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.
The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
Some fighters set out on their careers to make a lot of money, others set out to become legends and set new records. One fighter from the second category has been Japanese talent Kazuto Ioka (22-1, 13) [井岡一翔], who appears to be trying to set new records every time he sets foot in the ring, and seems intent on creating a legacy that will last long beyond his career.
He set his first record back in his 7th bout, when he set a Japanese speed record for fewest fights to a world title, he then became the first fighter to win an all Japanese unification bout, the quickest Japanese fighter to become a 2-weight champion and subsequently a 3-weigth champion.
Today he tied a long standing record for the most wins wins in world title bout by a Japanese fighter, winning his 14th world title bout, and defended the WBA Flyweight title for the 5th time, as he took a wide decision win over the teak tough, but thoroughly out classed, Thai challenger Noknoi Sitthiprasert (62-5, 38) [นกน้อย ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท].
Coming in to the bout Noknoi had won 61 consecutive bouts, but had been fighting at such a low level that his actually ability was a bit unknown. What we found out today was that his ability wasn't outstanding, but his toughness was incredible as he took a really one sided beating, but managed to survive the 12 rounds.
The bout began slowly enough, but Ioka was the busier fighter in the early stages. The one early break for Noknoi was a point deduction from Ioka in round 3 for a low blow, a low blow that replays showed was a legitimate body shot and one that clearly hurt Noknoi right on the bell. From then on Ioka moved through the gears, with only round 6 being particularly competitive, with both men trading shots with success. It was a round that Noknoi may have won, but one that could easily have gone to the flashier Ioka, who was letting combinations rip to both the head and body.
Despite the point deduction in round 3 the referee seemed to miss numerous low ones from Ioka, who landed some brutal blows to the balls. Despite the low blows and combinations Noknoi held strong and hardly seemed to feel the weight of Ioka's shots until round 11 when he was shaken several times, and seemed to be heading to the canvas on numerous occassions. Despite being hurt Noknoi amazingly stayed up right and managed to finish the round by firing back at Ioka, who looked desperate for a stoppage.
Ioka's aggression and hunt for a stoppage continued in round 12 as he tried to finish off the Thai but Noknoi's extreme toughness kept him upright to the final bell in what was a real surprise given the punishment he'd taken.
At the final bell there was no doubting the winner, though the cards were close than we expected with the judges scoring the bout 117-110, twice and 116-111, a remarkably close score given the domination of Ioka.
After the bout Ioka admitted that he was wanting to stop Noknoi and keep alive his stoppage run, the Thai though really impressed with his toughness, and we'd not be surprised to see him get another world title fight down the line based on his sheer durability. We were skeptical of how Noknoi would do, and whilst he was dominated he managed to really increase his standing with this performance.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The final, of 5, world title fights today saw WBA Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (21-1, 13) [井岡一翔] pull himself off the canvas to retain his title, and stop and the previously unbeaten Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (15-1, 6) [แสตมป์ กระทิงแดงยิม], who genuinely impressed with his incredible toughness.
The first round saw Ioka on the front foot and look to attack the body of Stamp but the Thai wasn't scared of the champion and came back firing bombs in the direction of the Osaka star. Those bombs had a massive effect in round 2 when a huge right hook sent Ioka down, hard. Ioka regrouped but looked hurt and on the retreat until the bell came to end the round. It was clear that Stamp, despite what his record states, hit hard and he shook Ioka up several times again in round 3. Despite showing real power it was the toughness of Stamp which was truly impressing as he walked through some disgustingly powerful body shots from Ioka during the round.
Sadly for Stamp it seemed that, after round 3, he was pretty much depending on his toughness as his work rate slowed dramatically and his combinations became less frequent whilst Ioka stepped up the pace. As Ioka moved through the gears he began to put on an exhibition in body punching, landing hooks and uppercutts to the torso of the youngster. Amazingly Stamp took the blows, and tried to fire back himself,with out buckling through a very tough round 4.
Although round 4 was tough for the Thai things only got tougher as Ioka began to give him a beating in round 5 and 6, a round that was close to being a 10-8 round without a knockdown. Stamp was doing more than surviving, but not much more as Ioka moved, boxed and broke down the Thai.
