The last 12 months have been mixed for the Ioka Gym. At the very end of last year we saw Ryo Miyazaki suffer a huge upset loss to Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and a few months later we saw Kazuto Ioka suffer a loss to Amnat Ruenroeng. Those two disappointments have been lessened in a way by the success of Masayoshi Nakatani, who has claimed the OPBF Lightweight title, and Sho Ishida, who was recently crowned the Japanese Super Flyweight champion.
The gym have gone from 2 world champions to 0 yet neither lost their belt in the ring. Thankfully however those men are still young, young enough to mount serious career revivals, revivals that begin this week.
For former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9) his return to the ring comes on the fringes of world level as he battles the world ranked ranked Colombian hard man Pablo Carrillo (15-2-1, 8) and comes just a few short months after his decision loss to Amnat Ruenroeng in a battle for the IBF Flyweight title. In that bout Ioka used the wrong game plan and was made to look technically inferior to his Thai foe. This time he's facing a much less technically able fighter in a bout designed to let Ioka get some experience at Flyweight with out risking another loss. It shouldn't be a problem for him to win, though he will be aware that Carrillo is a tough fighter and trying to blast him out would be a mistake. For Ioka this bout needs to see him working mentality to fight to has advantages, using his skills, movement and speed to take a win. Anything but a convincing win may put him down the queue for a world title bout later this year.
As for stable mate Ryo Miyazaki (20-1-3, 11) he'll be facing a real soft touch as he goes up against Indonesian journeyman Ichal Tobida (10-12, 8). Having been out of the ring all year this is the perfect bout for Miyazaki to look good in though we do expect him to easily see off Tobida who is very limited and shouldn't be given any chance of taking home the victory.
A third notable bout on this show, though one not featuring an Ioka fighter, will see Japanese based Filipino fighter Malcolm Tunacao (34-3-3, 20) battle against Ryuta Otsuka (14-6-2, 4). Tunacao is a former WBC Flyweight world champion who has, in recent years, given Shinsuke Yamanaka one of his hardest bouts. Aged 36 the Filipino knows his career is coming to and end but he still has enough in the tank to be a fringe contender, at least for now. Otsuka on the other hand is a 28 year old Japanese fighter best known for his loss in a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout last year against Teiru Kinoshita. This is one of the shows most appealing match-ups though we do favour Tunacao who has the advantages in experience, power and skills.
As well as the three bouts mentioned this card will feature a further 3 bouts, albeit none with much in terms of "name value". Those bouts do feature one possibly interesting contests and two bouts that, on paper, look like mismatches. With the main trio however it'll be easy to enjoy the talent on offer even if the fights aren't the best.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
There aren't many fighters from Asia that fans are really excited about. Manny Pacquiao and Gennady Golovkin are the two stand out examples but they aren't the only ones. One of the few others is in action this coming Thursday.
Olympic boxing champions don't come around an awful lot, especially not Japanese ones. In fact the country has only ever had a handful of boxers take an Olympic medal of any kind so it's easy to understand why so many fans are so excited about Ryota Murata (3-0, 3).
Murata has looked sensational in his first 3 bouts, stopping all 3 of his opponents and showing serious signs of improvement fight after fight. He'll be hoping to continue to improvements in his 4th bout as he takes on Mexico's Jesus Angel Nerio (12-3, 6) in what looks to be a better bout than one may first imagine.
Nerio isn't a world class opponent but he's not awful either and his only stoppage loss has come to the world ranked Jose Uzcategui whilst another loss was a decision loss to Marco Antonio Periban. For Murata, in just his 4th bout, to be compared to Periban and Uzcategui would be a huge statement and we're expecting Murata to make sure he gets to make that statement.
Notably this will be the first 10 round bout of Murata's career but he'll be expecting a victory inside the distance.
Of course the card isn't all about Murata, even though he's the main event and we have 2 other interesting bouts on the card. The better of those two bouts is a contest between the unbeaten Shohei Omori (11-0, 6) and former world title contender Christian Esquivel (27-4, 20). Esquivel, best known for his loss to Shinsuke Yamanaka, is a huge step up for Omori who will be given a serious test here, however a win for the Japanese fighter will almost certainly see him make a mark on the world rankings.
The other bout of note wills see former world title holder Malcolm Tunacao (33-3-3, 20) battle against Joo-Hyun Jung (6-2-1, 2), the South Korean Flyweight champion. It's hard to think that this will be anything but a victory for the Filipino veteran but it's going to be good to see him in the ring again after just 1 bout in the last 12 months.
Also on the card will be Sho Nakazawa (3-0, 3), a man hotly tipped for major success, and Tatsuya Ikemizu (9-0, 3). Nakazawa will be fighting Indonesia's Gun Tinular (11-17-1, 6) in what is a huge step up for the much touted Japanese youngster whilst Ikemizu will be fighting the once beaten Oke Haryanto (5-1-1, 2) in what we presume will be an easy victory for the unbeaten Japanese youngster.
For those interested in watching Murata, his bout will be televised, on tape delay, at 23:00 Tokyo time on Fuji TV. We're unsure if the telecast will show any of the other fights though it does seem unlikely.
(Image courtesy of Fuji TV)