In the final meaningful bout of the year we got something spectacular as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15) successfully defended his title, for the second time, and stopped 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9) in a late contender for Fight of the Year.
The bout, which had been hugely anticipated by boxing fans world wide, was the first ever time two multi-weight Japanese world champions had ever faced off, and after the 2020 we'd had it was a bout that had, genuinely excitement going in to it.
In one corner we had the experienced champion, the man who had repeatedly told us "this wasn't a special bout" and that this wasn't going to be a problem to him. In the other corner we had a young challenger who had repeatedly told us this was going to be a generational shift, and that he was ready to lead the new generation. Not only that, but Tanaka was looking to secure a place in history, by taking a 4th division world title in just his 16th professional bout.
There was so many substories going into this. Ranging from the worlds of the two men, and the fact both were looking to secure their place in history.
From the opening bell this started quickly, with Ioka firing in a right hand almost immediately. His hand speed, as it always has been, was wickedly impressive, and he boxed well with his his speed offense. Ioka on the other hand looked slower, but smart, picking his shots a lot more intelligently, and landed some solid body shots through the opening round. It was hotly contested through out, and very much a round that set the tone for this to be something thrilling.
The excitement continued in rounds 2 and 3. Tanaka seemed to buzz Ioka at one point, before Ioka fired back with some amazing counter shots. It still seemed like the handspeed difference could prove to be the vital difference in favour of Tanaka, but Ioka, to his credit, was riding shots well, countering smartly, and not taking too many clean, showing his fantastic technical ability to limit the punishment he was taking whilst also getting a read on Tanaka.
By the end of round 3 it seemed like Tanaka was starting to get to Ioka, who was starting to swell around the eyes, and seemed to be on the worse end of things. Ioka however saw out the storm and roared back in round 4, one of his best rounds he began to make the most of what he had learned from the first 3 rounds. He was now making Tanaka miss, countering brilliantly, and getting the last word in the exchanges.
At the end of round 4 both men's faces were looking like they were getting beaten up, yet both were still landing their share making for a truly compelling contest.
In round 5 we saw the fight further swing to Ioka. Tanaka had started well, but body from Ioka continued to land clean, slowing the challenger who looked to land big rights. Mid way through the round we had some real tit for tat stuff, with Tanaka outlanding Ioka, but taking the much heavier blows. The final blow of the round was the heaviest, and was a perfect counter left hook from Ioka that dropped Tanaka hard and left his nose a bloodied mess. Had the shot come 20 seconds earlier we could have seen the end of the bout, but Tanaka rose and the bell saved him, giving him the chance to recover before round 6.
Heading into round 6 we had questions about how Tanaka would look after the knockdown, and he looked surprisingly good, taking the fight to Ioka early in the round. He seemed to catch with a really good right hand at one point, but a flurried response form Ioka hurt him and a counter left hook a few moments later dropped Tanaka for the second time in as many rounds. Amazingly Tanaka not only got back to his feet but took the fight to Ioka immediately afterwards, rocking the champion in the final seconds of the round.
In round 7 Tanaka looked to try and turn things around, know, after being dropped twice, he needed to do something big. Sadly though by the end of the round he began to look desperate, firing his right hand and getting frustrated as it missed time after time, whilst Ioka was regularly landing jabs. Ioka wasn't just countering Tanaka, but was essentially making Tanaka's best weapon look useless at times. Mentally crippling the youngster, who was realising that the hole he was in, was just getting deeper.
The depth of the hole became too much in round 8 as Ioka landed a short left hook-come and a clean right hand, leading to the referee immediately jumping in. It was an excellent stoppage as Tanaka's legs buckled beneath and the referee essentially held him up, letting him steady himself, before letting him congratulate Ioka on the win.
Following the bout Ioka took the microphone and spoke about the fight and, finally, gave a bit of respect to Tanaka. He stated "It wasn't a surprise match for me, but I've been saying that I'll show the difference, so I couldn't just say it as a man. I'm glad I could prove it as a champion. I don't know how long I can continue boxing, but he's the player who will carry the boxing world in the future. It was a good experience with him."
Ioka also revealed that he had been seeing double from his left eye from round 2, and was now hoping to fight against one of the other champions in the division, such as WBA "Super" champion Roman Gonzalez or WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
At the time of the stoppage the scores were all heavily in favour of Ioka, with scores of 69-62 and 68-63, twice.
