By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On New Year’s Eve, we will witness a clash of 3 division World Champions, as Kazuto Ioka and Donnie Nietes will square off for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship, in Macau, China.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1/13 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.
Turned pro in 2009, he showcased his amateur pedigree as he dispatched world title contender Takashi Kunishige, in just his third fight. Ioka then went on to win the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title after he TKOed Masayoshi Segawa, only 18 months after his debut.
On February of 2011, Ioka’s first major test arrived when he challenged the unbeaten Kittipong Jaigrajang (35-0 at the time) 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 fifth, with a lethal left body blow, sealing the deal and becoming the world champion at only 21 years of age. Ioka defended his championship twice the same year, against Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Veerawut Yuthimitr.
On June 20 of 2012, he was involved in a unification bout with the WBA champion and fellow rising Japanese star, Akira Yaegashi. 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, 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 faced Jose Alfredo Rodriguez for the vacant WBA Light Flyweight World Title (Regular version). Rodriguez was the former interim WBA champion, with 28 wins and only 1 decision loss. The Japanese prodigy systematically picked him apart with body shots and hooks, dropping him thrice, for the win as well as for his second divisional world title reign.
Ioka enjoyed another long run with the belt, marking 3 successful defenses over Phissanu Chimsunthom, former world champion Ekkawit Songnui and Felix Alvarado (current IBF Light Flyweight World Champion). Since the Roman Gonzalez fight never took place (WBA Super champion) Ioka vacated his title and debuted in the Flyweight division, where he tasted defeat for the first time as a pro, as he failed to capture the IBF title from Amnat Ruenroeng, in a very evenly contested bout. Ironically, Ioka had lost again to Amnat in the past, back in their amateur days, when they met at the semi-finals of the 2008 King's Cup, an annual boxing tournament held in Thailand.
The 2 division world champion came back even more determined, beating Pablo Carrillo and knocking out former interim world champion Jean Piero Perez with a thunderous right straight, within the span of three months, thus earning another opportunity at a Flyweight World Title, this time against the WBA Regular champion, Juan Carlos Reveco. After 12 action packed rounds, the Japanese superstar finally became a 3 division champion. Since the fight was very close on the judges’ scorecards, a rematch was set on New Year’s Eve of 2015. As usual, Ioka’s body work was the key factor, stopping Reveco in the eleventh round, in what otherwise was once again a close call.
As WBA Flyweight World Champion, he made five successful title defenses, over the likes of Roberto Domingo Sosa, Juan Carlos Reveco (as mentioned above), Keyvin Lara, Yutthana Kaensa and Nare Yianleang. His toughest one had to be against Kaensa. The interim WBA World Champion, with a perfect record of 16-0, shocked everyone when he knocked Ioka down, with a fast right counter hook, in the second round. Ioka had never been dropped before in his pro career. Kaensa kept the pressure on for the majority of the fight, giving the champion a bigger challenge than he expected. The tables turned however as Ioka put the Thai boxer down with a liver shot in the seventh round and proceeded to finish him off by punishing his body even further.
His sixth 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.
Almost 17 months later, Ioka returned to active competition, this time at Super Flyweight and with a new goal in mind: to become a 4 division world champion. He immediately challenged McWilliams Arroyo for the WBC Silver Flyweight Title. Arroyo, much like Ioka, also had an extensive amateur career, winning the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, including victories over 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Yan Bartelemí and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Nyambayaryn Togstsogt. With no signs of ring-rust, the former multiple time world champion took control of the fight from the opening round and never let up. After 10 rounds and one knocked out in the third, the Japanese superstar was back on track. It’s worth mentioning that this was Ioka’s first fight in the U.S. as well as his first fight outside of Japan, as a pro. Now, only one man stands between him and his dream and that’s non other than fellow 3 division champion Donnie Nietes.
Donnie Nietes (41-1/23 KOs) a 15 year veteran of the sport, began his career back in 2003, amassing 21 wins in 25 fights (1 split decision loss and 3 draws) before challenging for his first world title. Nietes fought a 20-0 future WBA champion Somporn Seeta, for the vacant WBO Minimumweight World Championship, in 2007.
An action packed encounter, the Filipino was repeatedly nailing Seeta with body shots and uppercuts through out their match and even managed to drop him with a counter right hook in the fourth round. When the dust had settled, he was crowned the new world champion.
Nietes made four successful title defenses as Minimumweight champion, over Eddy Castro, Eric Ramirez, interim WBO champion Manuel Vargas and future IBF champion Mario Rodriguez, before challenging Ramon Garcia Hirales for the WBO Light Flyweight World Title. It was a smart play from Nietes that saw him consistently wearing Hirales down. The Mexican fought back for a while but, as the match progressed, he was too exhausted to do anything significant. In the end, “The Snake” was a 2 division world champion and embarked on a long championship reign that lasted almost 5 years, boasting an impressive number of nine defenses.
