Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Over the last decade or so it has become tradition for Japan to host the last major boxing event of the year, with at least one big show on New Year's Eve. That's the case again this year, as we get a 4 fight card in Tokyo to close out 2021, and move us into what should, hopefully, be a much, much, much better year. The show isn't headlined by the bout we wanted, or even expected just a month ago, but as has been the case form much of the year, those in charge of the event have done the best with what they have to not just put on a show, but also give action that we want and that should, fingers crossed, end the year with some excitement.
The four fight card is a very top heavy one, and whilst the main event is clearly the highlight, there is one under-card bout want to put some attention on before discussing the main bout.
That under-card contest is an 8 rounder at a contracted 64.5Kg's, or 142.2lbs, between struggling veteran Akihiro Kondo (32-10-2, 18) and 22 year old Aso Ishiwaki (9-4-1, 7), who needs a win to build on his September victory over Yuichiro Kasuya. Kondo, best known for his IBF world title bout with Sergey Lipinets, is now 36 and has gone 1-3-1 in his last 5, but he has fought at a decent level, and fought to a draw in a Japanese title fight a year ago. Ishiwaki, one of the most fun to watch Japanese guys in and around 140lbs, on the other hand last back to back fights before his win over Kasuya and knows a win here will help re-establish him on the domestic scene. This might not be a huge bout internationally, but it should make for a thrilling domestic clash for the fans in attendance.
As for the main event that will see Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14), who was a very late replacement for IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We were supposed to see a world title unification bout here, but that got scrapped after the Omicron variant emerged, and led to Japan closing it's borders, preventing Ancajas to travel to Japan. As a result Fukunaga got the call for the biggest fight of his career and, understandably, said yes. Although Fukunaga is a huge downgrade from Ancajas, the challenger is a former triple crown winner, having won the WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and Japanese titles at 115lbs, and is heavy handed. Sadly though he is stepping up in class, massively to take on of the divisional elite. Ioka will have to fight off disappointment, seeing his unification with Ancajas fall apart, and if he does that he should dominate Fukunaga here, but there is, a chance, he could over-look Fukunaga, and if he does that this could be a very dangerous bout for him. Our in depth preview of this bout is available to watch here Ioka faces Fukunaga to end 2021