For a second week in a row we are looking at a world title bout from late in 2019 as he head to the Treasure Trove again, and bring you a very interesting bout. In fact this was the final world title bout of 2019 and is one we feel is very much an over-looked bout, which combined skills, heart, toughness and competitiveness. It was a bout that was very well fought, swung one way then the other, and saw both men having moments, with very, very different styles. Was it a Fight of the Year contender? No, was it a damn good bout? Hell yes!
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) vs Jeyvier Cintron (11-0-0-1, 5)
Japan's Kazuto Ioka is one of the most accomplished fighters to ever come from the country. He is, at the time of writing, the only Japanese man to win world titles in 4 weight classes and is a genuine star in his homeland. The Osakan won the WBO Super Flyweight title in June, stopping Aston Palicte in another under-rated bout, and was making his first defense here as he took on his mandatory challenger. Although not too well known in the West, sadly, Ioka has managed to win titles from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, and has a genuine who's who of lower weight fighters on his resume. He's beaten the likes of Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi, Felix Alvarado, Juan Carlos Reveco and McWilliams Arroyo, and has spent a huge chunk of his career fighting at the top. Although technically a well schooled fighter Ioka is a small Super Flyweight, he makes up for that however by being versatile and one of the best body punchers in the sport.
In the opposite corner to Ioka was talented Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron, a 2-time Olympian. The 24 year old Cintron was a wonderfully talented technical boxer, who looked like a natural Super Flyweight when compared to Ioka. He was big at the weight, very polished from his days as an amateur and a southpaw. In the eyes of some it was perhaps a bit too early for Cintron to get his shot, though he had earned it by beating Koki Eto in a title eliminator and he had also beaten the likes of Eliecer Quezada and Marvin Solano in the professional ranks. Although clearly a talented fighter this was seen as a big leap up in class, despite how good of an amateur he was, and this was to be his first bout at world level. He had travelled to Japan with a lot of self belief and seemed confident of upsetting the Japanese star.
From the opening moments it was clear that Cintron had the edge in speed, size and reach, and he was using his jab brilliantly to dictate the distance and tempo of the bout. Ioka was being coming forward but was struggling to cut the distance as Cintron began to show he was ready for this level of a bout. The challenger looked every bit a star in the making, whilst Ioka was quickly forced to change from trying to box with Cintron.
As we went through the early rounds Ioka managed to adapt. He moved from trying to box, to turning things into a fight, cutting the distance and working the body of Cintron. It was a needed change, and was something that managed to get Ioka a foot hold in the contest, something he was starting to need. The change in tactics not only got Ioka some control of the action but also began to see him slow Cintron, as the challenger had to dig deep and look to change his own tactics.
For those seeking tactical chess matches this is a real over-looked gem.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.