His biggest victories as Light Flyweight champion were against Moises Fuentes, Sammy Gutierrez, Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia. Specifically, he fought Fuentes twice during his run with the belt, as their initial meeting ended in a majority draw. Prior to their rematch, Nietes first dispatched former interim WBA Minimumweight and WBC Silver Light Flyweight champion Sammy Gutierrez.
The Filipino chased his opponent relentlessly, dropping him twice in just the opening round. Gutierrez tried to turn it to a brawl, but got cracked by a straight right punch to the chin. Fuentes, also a 2 division champion, got his shot again a year later but this time Nietes was far more aggressive than his was before, taking Fuentes by surprise and eventually knocking him out in the ninth. Compared to the previous bouts, the Francisco Rodriguez Jr. and Raul Garcia fights (former WBO & IBF Minimumweight World Champions) were slower and less exciting. At least in his match with Garcia, the pace gradually picked up and even scored two knockdowns.
In 2016, Nietes sought new opportunities as he moved up to Flyweight. His skills were put to test immediately as he faced former WBC Light Flyweight World Champion Edgar Sosa, for the vacant WBO Intercontinental title. Sosa, a well rounded veteran (52-11), had been a long time WBC International and Silver Flyweight champion, giving him the experience factor in this division. This didn’t hinder the Snake at all as he took the fight to the Mexican striker, throwing bombs and some sweet combinations in the last rounds that earned him a very wide unanimous decision and the strap.
About 8 months later, Nietes went up against Komgrich Nantapech for the vacant IBF Flyweight World Championship. Komgrich, despite being a “lesser” opponent, considering the level of competition Nietes had already faced, gave the Filipino a bigger fight than anticipated. His power and speed kept him into the fight until the last round, making him look good against a much better fighter than himself. In the end however, Nietes’ experience came to play, as he kept Nantapech at a safe distance, while peppering him with shots, scoring more on the judges’ scorecards. Once again, Nietes had his arm raised, as he was declared a 3 division champion.
Nietes’ one and only IBF title defense took place earlier this year, in America, when he stopped former WBA Flyweight World Champion Juan Carlos Reveco in the seventh round, after catching him with a right hook, followed by a flurry of body shots and then landing a devastating left uppercut. Reveco could barely stand on his own two feet, leaving his corner no choice but to throw in the towel.
This past September, Nietes had a chance to become a 4 division champion, in less than 2 years. His fight with top ranked Super Flyweight boxer Aston Palicte, for the vacant WBO belt, ended in a split decision draw, a decision that was questioned by many, since Nietes was way busier, landing more punches than Palicte, as well as more accurate ones. As faith would have it, Nietes will once again get another crack at the same price that unfairly escaped his grip, before the year is over, when he collides with Kazuto Ioka in Macau.
This is a fight of epic proportions. We are talking about two men that have been world champions for the majority of their careers, winning the gold in three different divisions. Their paths have been quite similar and an encounter was only inevitable. Ioka as well as Nietes are strong, intelligent fighters, with a tone of experience. Which one will have the edge here? Ioka is the more aggressive boxer, with a higher KO percentage, overall and in championship matches only. Nietes is the more conservative one, as he doesn’t go for the kill as often as his rival, but knows how to take his time and how to surgically pick his foes apart. Ioka’s excellent body work should be taken into consideration, as it has been his most important weapon through out his career. Nietes also likes to attack the body, creating openings so he can strike the head. The speed has to be on Ioka’s side. In spite of his long absence, his combinations were as fast and accurate as before he retired, whereas Nietes has slowed down a bit, as it was evident in the Nantapech bout. On the other hand, the experience sides with Nietes, as he has been involved in 47 matches in the past 15 years. All in all, this is clearly anyone’s game, which is the reason why this fight is so exciting. Who will leave Macau a Super Flyweight champion for the first time? Tune in on NYE to find out!
April 23rd is set to be a huge day in Asian boxing with two world title fights taking place in Osaka. One of those is a WBA Flyweight title fight, as Japanese icon Kazuto Ioka (21-1, 13) defends his title against massively experienced Thai veteran Noknoi Sitthiprasert (62-4, 38), who is on a 61 fight winning run at the moment!
Of the two men the more well known is Ioka. He's a former unified Minimumweight champion who is currently enjoying a world title reign in a third division. During his career he has scored a number of notable victories, including wins over Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Juan Carlos Reveco. In fact for a fighter with just 22 fights Ioka has a genuinely brilliant record, including a 13-1 (8) record in world fights.
Although a talented pure boxer Ioka has shown an ability to do pretty much anything in the ring, with a real expertise in body punching. At his best he's an out-side boxer, but he's one who can stand and trade in the trenches, as he did did brilliantly against Keyvin Lara, and can have a fire fight when he needs to. Defensively he's criminally under-rated and has filled out in to a very strong Flyweight. It's worth noting that fighters can shut him down with calculated pressure, and he was seriously shaken up last time out by Stamp Kiatniwat, who dropped him, but he has real grit and determination.
