For many reading this we suspect the only "Ioka" they know much about is Kazuto Ioka. Kazuto is one of the modern day stars of Japan, a 4-weight world champion, a man linked to the New Year Eve shows, which he has often lead, and a fighter who married, and subsequently divorced, a notable Japanese singer. He's had it all and is legitimately one of the very top names in Japan, probably number #3 behind Ryota Murata and Naoya Inoue.
What few newer fans maybe aware of is that Kazuto uncle, Hiroki Ioka (33-8-1, 17) was a star before Kazuto was even born. In fact Hiroki Ioka was a man who set a number of records that no other Japanese fighter has been able to match. He was a young prodigy, the final star crafted by the legendary Eddie Townsend. Today we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Hiroki Ioka as we continue this series. As with all the other articles in this series the wins are listed chronologically, and not by by their significance or meaning.
1-Kenji Ono (July 8th 1987)
One win that would be easy to over-look is Ioka's July 1987 win against Kenji Ono for the Japanese Minimumweight title. This win came less than 18 months after Ioka's professional debut. It was his first 10 round bout, it was his first title bout, it helped prove he was ready for bigger things and most notably it saw him setting a record for the youngest Japanese national champion, at the age of 18 years and 6 months. That record still stands today. The bout saw Ioka out point Ono to claim the title and become the second ever Japanese national Minimumweight champion. A very significant and important win for Ioka, and one that can go over-looked.
2-Mai Thomburifarm (October 18th 1987)
Just over 4 months after winning the Japanese Minimumweight title Ioka faced off with Thai foe Mai Thomburifarm for the newly created WBC Minimumweight title. The bout was the first for the title and saw Ioka beat Thomburifarm over 12 rounds, with ease, to take the title. This would have been a significant win had it just seen Ioka become the inaugural WBC Minimumweight champion, but it also saw him set the record for the youngest Japanese world champion, at 18 years, 9 months and 10 days. This record has been challenged by Daiki Kameda and Riku Kano, though both failed in their attempts to break it. Coming into this bout Eddie Townsend was training Ioka from a wheel chair due to issues with cancer.
3-Kyung Yung Lee (January 31st 1988)
In his first defense of the WBC title Ioka faced off with former IBF champion Kyung Yung Lee, who vacated the IBF title in an attempt to prove he was the best at the weight. Lee travelled to Japan to face Ioka, with the Japanese fighter stopping the previously unbeaten Korean in the final round, to prove his position in the sport. Interestingly the date for this bout is really important. It came 21 days after Leo Gamez had become the first ever WBA champion, and just a day before Ioka's mentor, Eddie Townsend, passed away. Townsend was in the venue to try and watch his charge make his first defense, but fell unconscious before the bout and was taken back to hospital where he sadly passed away. Ioka's performance, given the situation if his trainer and father figure, was incredible. Notably this was also Ioka's only stoppage win in a world title bout.
4-Myung Woo Yuh (December 17th 1991)
After the massive win against Kyung Yung Lee we saw Ioka's career head downwards, something that wasn't much of a surprise given the loss of Townsend, arguably the greatest trainer in Japanese boxing. He would fail to win his next 3 world title bouts, losing the WBC title to Napa Kiatwanchai and failing to regain it in a rematch, then move up to Light Flyweight. In his first world title bout at 108lbs Ioka defeated Korean legend Myung Woo Yuh, in later 1992. The win over the then 36-0 Yuh saw Ioka claim the WBA Light Flyweight title, becoming only the third 2-weight world champion in Japanese boxing history. This would be the only defeat Yuh would suffer in his career, and would be avenged less than a year later, adding further to the significance of the win.
Bong Jun Kim (June 15th 1992)
The final win that we've chosen to include here is Ioka's win over Bong Jun Kim. This was Ioka's second defense of the WBA Light Flyweight title, the belt he had taken from Yuh. On paper this looks like a straight forward defense against a fighter with a 23-7-3 record, though that really doesn't do the win any credit.
Kim had fought once in Japan prior to this bout, beating Hideyuki Ohashi back in 1986, and Ohashi and Ioka were two of the young stars of Japanese boxing at the time. There had been calls to see the two to fight but they never did, though this is one of the few times the two men shared an opponent. The other thing to note is that Kim was the second ever WBA Minimumweight champion, and a unification between the two would have been big. Sadly this wasn't a unification, and did come more than a year after Kim had lost his world title, but was still a very meaningful bout and a big win for Ioka, who would lose 5 subsequent world title bouts after this contest, including the rematch to Yuh.
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