The final major bout of 2020 saw WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defending his title with an 8th round TKO win over 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9). The bout was a brilliant ending to the year and saw fans around the world tune in to see an all Japanese world title bout that delivered action, excitement, skills and thrills. After a 2020 that had given us heartache, disappointment, frustration and setbacks the bout was the perfect way to put 2020 behind and move into 2021.
With the bout now viewed by almost all the hardcore boxing fans we’ve decided to re-watch it and give our feed back on the bout as we again give a bout the Five Take Away treatment.
1-Japan can deliver the big fight feel
We usually associate the big fight feeling to big bouts in the US and the UK but this bout proved that Japan can deliver that same feeling as well. From the pre-fight build up and the buzz among hardcore boxing fans to the walk in and the in ring action this really was a big fight. It may not have matched the biggest all-Japanese fighters ever, but it was still a bout that had all the hallmarks of a big, super fight event. Sadly it’s a huge shame, still, that no US broadcaster picked up the rights, though it’s fantastic that broadcasters around the world did, giving fans a chance to see it without needing to resort to Japanese streams. It was a shame that the bout came in 2020 with a partially empty arena, and with fans needing to wearing masks, rather than being allowed to roar and cheer their support for the fighters. Despite the minor complaints this was still a special event, and credit to all involved in putting it on.
2-Ioka is incredibly adaptable
Kazuto Ioka is one of the most overlooked and under-rated fighters in the sport, and has been for years. The talented 4-weight world champion hasn’t had success by fluke or by chance, instead he’s had due to an excellent boxing brain and fantastic skills. Those skills have been honed amazingly well in recent years, and since linking up with Ismael Salas we have seen Ioka become more adaptable and smarter than ever. In recent fights Ioka has mixed up his gameplans and tactics, he’s adapted to his opponents, and hasn’t just relied on fighting his style. Instead he seems more apt at neutralising his opponents. A year ago we saw him up against the taller, longer and faster Jeyvier Cintron, and it was Ioka who took center ring and tried to rip Cinton’s body apart and neutralise his movement. This time around Ioka played the role of counter puncher, neutralising the speed of Tanaka, and again cracking the body. A few fights back he neutralised the power of Aston Palicte. To beat Ioka you need to be able to out think him, and very, very few fighters are able to do that. In many ways that’s why a potential dream fight between Ioka and Juan Francisco Estrada is so high on the wish list for boxing fans around the world.
3-Tanaka would have wanted an interim fight
When Kosei Tanaka vacated the WBO Flyweight title in early 2020 it seemed like his intention was to have a bout at Super Flyweight to adapt to the weight, and then to take on Ioka at the end of the year. Sadly 2020 didn’t allow him to have that bout and to test himself at the weight or to get used to fighting against the power of Super Flyweight. A bout against a top 25 type guy at the weight would have helped prepare him for Ioka. We suspect that 2021 will see him bouncing back and getting a bout or two to adapt to the weight, get used to things at 115lbs and in 2022 we wouldn’t be surprised at all by him getting a second world title fight. He looked good at the weight, he looked sharp, and he seemed very strong, but a little ill prepared for what would happen when a fighter, like Ioka, could take his power. Thankfully for Tanaka he’s the young gun at 115lbs, and the likes of Ioka, Estrada, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman Gonzalez are all the other side of 30. The general shift he was speaking of before this bout will happen, but it might be a year or two away from happening.
4-Commentary can really add to a fight
One of our biggest complaints through 2020, in general, has been the appalling quality of commentary in boxing, with the likes of DAZN, Sky Sports, BT Sports and ESPN having some awful commentary. For this bout the contest the English language commentary, done by the excellent Corey Erdman, and the Japanese commentary, let action speak for itself.
The Japanese commentary, as always, intensifies when the action picks up, they don’t feel the need to speak for every moment of every round. Pauses add to action, they allow the fighters to take center stage and simply compliment what is going on in the ring. It’s an art form.
As for the English commentary that was fantastic, it added to the occasion, was well researched, by someone who seems to actually care about the fight they are watching, caring about the men, and realising that fans watching might not be massively familiar with the fighters. It takes an excellent commentator to educate fans without talking down to them, and to add to the event and that’s exactly what we got here. Compare the commentary done here, by a single person, to the commentary done by other channels when there’s a team and the quality is massively different. This added to and improved the fight, which was already fantastic.
5-Michiaki Someya continues to shine
Through this series we’ve been praising referees a lot more than we expected, and Michiaki Someya has received praise several times during this series for being an excellent referee. He has consistently impressed with his ring positioning, his awareness and his ability to know when to step in and when to let the action flow. Time and time again he has been showing exactly what he’s capable of on the domestic stage. This time around he was given a chance to show what he could do to a wider audience and once again he was flawless. The way he stopped the bout was given widespread praise, especially with the way Tanaka essentially went limp for a moment in his arms, proving the stoppage wasn’t an early one, but that certainly wasn’t the only outstanding bit of refereeing here. Little things like making sure Ioka was in the neutral corner after the knockdowns before seeing to Tanaka were also very clear. His instructions throughout the bout were clean and he only involved himself when he had to. Through the entire of 2020 Someya has been fantastic and we really hope he gets more big bouts like this.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).