At times it looked like Ioka was going to struggle to make an impact at Flyweight and in his first bout at the weight he was out boxed and out muscled by Amnat Ruenroeng. Since then however he has developed into a fully fledged Flyweight and very few fighters at the weight will match him for power, speed and physical strength.
When we talk about great winning runs we talk about the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Rocky Marciano, who both ended their careers unbeaten, along with the likes of Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson and Julio Cesar Chavez. What all those fighters have in common, other than an impressive winning run, is some wins of real quality. The same cannot be said of Noknoi who has scored 61 straight wins, but none of huge significance. In fact during his 66 fight career his best win is likely to be his 2013 win against Kenichi Horikawa, a good fight but a Japanese domestic level one at best.
Not only is the 61 fight winning run impressive on paper in terms of it's number but also it's date, with Noknoi's last loss coming back in March 2005. Sadly though he has shown little signs of having become a world class fighter. He's still relatively basic and does nothing out of the ordinary, in fact it's barely even fair to say he's “ordinary” in terms of what he's shown so far. Many of his opponents have been dire and Noknoi has simply been a bottom feeder, with his management really getting the dregs of the regional scene for him. Despite being 30 years old and a professional for more than 14 years he really hasn't been made to develop his skills or show any real progression in terms of what he can do in the ring.
Sadly for Noknoi his team's almost fraudulent record padding will be exposed here. The skills he has learned and develop simply won't be enough to keep Ioka honest. Instead of being a test Noknoi will be a human punching bag for Ioka, who will tag the Thai at will, and will likely secure a stoppage in the middle rounds of the bout. Likely without having any problems at all.
For Ioka a win would be his 5th defense of the title and could set up some interesting match ups against the likes of Zou Shiming, Takuya Kogawa, Andrew Selby Toshiyuki Igarashi or even Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Ir would also see him become just the second Japanese male to win 14 world title fights, tying equal with Yoko Gushiken! For Noknoi a loss could force him into retirement, or could see his team continue to pad one of the most paper thin records in the sport today.
The boxing calender has several key dates on it that we all mark off at the start of the year. One of those is the “Golden Week” where Japanese fight fans get several notable shows over the space of a week, another is Cinco de Mayo, another is in Mid-September and a final one comes at the end of the year, where we have a tradition of big fights in Japan. Part of that end of year tradition is the huge TBS show which is headlined by Osakan star Kazuto Ioka (20-1, 12) who returns for his 5th year ending bout this year, and takes on unbeaten Thai Stamp Kiatniwat (15-0, 6), AKA Yutthana Kaensa, in a bout for Ioka's WBA Flyweight title. For Ioka the bout is a chance to extend his reign and his dominance of the end of year boxing TV ratings whilst Stamp will get his first shot at a regular title having held the interim belt for a little over a year.
Ioka really is a star of Japanese boxing. He's the face of the Osakan boxing scene and is a man who has been a star from the very early stages of his professional career, building on a solid amateur background. In just his 6th bout he claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title before setting a then Japanese record by winning a world title in his 7th bout, stopping the then unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Since beating Oleydong, for the WBC Minimumweight title, we have seen Ioka unify titles, adding the WBA title to his WBC belt at 105lbs, and claim world titles at both 108lbs and 112lbs, becoming the “quickest” fight to become a 3-weight champion in just 18 bouts!
Whilst Ioka isn't a flawless fighter, and looks set to be over-shadowed by the emerging talent of Naoya Inoue, he is a very rounded fighter who has added things to his game through out his career and grown into a fully fledged Flyweight. Early in his career he was a boxer though has shown an ability to brawl when he needs to, to counter punch when he wants to and fight in various styles. One constant through his career however has been his body shots which have finished off numerous opponents through his career and appears to a staple of his in ring mentality. Those body shot are thrown both as singles and as part of combinations and it's really when he gets those combinations going that he looks like a special fighter.
Although at first we did question Ioka's move to Flyweight, and he did appear to struggle with the weight to begin with, he has now matured into a very strong 112lb fighter and is seemingly the stand out fighter in the division, with the division currently under-going a major transitional period. A win here would further strengthen his standing in the sport and will potentially open up some big bouts for 2017.
Whilst Ioka is a star of Japanese boxing it seems like Thai boxing had been trying to push Stamp Kiatniwat as a future star of Thai boxing. He debuted at the prodigious age of 15 and looked like a natural talent as he picked up a series of wins against fellow novices. Those wins built some hype and momentum in 2013 and 2014 before Stamp took on, and defeated, former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng in August 2014. That win really put Stamp on the radar for international fans of the lower weights and got some really excited about his potential.
Sadly since beating Kwanthai we've not really seen Stamp develop into a star despite winning the interim PABA and WBA Flyweight titles, with two razor thin wins over Gregorio Lebron to win and retain the “Interim” WBA crown. In both of those bouts Stamp seemed like the bigger single puncher hitter but looked like a scared child at times against an aggressive and hard working Lebron who forced the action and hurt the youngster. In some ways they were character building bouts for Stamp but the reality is they showed he wasn't the star in the making that his promoter had hoped he'd become.