For Ioka this win was a career defining one, and it will sit up there along with his wins against Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Akira Yaegashi and Juan Carlos Reveco. It is one of those wins that showed how good of a ring technician he was, how smart he was and how he manages to solve problems in the ring, something we saw him do a year ago against Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka is among the most adaptable fighters out there, and with Ismael Salas behind him, it seems like they are coming up with excellent game plans fight after fight.
As for Tanaka the 25 year old will be disappointed here. It wasn't how he wanted to end 2020. At 25 years old however, this isn't the end for him. In fact the stoppage by the referee, the excellent Michiaki Someya, may well have helped prolong his career. This was a less for Tanaka in the end, but it was a less he learned at the age of 25. It is one he come rebuild from. He can come again. It's back to the drawing board for him, and likely time to change how he boxes. He has the tools to be an exceptional boxer, he has incredible speed but mentally he gets too excited. If he can tone down the excitement factor following this loss, he can easily go on to to claim a Super Flyweight title in a year or two.
The one big question mark here, is why did DAZN or ESPN pick this up for the US and use it to advertise a future opponent for Gonzalez, Estrada or Jerwin Ancajas. This should have been shown in the US, and it's a massive shame it wasn't! A real shame American fans had to look online streams for this one.
The final world title bout of the 2010's saw Japan's Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] close things out for the year as he has done numerous times during the decade. Taking home a win, and successfully defending his WBO Super Flyweight champion against mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-0-1, 5) from Puerto Rico.
The bout started well for Cintron, who seemed to use his natural attributes well, making the most of his reach and his speed. He was however consistently under pressure from Ioka, who struggled to get close early on, but began to find his range in round 3. When that happened the bout began to turn from "interesting" to exciting".
With Ioka cutting the distance better from round 3 he forces Cintron to fight his fight, whilst landing some brutal body shots. The game plan from Ioka was simple. Take away the legs of the Cintron, make him hold his ground and go to work. It was a good gameplan, but one that only partially worked. To his credit Cintron's legs never really stopped moving, despite being fed a fairly consistent stream of vicious, hard body shots, especially in the middle rounds.
Cintron's heart and unwillingness to wilt helped him have moments, but his early lead had been destroyed by the body blows and his head shots seemed to do little more than annoy Ioka who continued to walk forward, pressing, looking to sneak more rib buster on to the challenger.
By round 8 it seemed that Cintron would eventually capitulate. He seemed out of energy, out of ideas and out of hope, but instead hit bit down, getting through a some torrid moments in rounds 9 and 10 before actually having some of his best success in the final few rounds. He seemed to refind his ambition, and let his hands go more, doing what had worked for him early on. He was getting his shots off and getting out of dodge, creating space, boxing and moving. It may have been that Ioka felt he had the bout in the bag, or it may have been that Ioka was tired, but Cintron finished the bout well. By then though it really was too little too late.
After 12 rounds the decision seemed an easy one, with only the specific scored in doubt. It seemed impossible to do the mental arithmetic to get to a Cintron win, despite his gutsy and brave performance, and the judges agreed scoring it 116-112, twice, to Ioka and 115-113 to Ioka.
(Photo Credit - A. McGovern)
Earlier today we saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion champion being crowned, as Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) [井岡一翔] put together one of his best performances to date, and stopped Filipino foe Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21) in 10 rounds. The win saw Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight champion, and only the second Japanese fighter to win world titles over 4 weights following Naoko Fujioka.
The two men had both looked great during their walk ins. Palicte looked calm but confident whilst Ioka, flanked by Japanese hip-hop artist AK69, looked determined and as if he was arriving for his destiny.
From the opening moments there was two things that were clear. One was a purely physical thing, Palicte dwarfed Ioka. They looked a division, if not two, apart. The other was that Ioka was much quicker, sharper and had the speed edge in terms of hand speed, footspeed and overall movement. It seemed like the bout could come down to who could make the most of their advantages.
It quickly became apart that it was Ioka's speed advantage that was the big difference, with Ioka often avoiding the big, booming power shots of Palicte, whilst managing to find a home for his own shots, especially his straight right hand up top and his body shots.
As the rounds went on it seemed more and more like Ioka's speed was the telling factor, with Palicte often being countered, regularly with lovely left hooks that Ioka was finding from round 3 on wards. Palicte's issues were worsened by the effective body work from Ioka, who has quickly become a forgotten man in the conversation of best body puncher in the sport, and in round 4 Ioka really showed off what he could do with shots to head and body.
Other than in round 4 Palicte generally looked like he was in the rounds, but losing them, and falling behind on the score cards but doing enough to be in them with an odd combination and some solid jabs. It seemed like something he and his team knew was happening when they sent him out for round 7, a round that really was something special.