With Stamp visibly losing his power Ioka engaged him in a toe-to-toe battle in round 7. Up close Ioka was able to land body shots at will and started to use them to launch combinations, switching between the head and body with ease. Eventually the body shots took their toll with Stamp being dropped following a lovely left hand to the mid-section. The Thai was in agony but somehow regrouped to his feet and got up to fight again. Ioka went on the hunt and fired in blows before Stamp swung back, giving Ioka a big opening to the body which he took to score a second knockdown. Stamp got to his feet but wisely spat out his gum shield and the referee saved him from further harm.
For Ioka the win showed both his potency to the body as well as frailties to punchers, and it'd be wise for him to avoid big punchers going forward, though other than Daigo Higa there perhaps is a lack of true punchers at 112lbs. For Stamp the future will be interesting. This was certainly too much too soon, but will the damage linger with the Thai or will he comeback stronger? He could be damaged goods following this, or he could, just as easily, rebuild and come back to be a real star for Thailand over the next decade.
Just moments ago Japanese fans saw popular Osakan Kazuto Ioka (20-1, 12) [井岡一翔] successfully defend his WBA Flyweight title with a confident display against the determined and fiery Keyvin Lara (18-1-1, 6), from Nicaragua.
Lara began the fight with a high energy pressure style that saw him immediately taking the fight to Ioka and forcing the Osakan star on to the backfoot, and against the ropes. Despite being backed up Ioka looked calm and confident as he blocked a huge number of Lara's punches whilst landing some sickening counter shots of his own. For the first 4 rounds it was the same pattern of the fight.
In round 5 we began to see Ioka coming forward a bit more, and backing Lara away at times. The offensive work of Ioka was still mostly counters to Lara's intense pressure but it proved that Ioka was in control and could choose when and how to come forward. There was little Lara could do to stop him, or to defend against the increasingly frequent left hooks to the body which were chipping away at Lara's resolve.
By the end of round 6 we had began to see Lara slow notably whilst Ioka was becoming more aggressive and at one point it seemed he had momentarily buckled Lara's legs before the Nicaraguan regrouped and began throwing back. It was a brave effort from Lara but it was clear that he was being broken down and in rounds 7, 8 and 9 we saw Ioka become more and more aggressive. What had once been single counter shots were now fully fledged 3, 4 and 5 punch combinations to the Nicaraguan.
In round 10 Ioka began to actively hunt the knock out and for the final minute he seemed to have Lara going with something, god only knows what, keeping Lara upright until late in the round. The Nicaraguan seemed ready to go after beating the count but the bell saved him. Well we say saved him, he was quickly finished in round 11 with Ioka starting the assault early and finishing the challenger after just 71 seconds of the round, with Lara being counted out as he began to rise at 10.
The win for Ioka could mean he faces WBA “super” champion Juan Francisco Estrada, with the WBA officially instructing the two to negotiate from tomorrow. That fight would be much tougher than this one, though it's possible that the two men will go in different directions. Either way we don't expect to see Ioka back in the ring until his tradition December 31st bout. If it's not with Estrada it could be with fellow Japanese fighters Daigo Higa or Takuya Kogawa or possibly against WBA interim champion Stamp Kiatniwat.
For Lara the bout was a painful loss but he was impressive with high toughness and energy and we wouldn't be shocked to see him invited back over to Japan to face some of the other Japanese Flyweights, in fact a bout with Higa would be a potential FOTY contender.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier this year Kazuto Ioka (19-1, 11) became the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight world champion as he claimed a narrow majority decision over Juan Carlos Reveco (36-3, 19). The bout, which was competitive, had been described as controversial with some stating it was a robbery and the WBA demanding that the two men do it again in a rematch.
Although a rematch was demanded the WBA did allow both fighters to take an interim bout, which both fighters won, by decisions.
Today that rematch took place and this time there was no controversy at all, in fact the bout was more a statement of intent by Ioka than a competitive fight with the champion retaining his title in very impressive fashion, the fashion that may well alert the rest of the division and prove that he is, finally, a fully fledged Flyweight.