Whilst Stamp did show some early potential we really see this as being a massive mismatch and give him no chance at all against Ioka who will likely look for a stoppage in the middle rounds, almost certainly with a body shot. Stamp can hit harder than his record indicates but we'd be amazed to see him do anything to back up Ioka who will look in control from the opening seconds to the eventual stoppage. Hopefully in 2017 bouts with the likes of Takuya Kogawa, Daigo Higa, Donnie Nietes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and McWillians Arroyo will come to fruition for Ioka who now needs some big names on his record given how unspectacular 2016 has been for him.
The Flyweight division is, and has long been, one of the sports most interesting divisions. It has one of the richest histories of any division in the sport and also has one of the best currents scenes with fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Johnriel Casimero and Kazuto Ioka all widely regarded as being among the best. The depth however is where it really impresses with fighters like Amnat Ruenroeng, Brian Vicloria, Moruti Mthalane, Juan Carlos Reveco, Daigo Higa, Joebert Alvarez, Takuya Kogawa and McWillians Arroyo all being very credible contenders. Even lower down the pecking order at “prospect” level we have fighters like Iwan Zoda, KJ Cataraja, Charlie Edwards and Andrew Selby.
This coming Wednesday we get to see the next intriguing bout in the division, as WBA champion Ioka (19-1, 1) returns to the ring to make the third defense his title. In the opposite corner will be once beaten challenger Keyvin Lara (18-1-1, 6), who comes into the bout on an 18 fight winning streak.
Ioka, as mentioned above, is regarded as one of the divisional elite. The 27 year old 3-weight world champion has long been regarded as one of the hottest fighters in Japan and has an impressive resume to back that up. He won the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout, stopping the then unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai, he unified titles at Minimumweight, beating the brilliant Akira Yaegashi, he moved up and claimed the WBA Light Flyweight title, in just his 11th bout, before becoming a 3-weight world champion last year with a victory over Juan Carlos Reveco.
The most notable thing about Ioka over the 2 years isn't his achievement in the ring but his physical development. Back in May 2014 he suffered his sole defeat, a decision defeat to the then IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng. In that bout Ioka looked under-sized and under-powered, like a very small Flyweight. Last time out however he bullied Juan Carlos Reveco, stopping the Argentinian veteran in the 11th round following a performance that had excellent moments from the Japanese fighter.
Sadly a lot of Ioka performances have not so good moments. Against Reveco last December it seemed like Ioka was the bigger, more powerful, better skilled and physically stronger fighter. At times however he also looked like the lazier, less hungry fighter and gave rounds away essentially doing nothing rounds. Sadly this laziness has been an issue through his career and it's something that could potentially cost him in the future. If, however, he can fight to his best for 12 rounds, there aren't many fighters at Flyweight who will beat him.
When we talk about Lara he's much, much less well known than the Osakan champion The Nicaraguan youngster has been a professional for less than 4 years and now, aged 21, is looking to make a mark on the world stage in a big way. This didn't seem likely given his inauspicious start to the professional ranks, which featured a loss on debut and a draw in his second bout, but 18 straight wins on the local scene, including 1 in Panama, have helped Lara move towards a potential world title fight.
Although Lara hasn't fought on major international TV he has had many of his bouts posted online, courtesy of Prodesa boxing, From the footage that is available Lara is a hard working fighter who has fast hands and throws plenty of punches, but appears to lack in many other areas. His power is certainly nothing startling, his footwork is flat and clumsy, his defence is porous, and although he has some nice shots in his arsenal his performances don't suggest future world champion any time soon, especially not in the stacked Flyweight division.
In many ways Lara appears to be getting thrown to the wolves here. He has had no bouts on the fringes of world class, no bouts outside of Latin America, no previous bouts for 12 rounds and no bouts against anyone of any note. He may have impressed in the gym, he may have been a star in sparring but in the ring he looks like a man who should be a very long way from a world title fight.
We'll be honest, Ioka has long been criticised for some of his opponent choices. That will again be the case here after he beats Lara, likely by mid round stoppage. There is nothing in Lara's locked that should worry Ioka, who should have the bout his own way from start to end.
Japanese fans get the chance to watch 5 world title bouts on New Year's Eve this year. Whilst some of those bouts are very unappealing, and are actually quite terrible looking mismatches, there is one bout that has us genuinely excited and expecting something very competitive and exciting.
That bout an a rematch between WBA Flyweight title Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) and the man he beat for that title earlier this year, Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19).
The two men first faced off back in April when Ioka claimed a majority decision over Reveco to become the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight champion, following fellow Osakan fighter Koki Kameda. The first bout was a very competitive one and although all 3 judges were from neutral countries the view from many was that Ioka had gotten lucky. That view seemed to be shared by the WBA who demanded that the two men rematch, which they will do just 8 months after their first bout.
