In the final world title bout of 2019 we saw WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) make his first defense. After the bout there was 3 names linked to him, and whilst one of those is now looking less and less likely, it is an interesting point in Ioka's career, especially if the rumours of him going independent and setting up his own gym turn out to be true. If he does that it would essentially give him the chance to call the shots on his career in a way that was never previously possible, and give him full flexibility in terms of match making.
With that in mind Ioka seems the perfect fighter for the first "Five For" of 2020!
1-Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27)
The main Ioka has publicly stated is his ideal opponent is Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada, the current WBC Super Flyweight champion and a former WBO and WBA Flyweight champion. The two do have some history, with Ioka being the mandatory back when Estrada was a Flyweight champion, before the Mexican vacated to pursue Super Flyweight action. They also have rather similar styles, with both being technical and adaptable fighters. Estrada is the more pure boxer of the two, but both are fantastic, and have found ways to adapt to over-come naturally bigger fighters. Despite being technicians both are happy to let their hands go and this would be amazing high speed chess.
2-Roman Gonzalez (48-2, 40)
Another name mentioned by Ioka in a recent article is Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez, who like Ioka is a 4-weight world champion having won titles from 105lbs to 115lbs. Although now seen as a faded force Gonzalez is still one of the biggest names in the lower weights and recently returned to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 5 years. Various reports from Japan suggested that Gonalez's fight on December 23rd was designed to help build this potential show down, and it's one that would certainly be a big fight, still. The two have circled each other for years, but never shared the ring, and it would be a great shame if we don't get to see them face off at some point. In his prime we suspect Gonzalez would have been too much for Ioka, but with Gonzalez slipping, this would be a real test to see what he has left in the tank.
3-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In the lead up to the New Year's Eve show this year there had been a lot of talk in Japan about Kazuto Ioka potentially facing WBO Flyweight Kosei Tanaka in 2020, with Tanaka moving up to Super Flyweigth for the bout. The talk of that has quietened a bit since, with Tanaka suggesting he was happy to remain at Flyweight for now. The bout certainly isn't dead in the water, but it does seem likely the two men will continue on different trajectories, at least for now. Despite that the bout is a brilliant all-Japanese bout pitting two of TBS's top fighters against each other in what would be a sensational high speed fight. The reality is that it's "bad" for Japanese boxing, particularly for TBS, though it would be good for fans. If this one waits a year or two we don't think many would complain, as long as both face fitting competition.
4-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
If Ioka is going to go with his own gym and does want a unification bout it wouldn't be a bad idea to do that by working with Bob Arum and taking on IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. The Filipino is known in Japanese fighting circles due to wins over Teiru Kinoshita and Ryuichi Funai, he's also a man who had ESPN broadcasting his fights, and would likely be an easier unification fight to make than facing off with Kal Yafai. Technically this would be an interesting fight, where both are against skilled fighters and both would enter the bout with belief they could walk away a double champion. Notably however Ancajas does have a mandatory due in 2020 against Israel Gonzalez, who earned his shot with a recent win over Ioka's former stablemate Sho Ishida.
5-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
We want the best to fight the best right? Then pitting Ioka and Srisaket is about as good as it gets, with the exception of the Estrada fight. Ioka would be taking on the single most dangerous man of his career, and Srisaket would be getting a chance to become a 3-time world champion. This would be skills against power, speed against strengths, body punching against bludgeoning punching. It's a real shame that Srisaket hasn't fought since losing to Estrada in April 2019, and to return against Ioka would be perfect. Given how it seems Eddie Hearn is already bored with the Thai there is a real chance this could take place in Japan and continue the long and stories Japan Vs Thailand rivalry as well. Double it up with Tanaka against a Thai in a wonderful double header and fans would be in with a treat!
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).