The fight started with Ioka looking accurate, sharp, quick and confident, but very much like a man who was fighting conservatively. There was next to nothing wasted by the champion whilst the challenger tried to force a high tempo, though was in effective missing regularly with shots that either fell short or hit the guard. If Reveco was looking to set the pace his aim failed as Ioka calmly stepped out of range, walked around the ring, rest himself and slowly but surely began to break down the Argentinian.
The breaking down process was beautiful to watch with Ioka setting out his stall early. He wasn't busy but what he was determined, landing numerous solid body blows from very early on, shots that seemed to land with a thud time and time again. Reveco, for the most part, took them without showing any real discomfort but it seemed like the sheer force on them was going to take something away from the Argentinian, especially given his high work rate and the question marks about him struggling to make weight.
Through the first 4 rounds the bout was competitive but it always seemed like Ioka was the boss, he was the one choosing when to fight, the one landing the telling blows and the one who controlled the action, despite Reveco's high out put. That changed slightly in round 5 as Ioka stood his ground more and in round 6 it totally changed with the champion essentially taking the round off. If anything those two rounds gave Reveco hope, though it was hope that was demolished in round 7 as Ioka got back in to things and began to bully Reveco, winning the exchanges and backing up the challenger, who was looking gutsy but out matched.
Things went from bad to worse for Reveco who was starting to wear the damage of the fight around his left eye and was losing his footing frequently when he let his shots go. Unfortunately he was also eating shots to both the head and body through round 8 as Ioka began to smell the finish. The smell became stronger in round 9 when Reveco was left bleeding from his eye and took an absolute pasting, with volley's of shots to the head and body. It was the type of round that constitutes a 10-8 and the sort of round that can be the end of fighters chances.
Following the big 9th Ioka seemed to relax, ease off the gas and know that he had it in the bag. Reveco on the other hand put it all on the line and seemed to swing everything he had at Ioka, though only managed to tag the air, on a very regular basis. It was an embarrassing round for Reveco in terms of his accuracy, but he had shown his true grit by just trying to fight following the previous round.
For all his guts and determination Reveco was looking like a beaten and desperate fighter who had little to offer, other than his heart. Sadly form him even that failed, with a body shot in round 11 sending him down. He beat the count but was ruled unfit to continue, subjecting him to his first stoppage loss, possibly even his final bout at the world level, if not final bout all together.
Last year we saw Osaka star Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) make a move to the talent laden Flyweight division. On his Flyweight debut it seemed as if the weight didn't suit him and he was beaten by tricky Thai Amnat Ruenroeng, who has since proven his quality with wins over Zou Shiming, McWilliams Arroyo and Johnriel Casimero. Following Ioka's Flyweight debut he began to grow into the division, but never looked quite the same fighter that he had been at both Minimumweight and Light Flyweight.
Yesterday Ioka made the first defense of the WBA title that he had narrowly won earlier this year, with a win over Juan Carlos Reveco. In his first defense he took on Reveco's countryman Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-3-1, 14), a man best known for his exploits at Super Flyweight, where he beat Zolani Tete.
On paper it was an interesting contest and a good test for Ioka as a first defense. It wasn't a big name challenger but a tough, strong and naturally bigger challenger.
Whilst Sosa appeared strong and powerful he seemed slow and that made life particularly easy for Ioka who boxed and moved beautifully from the first round to the last using his jab and straight right to pepper the challenger whilst later on the uppercuts were a key weapon for the champion.
Sosa, to his credit, never stopped trying to change the tide but lacked the finesse to do so and at the end it was little wonder that he was a wide loser on cards, with lopsided scores of 120-108, and 119-109, twice, all in favour of Ioka.
It now seems likely that Ioka will face a rematch with Juan Carlos Reveco on New Years Eve with that bout likely to be held in Osaka, the home of Ioka who is considered a major star in the area.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
In a number of countries we've seen a spate of weight jumping champions who have picked up straps at multiple weights. In Japan multi-weight champions are relatively rare with many really making their career in one division, possibly two. Amazingly 3-weight champions in Japan are scarce to say the least and at the start of this year only one Japanese born fighter had ever claimed divisional world titles in 3 division. That was the controversial Koki Kameda who had claimed titles at 108lbs, 112lbs and 118lbs. Today Kameda has been joined by the talented Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) who claimed the WBA Flyweight title and became the quickest fighter, in history, to become a 3-weight world champion and only the second Japanese born fighter to achieve the feat.