Coming in to this rematch both men will be looking to make a statement with Ioka looking to prove that it was him, and not the judges, that decided the previous bout, whilst Reveco will be looking to avenge his loss to Ioka.
Whilst both fighters will be driven they will also be looking to improve on their previous performance. In terms of improvement we can certainly areas where Ioka will have improved. Firstly we suspect he will have filled into the Flyweight division that bit better than he was when the two men first met. We understand that 8 months isn't a long time but this is the second bout since Ioka won the title and those two training camps will have helped him fill out his body. As for Reveco the 32 year old is racing away from his prime years and he may well be on the slide physically, albeit on marginally on the slide.
We know that Ioka has spent a lot of time working on a game plan to beat Reveco more clearly. That has seen him working a lot on combinations in training and he's stated that he'll be switching between head and body regularly whilst trying to stop Reveco. It was combinations and speed in the first bout that saw Ioka claiming rounds against the heavier handed but slower Reveco, who had his best success when the pace slowed down. If Reveco can neutralise the combinations then he'll take the win here however if Ioka can land those combinations there is little doubting he'll get the win, even if he can't stop Reveco.
For Ioka, who will be cheered on by the crowd, he needs to remember not to have a war with Reveco. Instead he needs to stick to his boxing, he is faster, he is taller and rangier, and he is the better mover. If he can stick to a disciplined gameplan it's hard to see Reveco beating him. Reveco however will look to use his defense to slip inside and go to work, where his strength and power will take it's toll.
Our prediction is that this is going to be another close one, though we suspect it will be less close and less debatable than the first with Ioka doing enough to take a clear, but close decision win, with out having “rounds off” like he had in their first bout.
Japanese boxing has a number of stars who are huge news in their homeland. One of the biggest is 26 year old Osakan fighter Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10), who has won titles in 3 divisions and proven to be one of the biggest attractions in the lower weight classes.
On September 27th we'll see Ioka return to the ring as he looks to make the first defense of his WBA Flyweight title. In the other corner will be Argentinian challenger Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14).
Ioka first came to the attention of international boxing fans back in 2011 when he claimed the first of his world titles, the WBC Minimumweight title. That was in Ioka's 7th professional bout and it saw him conquering the long time champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai. The win was a break out win for the youngster, though those in Japan knew he was a talented youngster given that he had been matched hard from debut and been following in the footsteps of his uncle, Hiroki Ioka.
Ioka's early rise saw him defending his first world title twice before he unified titles at Minimumweight, with a win over compatriot Akira Yaegashi. He later went on to claim a Light Flyweight title, that he defended 3 times. In 2014 he finally made a move up to the exciting Flyweight division though came up short in his first title bout there, losing a decision to Amnat Ruenroeng in a bout for the IBF title. Since that loss he has won 3 in a row, including a decision last time out against Juan Carlos Reveco to claim the WBA Flyweight title.
At his best Ioka is an excellent boxer who excels at mind range where he can use his speed and skills. He was, clearly out, sped and out muscled by Ruenroeng, who is of course an enigma to fight at the best of times. Other than that loss however he has been proven to be a world class boxer who can hold his own in an up close fight if need be. His greatest offensive weapon is his straight right hand to the body, which has seen off numerous foes. At Flyweight however he does look a little light-weight and looks like he could be over-powered by a number of the divisions top fighters. Although just 26 years old he looks like he has already found his divisional ceiling.
Whilst Ioka is a recognised world level fighter the same cannot be said of Sosa, despite a few notable wins on his record.
The Argentinian fighter began his career back in 2006 and ran up 24 straight wins, including a very notable decision victory over South African fighter Zolani Tete. The Tete bout was an IBF world title eliminator and is, still, the biggest win on his record. Unfortunately since then he has gone 2-2-1 with losses to Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, in an IBF title fight, and the little known Diego Luis Pichardo Liriano, who beat him last November. As well as those two set backs he was also held to a draw against Javier Nicolas Chacon. Despite that run of form the WBA have allowed him to fight for a world title.
Footage of Sosa shows that he's nothing special. He may hold a victory over Tete but that result seemed to say more about the judging than Sosa's ability, which seemed distinctly average despite the fact he did show some guts, especially late, to turn the fight around and claim the narrow win. He looks to be a battler and one who is very difficult to discourage, but ability wise there is little that stands out other than his will to win and toughness.
Whilst he's technically not outstanding Sosa is a fighter who has carved out his career at Super Flyweight and will, as a result, have significant size and strength advantages over Ioka. That could be his key advantage here, though could also be an issue for the visitor who has only weighed in as a Flyweight once in his previous 29 bouts. Incidentally he has only fought outside of Argentina once, his loss to Sanchez in 2013.