Palicte came out for the seventh with bad intentions, pressing Ioka in a way he hadn't done in the first 6 rounds. He was there looking to take Ioka out, and unlike the earlier rounds where he was typically trying to land the odd combinations, he went full throttle. The increase in output from the Filipino seemed to shock Ioka, who seemed to wobble at one point, but Ioka would later turn the round on it's head and hurt Palicte, with body shots being a key late in the round. In many ways the round was Palicte's last hoorah, and form then on he never really seemed to have any more sustained success with Ioka's technical ability and combinations becoming a clearer focal point.
Going into round 10 it looked like Palicte's toughness, durability and chin might see him to the distance but Ioka had other idea's after he hurt the Filipino with a big right hand. Ioka waded in, looking to close the show, eventually forcing the referee to step in. Palicte, and his team, weren't happy at the stoppage, and you could argue it was a slightly early stoppage, but the Filipino did take 6 or 7 clean head shots and left the referee in the position where he could step in, especially given the damage Palicte had taken in the earlier rounds.
The question as to what is next for Ioka will be an interesting one, though there are big potential bouts with fellow Japanese fighters Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka, both of whom have mentioned becoming 4 weight champions themselves. Of those two bouts a showdown with Tanaka would appear more likely, given that both are TBS affiliated fighters.
The final world title bout of 2018 saw a new WBO Super Flyweight world champion being crowned as Filipino Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) shocked the gamblers and took a split decision win over Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) [井岡一翔] in a brilliant technical match up between two fantastic fighters who fought evenly through out a captivating contest. Not only was it a captivating contest, but it was one fought at such a high skill level that both men showed off technical mastery like so few bouts we've seen this year.
Nietes took the early lead. He was countering well and making the most of the opportunities Ioka was giving him by fighting on the inside. It was brilliant work from Nietes to land the sharper, cleaner, more accurate shots. The early success of Nietes forced Ioka on to the outside.
Boxing at range Ioka had a lot of success in the middle rounds, with Nietes slowing down, showing his age and struggling to catch up with Ioka, who seemed to run through the middle rounds with some ease to take the lead.
Ioka's success saw the bout tighten up, a lot, and going into the final rounds it seemed there was everything to play for. The success wasn't dominant, but was clear and it was obvious that fighting at range Ioka could control things, and if he was able to keep up the out put and the movement he should have been able to win.
In the final rounds however Nietes seemed to dig deep, find that extra bit of energy and close the distance. Ioka on the other hand slowed, began to stand his ground more and slow his movement. That allowed Nietes back into the fight, a fight that had seemed to be Ioka's after his strong middle portion of the fight.
With the final 2 rounds being ultra close, pick em rounds if left possibles score of the bout all over the place, potentially from 116-112 either way.
With the bout going the 12 rounds we went to the score cards and unsurprisingly they were split. Each man taking a 116-112 score card in their favour, though the bout was decided by a bizarre 118-110 card for Nietes, a score that would assume the judge had given Nietes every benefit imaginable.
With the 2 judges having Nietes as the winner he now becomes the third Filipino to become a 4 weight champion, the 3rd man to win world titles in each of the 4 lowest weight classes and a sure fire hall of famer. For Ioka there is strong argument to have a rematch, of if Nietes retires a chance at the title when it becomes vacant again.
For us fans this was the technical back and forth we had all anticipated. It wasn't a dramatic FOTY candidate but was a sensational bout, and the perfect way to close out the new year, even if one of the judges was watching something the rest of us wasn't.
Some fighters set out on their careers to make a lot of money, others set out to become legends and set new records. One fighter from the second category has been Japanese talent Kazuto Ioka (22-1, 13) [井岡一翔], who appears to be trying to set new records every time he sets foot in the ring, and seems intent on creating a legacy that will last long beyond his career.
He set his first record back in his 7th bout, when he set a Japanese speed record for fewest fights to a world title, he then became the first fighter to win an all Japanese unification bout, the quickest Japanese fighter to become a 2-weight champion and subsequently a 3-weigth champion.
Today he tied a long standing record for the most wins wins in world title bout by a Japanese fighter, winning his 14th world title bout, and defended the WBA Flyweight title for the 5th time, as he took a wide decision win over the teak tough, but thoroughly out classed, Thai challenger Noknoi Sitthiprasert (62-5, 38) [นกน้อย ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท].
Coming in to the bout Noknoi had won 61 consecutive bouts, but had been fighting at such a low level that his actually ability was a bit unknown. What we found out today was that his ability wasn't outstanding, but his toughness was incredible as he took a really one sided beating, but managed to survive the 12 rounds.