Ioka was fighting in his second Flyweight title bout and found himself up against talented Argentinian Juan Carlos Reveco (35-2, 19), a tough and determined boxer puncher from Mendoza, Argentina. Reveco was himself a 2-weight world champion and a man who had been in fine form winning his last 18 bout, including a victory in a previous visit to Japan against Masayuki Kuroda and a very impressive stoppage of the then interim champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep last December.
To us this was one of the most anticipated fights of the year and one that had been talked about for about a year. It was a clash of talented, exciting fighters with differing styles and a lot at stake. For all intents it was a must win for both and it was also a bout that had a sense of possible redemption for Ioka following his loss to amnat Ruenroeng last year in, an IBF Flyweight title bout, his first title bout at Flyweight.
Ioka's problem against Amnat was that he couldn't really get going and the Thai managed to find ways of shutting him down, time and time again. This time around Ioka got going from the off and found a home for his jab almost immediately and he kept Reveco at range during the opening rounds. Reveco tried to slip it but had little success in a very good opening round for the Japanese challenger. From then on though things became a bit tough with rounds 2,3 and 4 being incredibly close. Reveco was determined to get inside and unload flurries whilst Ioka was hoping to use his jab and keep the champion at range. Nether man could have things completely their own way and both managed to make a claim to any of those 3 rounds. We had given 2 of those 3 to Ioka though could easily have seen them go to Reveco.
In round 5 the challenger refound his groove, at least in the early portion of the round. Reveco seemed to wait, biding his time before turning it up late in the round to try and steal it, it was however too little too late for Reveco who, on our card, was 4-2 down.
Reveco seemed to sense that something had to change and he made those changes in round 6 as he put his foot on the gas and started to really take the fight to Ioka with several lovely crisp flurries. It was a really poor round from Ioka who struggled to land anything of note and it seemed that it was the champion who had found another gear. Round 7 was another one for the champion who had quickly close things up on our score card and shown that he had the will to win and the ability to put Ioka under fierce pressure. It was impressive from the champion who was fighting his fight and making Ioka look second best.
The champion tried to continue his success in round 8 but Ioka began to adjust, using his feet to act as the matador to Reveco's bullish assaults. It was the sort of change Ioka needed as the champion was coming on strong and building his momentum. The tactics weren't the prettiest from the Japanese fighter but worked enough for him to repeat them in the 9th round with Reveco failing for find the success he had had just a couple of rounds earlier.
Going into round 10 it was all to play for, we had it 6-3 to Ioka bout could easily have seen it going 6-3 to Reveco with a number of those early rounds being to close to call either way.
It seemed like it was the defending champion who felt the need to change things and in round 10 he really stepped up again in what was one of the fights best rounds with both men landing solid shots as they momentarily traded on the inside. It was a spectacular round though it was quickly forgotten as the 11th outshone it in every way with Reveco seemingly doing enough to take both rounds, though an argument could certainly be had in regard to the 11th. It seemed clear that neither man was sure they'd done enough and that they were going to have to dig deep with shots traded on the outside and the inside.
With rounds 10 and 11 both picking up the pace there was no doubting that round 12 had the potential be the best of the bunch and that's exactly what we got as the two men traded blows, and showed off what they were about. Reveco went all out trying to turn the fight around, as if he knew he had to do something more than the home town hero, Ioka managed to shift between holding his own in exchanges of blows and landing clean accurate counters. Watching Ioka here it was clear he was proving he could do everything he needed to, though at times it left us wondering why he seemed reluctant to trade earlier on. The round was so good that the TYC Sports commentator, Argentinian TV channel, expressed his admiration for the action with an exclamation of "Fantastico", a viewed shared by us and many others.