On paper this looks like it could be a tough test for Ioka who will actually need to be at his best to over-come the determined Sosa. If Ioka looks to have a fight with Argentinian he could in trouble given the natural size difference between the two men, and the fact Ioka still doesn't look like a fully fledged Flyweight. Saying that however Ioka should be able to box and move, avoid a slug-fest and take a decision victory.
We suspect that Ioka wins “comfortably” on the cards but is given some really tough moments when Sosa does cut the distance and gets to him. Those moments however will serve as a warning to Ioka and put him back on the right track.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In recent months Japanese boxing has been enamoured with the prodigious talent of Naoya Inoue, the new wonder child of Japanese boxing. Prior to Naoya's emergence as such an outstanding young fighter the Japanese boxing world was celebrating the exceptional talent of Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) another young, talented and ambitious young man who was creeping on to the fringes of the pound-for-pound lists.
Ioka, like Inoue, was making his name from very early in his career. He became a Japanese national champion in just his 6th bout before winning a world title in his 7th contest, setting a then new Japanese national record.
The combination of boxing ability, power, speed, and natural intuition in the ring all made Ioka look like a star of the future. A man who was a world champion seemed like to be much more.
Around 16 months after winning his first world title Ioka unified the WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles by defeating Akira Yaegashi. It was just his 10th bout but it was clear that Ioka was something special, even if you did feel he was a little bit lucky to actually get the decision over Yaegashi.
Rather than stay at Minimumweight Ioka set his sights on bigger challenges and quickly moved up to capture a Light Flyweight title. As the WBA Light Flyweight champion Ioka defended the belt 3 times with only Felix Alvarado giving him any kind of a fight.
Now Ioka's attention turns to the Flyweight division where he will attempt to claim the IBF title and become just the second Japanese fighter to be a 3-weight world champion. In the opposite corner to Ioka will be former amateur rival Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0,5) who notably beat Ioka in the 2008 King's Cup in Bangkok.
Whilst Ioka is one of the best in Japan and is a man on a march through the divisions Amnat is a man who is looking for redemption and is proof of what boxing can do to help reform someone. He has gone from prisoner at the dregs of society to a world champion, a hero for his people and a man representing Thailand at the highest level in his sport.
Amnat hasn't had the life of Ioka. He wasn't groomed to be a boxing star following in his uncles footsteps, he wasn't paid vast sums at a young age to become a world champion. Instead Amnat has had to fight hard to get to where he is. He had to turn around his life to go from criminal to boxing champion.
Whilst some will criticise the way in which the Thai won the IBF Flyweight title, taking a decision over Filipino veteran Rocky Fuentes for the vacant belt which had been stripped from Moruti Mthalane, few will criticise his ambition to become a world champion despite starting his professional journey aged 32.
Thanks to Thai promotional outfit Amnat has been able to quickly rise through the ranks and claim a world title, a belt he'll be defending for the first time when he faces Ioka in what looks almost certain to be the toughest bout of his career so far.
Interestingly whilst the men have had different journey's to get to where they are they are relatively similar in their traits. Both are technically good boxers, both are fast, often much faster than their rivals, and both seem to like having space to work with. Unfortunately for the Thai it's where they are different in the ring that we feel this bout will be won and lost.
Amnat hasn't really got much in terms of power or experience. He has done 12 rounds thrice but only the one against Fuentes was really fought at anything close to world level and for that bout Amnat won based on his style and home advantage as opposed to his world class skills. Fuentes was slower than Amnat, less energetic and easier to tag, it made life easy for Amnat to rack up some early rounds and use Funetes's pressure against him. In the middle rounds however Amnat did appear to be feeling the pace and altered his tactics to include less offensive work and more movement. The change helped him take a decision at home though likely wouldn't fair as well on the road.
Quick with his hands and his feet Amnat is a good boxer but here he's facing someone equally as fast though with a lot more to his boxing. Ioka can can box with his speed, he can fight an inside war, as shown in his performance with Alvarado, he can go 12 rounds at a high pace, but most importantly he can take guys out. Ioka's body shots are amongst the best in boxing and when they land opponents know about it, they start to slow and and become sluggish. We expect those body shots to be the difference here with Ioka slowly breaking down the champion who by round 8 or 9 will be looking very uncomfortable before folding soon afterwards.
We imagine that this will look like a game of high speed chess early on but Ioka will take over as the bout develops and come out on top having had a very strong middle section of the fight. His stronger over-all game and his youth will be too much for the much older champion.
(Images: Top courtesy of Boxmob.jp, bottom courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)
(Video below courtesy of Kiatkreerin.com)
Just under 3 years ago a young unbeaten Japanese fighter shocked the international boxing public by dethroning the long reigning Thai Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Although Oleydong was struggling with 105lb weight limit few, outside of Japan, had given the then 6-0 Kazuto Ioka more than a slim chance to claim the WBC Minimumweight title. As we all know though Ioka would stop Oleydong and claim the world title.
Since beating Oleydong back in February 2011 Ioka (now 13-0, 9) has become one of the dominant fighters in the lower weight divisions. He has unified the WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles and moved up to Light Flyweight where he immediately captured the WBA title.
