Earlier today we saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion champion being crowned, as Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] put together one of his best performances to date, and stopped Filipino foe Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21) in 10 rounds. The win saw Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight champion, and only the second Japanese fighter to win world titles over 4 weights following Naoko Fujioka.
The two men had both looked great during their walk ins. Palicte looked calm but confident whilst Ioka, flanked by Japanese hip-hop artist AK69, looked determined and as if he was arriving for his destiny.
From the opening moments there was two things that were clear. One was a purely physical thing, Palicte dwarfed Ioka. They looked a division, if not two, apart. The other was that Ioka was much quicker, sharper and had the speed edge in terms of hand speed, footspeed and overall movement. It seemed like the bout could come down to who could make the most of their advantages.
It quickly became apart that it was Ioka's speed advantage that was the big difference, with Ioka often avoiding the big, booming power shots of Palicte, whilst managing to find a home for his own shots, especially his straight right hand up top and his body shots.
As the rounds went on it seemed more and more like Ioka's speed was the telling factor, with Palicte often being countered, regularly with lovely left hooks that Ioka was finding from round 3 on wards. Palicte's issues were worsened by the effective body work from Ioka, who has quickly become a forgotten man in the conversation of best body puncher in the sport, and in round 4 Ioka really showed off what he could do with shots to head and body.
Other than in round 4 Palicte generally looked like he was in the rounds, but losing them, and falling behind on the score cards but doing enough to be in them with an odd combination and some solid jabs. It seemed like something he and his team knew was happening when they sent him out for round 7, a round that really was something special.
Palicte came out for the seventh with bad intentions, pressing Ioka in a way he hadn't done in the first 6 rounds. He was there looking to take Ioka out, and unlike the earlier rounds where he was typically trying to land the odd combinations, he went full throttle. The increase in output from the Filipino seemed to shock Ioka, who seemed to wobble at one point, but Ioka would later turn the round on it's head and hurt Palicte, with body shots being a key late in the round. In many ways the round was Palicte's last hoorah, and form then on he never really seemed to have any more sustained success with Ioka's technical ability and combinations becoming a clearer focal point.
Going into round 10 it looked like Palicte's toughness, durability and chin might see him to the distance but Ioka had other idea's after he hurt the Filipino with a big right hand. Ioka waded in, looking to close the show, eventually forcing the referee to step in. Palicte, and his team, weren't happy at the stoppage, and you could argue it was a slightly early stoppage, but the Filipino did take 6 or 7 clean head shots and left the referee in the position where he could step in, especially given the damage Palicte had taken in the earlier rounds.
The question as to what is next for Ioka will be an interesting one, though there are big potential bouts with fellow Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom have mentioned becoming 4 weight champions themselves. Of those two bouts a showdown with Tanaka would appear more likely, given that both are TBS affiliated fighters.
Earlier this year we saw the first All-Filipino world title fight in over 90 years, as Jerwin Ancajas defended the IBF Super Flyweight title against Jonas Sultan. On paper that looked a good bout, but ended up never catching a light and being pretty forgettable. Today we had the second all-Filipino world title fight of the year, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) traded blows for the WBO Super Flyweight title.
For Nietes the bout saw him looking to become the third 4 weight world champion from the Philippines, following Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, and the third man to win world titles in the sport's 4 lowest weight classes. For Palicte it was a chance to emerge from the shadows of Filipino boxing to become a world champion.
The bout was competitive through out. It matched the incredible skills and boxing IQ of Nietes against the imposing physical size of Palicte. From the off both men had moments, and it was a hard one to score either way with Nietes landing the more consistently offensive, but taking the heavier leather, and being pushed on to the back foot through out the fight. It was also the combinations from Palicte, which rarely landed cleanly, that really caught the eye with numerous shots being thrown with so much power that Nietes found his own gloves smashing into his face.
Nietes' ring craft was amazing. At the age of 36 he he was able to set traps on a regular basis, often luring Palicte into clean right hands, and countering brilliantly. He was however unable to get Palicte's respect and the younger man, a natural Super Flyweight, took shots cleanly and seemed to smile, whilst taking them. It was possibly the regular smirk of Palicte that made Nietes' clean shorts seem unthreatening compared to the glancing blows of his own.
There was very few clean cut bouts through the entire fight. It was often a case of picking a winner of a very close round. One of the few clear cut rounds was round 4, a round that Nietes seemed to take off. On the other hand he clearly won round 5, as he picked up the pace and found a home for his right hand, which landed frequently through a brilliant stanza for the veteran. Another clear round was the final one, which saw Nietes landing several of his most eye catching shots. For the most part however there was very, very, little to pick between the two fighters, and a strong case could be made either way.
The close nature of the rounds seemed to give the feeling that no score was really going to be wrong. Despite the commentary playing a strong pro-Nietes narrative through out, cheer leading the skills of Nietes and giving very little credit to Palicte and his work. That close nature of each round showed on the scorecards which were 116-112, in favour of Palicte, 118-110, for Nietes, and 114-114, giving us a split draw.
The HBO team try to play off that the bout was a robbery, quote the always questionable Compubox as part of their narrative. The reality however is that there was very, very little to split them overall. On a round by round basis, neither man did enough to really assert their self. 118-110 and 116-112, either way, were wide, but a strong case could be argued for either of those cards. In the end however the draw seemed the fairest result and the most accurate.
As a result of the draw he WBO title does remain vacant. A rematch between the two is a real possibility, as would be a bout between either man and the returning Kazuto Ioka, who won on the same card against McWilliams Arroyo who had been the WBO #3 ranked fighter behind Nietes ans Palicte.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.