With the amount of close and highly competitive rounds there seemed to be no clear cut way to call the bout. TYC Sports had the Argentinian well ahead, 116-112, though they had seemed very pro-Reveco through the bout giving Reveco a lead of 78-74 after 8 rounds. We had had it 115-113 to Ioka though could certainly see the same score in favour of Reveco.
Slowly the cards were read out with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-113, giving Ioka a majority decision that was received by tears from his team who know how valuable this win was to his legacy.
For some the result was controversial though in reality it was a bout that was close either way. The momentum shifted several times, the action was high quality from both, many rounds were very competitive and overall the fight was sensational. It was a highly skilled and action heavy fight that saw both men change their tactics throughout. Ioka's jab early saw him taking the lead, Reveco combinations and aggression saw him coming back into things, the Ioka was forced to use his feet before Reveco found a way to cut the distance.
A rematch between the two wouldn't be a bad choice though we expect that Ioka has other plans. The division is a stacked one with bug names, exciting contenders and a lot of good looking match ups. Showdowns with domestic rivals such as Suguru Muranaka and Koki Eto appear to be appealing, a fight with Brian Viloria would be mouth watering, a rematch with Felix Alvarado would also be an exciting proposition. If he's wanting an easier first defense a possible showdown with Noknoi Sitthiprasert may be interesting given Noknoi's run of form which has included more than 50 straight wins.
It really is an exciting time to follow Ioka, though it seems almost certain that we won't see him competing at Super Flyweight. He still seems a bit unsure of himself as a Flyweight and although he seems to have the size to fill into a very good Flyweight we don't seem him really looking comfortable against any of the division's top guys, such as Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman Gonzalez. Those wanting to see an all-Japanese super fight between Ioka and Naoya Inoue will almost certainly be left wanting and in fairness it would appear to be a huge mismatch in favour of Inoue, who is simply too big and too strong for Ioka. Thankfully though with so many exciting options our there Ioka could well be busy with some great fights and not need to look towards his fellow star for a major bout.
(Image, from a post fight press conference, courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
*Note Japanese licensed promoted fighters Roman Gonzalez and Jorge Linares, both of Teiken, have also become 3 weight world champions.
When we talk about achievements in boxing it's hard to believe only 1 Japanese fighter in history has ever become a 3-weight world champion, Koki Kameda. Just two weeks ago we saw Hozumi Hasegawa fail in his attempt to become a 3-weight world champion when he was stopped by IBF Super Bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez in a bout that left no doubt about the winner or the officiating.
Earlier today we saw Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9) fail in his attempt to become a 3 weight world champion as he was defeated by Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) in a decision that has certainly raised a few eyebrows, notable due to one baffling card.
Ruenroeng, defending his IBF Flyweight title for the first time since winning it, with a decision victory over Rocky Fuentes earlier this year, was a big under-dog. He was priced, with British online bookmakers Bet365, as a 3 to 1 under-dog though he had a real reason to win, a rumoured huge money clash with Chinese star Zou Shiming.
Unfortunately neither man started the fight like they wanted to win it. The opening round saw very little from either man. It was effectively a stalemate with neither man landing more than 1 or 2 shots of note. The second was somewhat similar though it did seem like 2 combinations from Ioka won the round for him. It was a weird to the fight tactically from both men. Ioka applied somewhat ineffective pressure, staying just outside of range and following Amnat whilst Amnat moved around the ring with out throwing much of note. It was frustrating to watch and it seemed like we weren't going to see a fight breakout.
In round 3 the action began to take off with Amnat finally letting his hands go with some sort of offensive work. It was amazing to see the visiting fighter take until round 3 to get going but when he did throw his shots looked lovely, they were crisp, fast and accurate even if they did lack any major power on them. It was with out a doubt an Amnat round and the first clear round of the fight
Following the loss of round 3 Ioka kicked in to gear and seemed to turn up the heat a bit in round 4. Amnat was equal to it with his lovely jabs, effectively and relaxed defensive work. Although Ioka seemed to be stepping on the gas he still didn't do enough to clearly take the round and there was a possibility that he was 3-1 down after 4 rounds. We had it 38-38 but could have under-stood someone having it 3-1 Amnat.
