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.
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.