This New Years Eve see's Ioka, fighting for the third successive year on December 31st, attempt to make the 3rd and possibly final defense of his Light Flyweight.
Following back to back victories against limited but experienced Thai's Ioka is now expected to face a genuine test as he battles Nicaragua's unbeaten Felix Alvarado (18-0, 15). It may not be the Nicaraguan we all hoped Ioka would get in to the ring with this year, he's certainly in for a tough night to end the year.
Ioka, since claiming the WBA Light Flyweight title on New Years Eve 2012 has looked very impressive. He took apart Wisanu Kokietgym back in May before stopping an out classed Kwanthai Sithmorseng in September. Those fights however were against men who really didn't deserve a world title fight despite having a combined record of 86-9-3, neither was great and in fact neither was expected to test Ioka in any way at all.
In Alvarado however we have someone who looks like a bit of a monster. Alvarado is offensively minded, strong and comes to fight. If you try and stand off against Alvarado he is happy to walk you down, show you angles and then unload heavy shots in your direction. It's not always the smoothest of work but it's proven to be effective as he switches from head to body in an attempt to beat up his opponents.
Whilst Alvarado can be out boxed and can be made to look basic by some fighters, only 2 men have ever gotten close to beating him. Arnoldo Solano, who lost a disputed majority decision to Alvarado, and Eliecer Quezada, who lost by a very narrow unanimous decision.
The worrying thing for Alvarado is inexperience. Yes he has more fights than Ioka but his 18 fights to date have only accounted for 51 professional rounds. Less than 3 a fight. Alvarado has gone 10 rounds just once, and has only gone beyond 3 rounds thrice. With 7 opening round KO's and 15 KO's inside 3 rounds he's been used to getting opponents out early but when he's gone beyond 6 he has struggled with pacing.
Ioka, with just 13 fights, has already gotten 96 rounds under his belt which is more than 7 rounds a fight. He has also gone 12 rounds twice and 10 or more rounds on 4 occasions, including his memorable encounter with Akira Yaegashi. That is quality experience and something that gives Ioka a real edge here.
Although less of an offensive machine Ioka is wonderfully skilled with the ability to go forward, box off the back foot and pick his shots at will. He's one of those fighters who always appears to have that little bit of extra time and he uses it to great effect with one of the most beautiful straight right to the body in the sport today. He's not a monster puncher but he is a very clean puncher and his shots, from the jab to the uppercut are all delivered excellently.
Going in to this fight the key is who will be able to dictate the early tempo. If Alvarado can get on to the inside this could be a real war for 3 rounds with both men forced to take hard shots. If Ioka is still standing after 3 rounds however it's going to be very hard for Alvarado to get a victory with Ioka drowning him. Those first 3 rounds are the key for Alvarado.
If Ioka can control the pace and distance for 3 rounds with his jab and movement he'll wear Alvarado down in the second half of the fight before finishing the Nicaraguan, probably with a body shot. Whilst the first 3 rounds are the key for Alvarado we tend to think that the following 3 are the key for Ioka. If the Japanese fighter is still standing after 3 then rounds 5 and 6 particularly will see him taking over the fight.
It's the fact we have 2 very different scenario's that make this so interesting. One thing is for sure though, we'd be very shocked if this goes 12.
Interestingly the story coming out of Japan is that Ioka will be stepping up to Flyweight next year. The strong rumour is that he will be targeting WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi in what could potentially be another FOTY contender, like their first was in 2012. That would see this title becoming vacant, if Ioka is successful. With a number of fighters already wanting to get their hands on the belt including Naoya Inoue and Ioka's stablemate Ryo Miyazaki we may well see several great bouts coming as a result of this one.
For those wanting to tune in to this bout, it'll be on TBS in Japan and there is also talk about it being televised in Alvarado's homeland of Nicaragua. Unfortunately, once again, no Europe or American channel appear to have picked this up.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Traditionally Japanese fighters have fared badly in Thailand whilst Thai's have been able to have plenty of success in Japan. In fact several Thai fighters in recent years, including Tepparith Kokiet Gym, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam have all enjoyed notable success in Japan
Unbeaten Japanese youngster Kazuto Ioka (12-0, 8) however seems to love fighting Thai fighters. He made his name originally by stopping Oleydong Sithsamerchai back in February 2011 and has since beat more 2 Thai's in his subsequent 5 title bouts, including Wisanu Kokietgym last time out.
In fact in the 12 fight career of Ioka, he has a record of 4-0 (4) against Thai's, not bad for such a young fighter.
He'll be attempting to move that ledger against Thai's to 5-0 on September 11th as he battles former WBA Minimumweight champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng (43-1-1, 22) in what looks, at least on paper to be a very well made match up against a highly ranked WBA fighter.