The fifth was another close one with Amnat's defence and fast rangy punches working well whilst Ioka was starting to land his own right hand and solid shots to the body. It was, at times, messy but the action was slowly building with both men finding their feet in the bout and both managing to go through the gears. It was still strange however that Ioka's pressure was still rather subdued as if he felt he was tiring Amnat out without putting his own foot fully on the gas.
In round 6 Ioka managed to cut the distance off and landed nice shots to both the head and body of the defending champion. The pace suddenly rose from the challenger and he was finding a desire to take the fight to Amnat, despite being tagged with a monster right hand. The best punch of the round was a right from Amnat but over-all the better and more sustained work was from Ioka who looked like he was coming good in the fight. The same success for the challenger was seen in the seventh round as Amnat began to look a little bit tired and sluggish. It was as if Ioka could sense Amnat was struggling and was going totry and turn the screw whilst he had an opportunity.
After 7 rounds we had the bout even 66-67 to Ioka and at worst you had to have given Ioka at least 3 rounds, 2,6 and 7. He had clearly won that trio whilst Amnat had clearly won rounds 3 and 4.
The eighth round was another clear round, this time for Amnat who stopped Ioka's momentum with his busy jab and and quicker hands. It was really impressive from Amnat who, at 34, looked smooth and rapid fire despite being ancient for a Flyweight. This rund saw the bout tied up on our scorecards as we went into the final 4 rounds of the bout.
In round 9 the fight started to progressively turn uglier. Ioka started to walk in a bit more and whilst he was fed a steady diet of jabs he managed to land solid body shots and a cracking left hand before the Thai began holding. The holding resulted in Amnat taking a shot to the back of the head, which he complained about, and was then followed by some wrestling as Amnat seemed to prove his physical strength over Ioka. The early jabs from Amnat were forgotten by the bell as Ioka landed yet another notable body shot with Amnat trying to hold him. It seemed clear that Amnat was struggling and the holding was a result of the Ioka getting to him more frequently than he had earlier.
Despite the holding Amnat didn't seem to be tired, he was standing in his corner between rounds whilst Ioka was looking the more tired man, almost as if the men had traded ages. The 25 year old Ioka was working harder for his successes and did seem tense, both could have resulted in his more tired look, but Amnat at 35 looked as fresh as a daisy stood waiting for the next round.
The holding from Amnat continued in round 10 and finally the referee had had enough and took a point from the champion. The rest of the round was pretty close though Amnat did flirt with a second deduction as he wrestled with Ioka before the challenger mounted a late offensive charge. It was another of the bouts many close rounds, though could have been scored either 9-9 or 10-8 to Ioka.
With a possible 10-8 in round 11 it seemed almost certain that Amnat needed to pick up the pace, especially fighting away from home against a popular and unbeaten fighter. Instead Amnat did the same as he had in a number of the later rounds. He held, he spoiled, he complain about being hit and he fought negatively with Ioka bringing the fight and action to him. It seemed almost impossible to give Amnat the round and, when added to the 10-8 round from the previous round, it seemed likely that Amnat's title was slipping away with out the champion caring too much about it.
Amazingly there was no urgency from the champion in the following round and this was punctuated by Amnat basically running around the ring inthe final few seconds before landing an uppercut. It seemed like one of two things had happened in his head. He had either given up his title willingly or had been tipped off that the fight wasn't being score closely. It was impossible for him to have felt that comfortable in the final round on foreign soil with out one of those two things going on in his hand. He had countered well through much of the fight but had also lost a number of rounds clearly and there was no way to argue that this was anything but close.
The score cards were read out relatively quickly, the first card favoured Ioka, the second was to Amnat and then the third was to Amnat as he secured a split decision.
What we didn't full know immediately after the fight was what the cards actually said, though moments later TBS showed the cards which read 114-113 Ioka, a close score that demonstrated the competitive nature of the fight, 115-112 to Amnat, another close and competitive card even if they did feel Amnat won 8 of the 12 rounds. The other card however read a frankly ridiculous 119-108 to Amnat, a card that has to go down as the worst of the year so far.
