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.