Although inexperienced as a professional Ioka has been one of the most aggressively matched fighters in the sport. His amateur record of 95-10 (64) shows he's more experienced as a fighter than his professional record may illustrate and the fact that his trainer, and uncle, is Hiroka Ioka, a former 2-weight world champion shows his pedigree.
Ioka may only have a dozen professional bouts to his name but he's a bona fide world level fighter with 6 victories in world title bouts, including notable victories over Oleydong and Akira Yaegashi. In fact in terms of rounds fought 45 of his career 89 rounds in world title bouts showing that whilst professionally somewhat inexperienced he's gotten valuable top level experience.
In terms of his fighting style Ioka has a "non-Japanese" style. He's not a tough man fighter but instead a boxer-puncher. He's capable of fighting a firefight, as he showed against Yaegashi, though at his best he's a boxer with a clever ability to control range and a vicious right hand to the body, a shot with which he's making himself a reputation with.
With 45 fights on his ledger you'd have expected Kwanthai to have been mixing in and around world level for at least a handful of them, especially considering he was a world champion himself. Sadly his world title experience is much less than that of Ioka, with a record in world title fights of 1-1, consisting of just 21 combined rounds.
Although Kwanthai is inexperienced at the world level his 45 fight experienced is genuine in it's own right, especially when you consider many of those bouts have been fought for the PABA Minimumweight title, a title he has held twice. Although the PABA title is prestigious it's fair to say that Kwanthai hasn't been defending against top competition with his best PABA defenses coming against fighters like Jack Amisa and Ricky Manufoe.
At his very best the 29 year old Thai is certainly a capable fighter, his victory for the WBA Minimumweight title over compatriot Pigmy Kokietgym. Though in all honesty a "capable" fighter is probably all he really is and he was fortunate to be fighting in an era with several world titles out there.
With a stoppage loss on his record to Indonesian Muhammad Rachman from a body shot, we find it hard to imagine Kwanthai seeing out the 12 round with Ioka, especially given Ioka's body punching prowess. If Kwanthai isn't taken out with a body blow we really can't see him managing to out work or out box Ioka either.
Despite the large experience edge for Kwanthai it'd be a shock to see him managing to do really much more than becoming #5 on Ioka's list of Thai victims
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
WBA "Regular" champion Kazuto Ioka (11-0, 7) has been one of sensational success stories of Japanese backing over the past few years. Not only was he an out standing amateur but he's proven to be an incredible professional as well.
In the unpaid ranks Ioka (pictured opposite) ran up an impressive 95-10 (64) record and since turning professional he has been a sensation.
In just his 7th professional bout Ioka dethroned the reigning WBC Minimumweight champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai who had entered the ring unbeaten in 36. Not long after claiming a world title the youngster unified it with the WBA title due to an historic victory over Akira Yaegahsi in what was the first ever all Japanese unification bout.
Following the victory over Yaegashi the growing Ioka moved up to Light Flyweight and immediately claimed the vacant WBA Light Flyweight title thanks to a stoppage over Jose Alfredo Rodriguez.
The 24 year old Japanese fighter may only have 80 professional rounds under his belt but to date his record has been excellent and so are his skills. He's shown a sharp jab, excellent movement, good toughness (despite being dropped by Indonesian veteran Heri Amol early in his career) and one of the best body attacks in the sport. Despite his young years and relative inexperience he's already looking like an experienced fighter who knows what's needed and when he needs it.
In the first defense of his Light Flyweight world title Ioka will face Thai southpaw Wisanu Kokietgym (43-8-2, 13) who despite his wealth of experience is only 29 himself.
Have made his professional debut way in 2001 Kokietgym and been in over 50 professional contests it should come as no surprise that he has been in over 300 professional rounds, though unfortunately for the Thai many of those have been against weak opposition. The better opponents that the Thai has faced, for example Z Gorres and Nethra Sasiprapa, have beaten him, and so to have some of the weaker opponents.
For a man with almost 50 wins it may sound odd to say this but Kokietgym's record really is very weak. His best wins have come against fighters who are now widely considered Asian journeymen such as Ricky Manufoe, Jack Amisa and Sammy Hagler. This is a big problem when facing someone like Ioka who is a huge step up from anyone Kokietgym has faced so far.
In the ring Kokietgym is somewhat wild and his left hand often looks wide and slow giving opponents a big chance to shoot down the middle. Although he appears to have a nice jab it's certainly under-utilised as is his body attack. He lacks the power to keep a fighter like Ioka honest and with his weak defense it'll be a shock if he sees his way beyond the middle rounds.
Ioka might not (yet) be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in Asia but in terms of potential the kid is amongst the very best, it'll take a special fighter to defeat him and Kokietgym isn't a special fighter.
With this looking like little more than a stay busy defense for Ioka, there is hope that he will fit 2 more fights in this year, possibly one with Roman Gonzalez in what would have to go down as a genuine "super fight"
In preparation for this bout we've featured the full fight of Ioka v Oleydong Sithsamerchai below, the bout that put Ioka on to the world stage. This video is thanks to jackyle11787.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.