two All Japan championships, two Inter high school titles as well as a four time winner of the National Sports Festival Tournament, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sports event.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige (20-3*), in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa (19-2*), only 18 months after his debut.
In February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0*) for the WBC Minimumweight World Championship. Jaigrajang was champion for 4 years and had 6 title defenses under his belt. The Japanese hopeful went toe to toe with the veteran Thai champion, even knocking him down as early as in the second round and then once more in the sixth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age, the same age Masao Oba was when he won the world title for the first time as well. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete (18-1*) and Veerawut Yuthimitr (8-0*).
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi (15-2*). Their careers shared many similarities. Yaegashi was also an accomplished amateur, with a record of 56-14, and had also won the National Sports Festival Tournament, back in 2002. Both men brought their A game that night, knowing what was at stake. An epic back and forth affair, that brought the fans to their feet, ended with Ioka earning the unanimous decision and leaving Osaka with two world championships.
Having conquered the Minimumweight division, Ioka decided to move up a weight class and in just 6 months, he was the WBA Light Flyweight World Champion. He enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom (43-8*), former world champion Ekkawit Songnui (41-1*) and Felix Alvarado (18-0*), before debuting at the Flyweight division. Ioka tasted defeat for the first time as a pro when he failed to capture the IBF Flyweight World Championship from Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0*) in a very close encounter. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met each other at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an amateur boxing tournament held in Thailand.
Ioka came back even more determined, beating both Pablo Carrillo (15-2*) and former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7*), within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity to a Flyweight world title, this time against the WBA champion, Juan Carlos Reveco (35-1*). After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally came out a 3-division champion.
His reign as WBA Flyweight World Champion lasted 2 years, with title defenses over Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2*), a revenge fight against Juan Carlos Reveco which ended with a TKO this time, Keyvin Lara (18-1*), interim world champion Yutthana Kaensa (16-0*) and Nare Yianleang (62-4*). His 6th defense was scheduled to take place on December 31st of 2017 but due to getting married and reportedly falling out with his father and promoter, Kazunori Ioka, he chose to retire and vacate his belt, a move that surprised the boxing community. Fortunately though, Ioka is now coming back and faces no easy opponent in his return fight.
McWilliams Arroyo (17-3 / 14 KOs), much like Ioka, has had an extensive amateur career. He won the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championship, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt.
As a pro, Arroyo has repeatedly tested himself against much more experienced boxers, earning wins over world title contenders like Lorenzo Trejo, Luis Maldonado, Ronald Ramos, Victor Ruiz and Froilan Saludar and even beating former world champion Carlos Cuadras (36-2*), in his latest fight, winning the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title in the process. The Puerto Rican has also competed twice for the world title, with impressive showings against Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0*) and Roman Gonzalez (44-0*).
This fight will be a major stepping stone for both fighters. Ioka is currently ranked #2 by the WBA, whereas Arroyo is #3 in both the WBO and WBC rankings. Ioka is bent on becoming a 4-division champion while Arroyo is looking to finally win the big one. A win here can set either man at the top of the WBA/WBC/WBO with a promise of another world title opportunity. Will the Japanese Icon continue his winning ways or will the “ring rust” lead to his downfall ? This question will be answered at Superfly III.
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
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