On New Year's Eve we saw Kazuto Ioka (19-1, 11) [井岡 一翔] shine in his second defense of the WBA Flyweight title, stopping Argentinian veteran Juan Carlos Reveco. The performance proved that Ioka was a top level Flyweight but unfortunately the bout failed to draw the TV figures that TBS had hoped for and essentially it's backed Ioka's team into a corner forcing them to look for well known and established opponents.
The first name that was linked to Ioka was IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5) [อำนาจ รื่นเริง], the only man to hold a win over Ioka, though today two more names were linked to him by the Japanese press.
The most notable of those names was Chinese star Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) [邹市明]. Shiming is a notable name and although he's been widely derided in the west the odds are that a bout between the Japanese champion and the Chinese fighter would draw solid figures, especially given the history between the two countries. Notably both men lost to Amnat last year, so the bout could be marketed as an unofficial eliminator to face Amnat later in the year, and it could also give Shiming a chance to become a world champion. The one sticking point however could be the venue of the fight with Shiming unlikely to be taken to Japan and Ioka's team not likely to travel to China. It is a possibility but would depend on Shiming winning his upcoming bout, against the unbeaten Natan Santana Coutinho (12-0, 10) on January 30th.
The other name is WBA interim champion Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) [แสตมป์ กระทิงแดงยิม], though that would depend on Stamp claiming a win in a rematch against Gregorio Lebron first. This seems to be the least likely option with Stamp's team unlikely to let him travel at the moment, especially to face Ioka, but it would see Ioka getting a chance to unify the WBA "regular" and "interim" straps.
With TBS applying pressure on Ioka it's fair to say that he's not going to get away with facing someone like Roberto Domingo Sosa, who he fought last year, and will need to get a recognisable opponent in the ring. Whilst Amnat, Shiming an Stamp have all been linked to the Osakan it's fair to say others will be linked to him in the coming weeks before the Ioka team start to narrow down an opponent for a bout in late spring.
(Image courtesy of the Ioka gym blog)
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