Although we had felt Ioka had done enough the fact two judges disagree is fair enough, it was a close fight. What we learned from watching the fight however was interesting. Firstly Ioka's lack of head and upper body movement was mystifying, his head was, round after round, a stationary target making it easy for Amnat's rangy shots to land. As for Amnat he looks like a nightmare for anyone. He's rangy, tricky, calm, relaxed and has very fast hands which could well see him beating anyone in the division on his night.
Another thing that needs mentioning is the Shiming bout. That is rumoured for November in Macau and would be a major pay day for Amnat, we don't mean to start conspiracy theories but there was no chance Ioka was going to go to Macau so could the 119-108 card have possibly been a political card with that bout in mind? Something to think about and if Amnat/Shiming happens it'll be interesting to see if the same judge is anywhere on the show.
One final thing to note, promise this is the last one, this is the second notable win for a Kiatkreerin fighter against an Ioka fight in the last few months following Amnat's stablemate Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr's victory over Ryo Miyazaki on New Years Eve.
(Image courtesy of Johnny Chaichotchuang)
When twi men enter a ring with a combined record of 31-0 (24) you don't tend to expect the fight to go the distance though some how Kazuto Ioka's (14-0, 9) bout with Nicaraguan challenger Felix Alvarado (now 18-1, 15) did just that, even though for much of the fight it seemed impossible that it would last 12.
Ioka, defending his WBA Light Flyweight title for the 3rd time this year knew he was facing one of his toughest tests of his career though few would have expected it to be as tough as it was, in fact it was probably his second toughest career bout behind his 2012 bout with countryman Akira Yaegashi.
Alvarado, a much vaunted puncher, set the tone of the bout from the off applying constant pressure and looking to hammer away on Ioka with uppercuts, hooks, crosses and almost everything in his arsenal. Ioka, who at first tried to box, met the pressure quickly by standing his ground and slipping shots in the pocket firing back his own accurate counters.
As a result of Ioka standing his ground the styles of the two men gelled almost instantly and gave us toe-to-toe action round after round after round which early on made things look extremely competitive. The competitiveness of the early rounds could well have seen the judges with cards 36-40 either way.
Unfortunately for Alvarado he was unable to keep up the same level of competitiveness as the bout went on. His shots became pushed, wider, and slower allowing Ioka to pick his counter opportunities more easily and in fact as we entered round 6 and 7 Ioka was beginning to take total control and take advantage of Alvarado's technical limitation and lack of experience. It was never looking easy for the unbeaten Japanese fighter but it was clear he was beginning to run away with the action.
Ioka's control of the bout wasn't just helped by the limitations of his challenger but also by the physical damage he had inflicted on Alvarado whose left eye had been swollen from round 3 and twice saw the doctor inspect it, at the start of round 3 and round 10. This swelling seemed to be the closest either man came to being stopped as they each took bombs from the other with out ever being too hurt.
By the end of round 11 it was clear that Alvarado was going to need to land something extra special though it was clear that was never going to happen. Ioka was fresh, in total control and seemed happy to fight "Alvarado's fight" as if to say "there is noway you can beat me" and at the end of the day he was right, Alvarado had nothing to worry him down the stretch. Despite being in control however Ioka was happy to trade shots with Alvarado and effectively put on a show for the fans by continuing to fight the challenger rather than get on his bike and cruise.
Although a number of rounds, especially early, had been competitive it was clear well before the judges announced the decision that Ioka had retained his title. Alvarado had shown off his toughness though his faults had seen him picked apart some what by a much more complete fighter who may well be looking to really shine in 2014. Yes this was Ioka's 3rd defense of the year though it was the only one where he really needed to impress, it was the only one where he faced a man who believed they had what it took and it was the only one where Ioka answered serious questions about himself.
From a fan's perspective we're hoping Ioka gets in with someone like Adrian Hernandez, the WBC champion, or former IBF Minimumweight champion Nkosinathi Joyi in bouts that would be enjoyable. We'd have loved him in with Akira Yaegashi again but the fact Ioka was well inside the Light Flyweight weight limit would suggest that bout isn't going to happen in the next 12 months. Going on this performance an all-Japanese bout with Naoya Inoue would be too early for Inoue though it's a bout that is likely to be spoken about a lot over the coming months.
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.