The bout began slowly enough, but Ioka was the busier fighter in the early stages. The one early break for Noknoi was a point deduction from Ioka in round 3 for a low blow, a low blow that replays showed was a legitimate body shot and one that clearly hurt Noknoi right on the bell. From then on Ioka moved through the gears, with only round 6 being particularly competitive, with both men trading shots with success. It was a round that Noknoi may have won, but one that could easily have gone to the flashier Ioka, who was letting combinations rip to both the head and body.
Despite the point deduction in round 3 the referee seemed to miss numerous low ones from Ioka, who landed some brutal blows to the balls. Despite the low blows and combinations Noknoi held strong and hardly seemed to feel the weight of Ioka's shots until round 11 when he was shaken several times, and seemed to be heading to the canvas on numerous occassions. Despite being hurt Noknoi amazingly stayed up right and managed to finish the round by firing back at Ioka, who looked desperate for a stoppage.
Ioka's aggression and hunt for a stoppage continued in round 12 as he tried to finish off the Thai but Noknoi's extreme toughness kept him upright to the final bell in what was a real surprise given the punishment he'd taken.
At the final bell there was no doubting the winner, though the cards were close than we expected with the judges scoring the bout 117-110, twice and 116-111, a remarkably close score given the domination of Ioka.
After the bout Ioka admitted that he was wanting to stop Noknoi and keep alive his stoppage run, the Thai though really impressed with his toughness, and we'd not be surprised to see him get another world title fight down the line based on his sheer durability. We were skeptical of how Noknoi would do, and whilst he was dominated he managed to really increase his standing with this performance.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The final, of 5, world title fights today saw WBA Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (21-1, 13) [井岡一翔] pull himself off the canvas to retain his title, and stop and the previously unbeaten Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (15-1, 6) [แสตมป์ กระทิงแดงยิม], who genuinely impressed with his incredible toughness.
The first round saw Ioka on the front foot and look to attack the body of Stamp but the Thai wasn't scared of the champion and came back firing bombs in the direction of the Osaka star. Those bombs had a massive effect in round 2 when a huge right hook sent Ioka down, hard. Ioka regrouped but looked hurt and on the retreat until the bell came to end the round. It was clear that Stamp, despite what his record states, hit hard and he shook Ioka up several times again in round 3. Despite showing real power it was the toughness of Stamp which was truly impressing as he walked through some disgustingly powerful body shots from Ioka during the round.
Sadly for Stamp it seemed that, after round 3, he was pretty much depending on his toughness as his work rate slowed dramatically and his combinations became less frequent whilst Ioka stepped up the pace. As Ioka moved through the gears he began to put on an exhibition in body punching, landing hooks and uppercutts to the torso of the youngster. Amazingly Stamp took the blows, and tried to fire back himself,with out buckling through a very tough round 4.
Although round 4 was tough for the Thai things only got tougher as Ioka began to give him a beating in round 5 and 6, a round that was close to being a 10-8 round without a knockdown. Stamp was doing more than surviving, but not much more as Ioka moved, boxed and broke down the Thai.
With Stamp visibly losing his power Ioka engaged him in a toe-to-toe battle in round 7. Up close Ioka was able to land body shots at will and started to use them to launch combinations, switching between the head and body with ease. Eventually the body shots took their toll with Stamp being dropped following a lovely left hand to the mid-section. The Thai was in agony but somehow regrouped to his feet and got up to fight again. Ioka went on the hunt and fired in blows before Stamp swung back, giving Ioka a big opening to the body which he took to score a second knockdown. Stamp got to his feet but wisely spat out his gum shield and the referee saved him from further harm.
For Ioka the win showed both his potency to the body as well as frailties to punchers, and it'd be wise for him to avoid big punchers going forward, though other than Daigo Higa there perhaps is a lack of true punchers at 112lbs. For Stamp the future will be interesting. This was certainly too much too soon, but will the damage linger with the Thai or will he comeback stronger? He could be damaged goods following this, or he could, just as easily, rebuild and come back to be a real star for Thailand over the next decade.
Just moments ago Japanese fans saw popular Osakan Kazuto Ioka (20-1, 12) [井岡一翔] successfully defend his WBA Flyweight title with a confident display against the determined and fiery Keyvin Lara (18-1-1, 6), from Nicaragua.
Lara began the fight with a high energy pressure style that saw him immediately taking the fight to Ioka and forcing the Osakan star on to the backfoot, and against the ropes. Despite being backed up Ioka looked calm and confident as he blocked a huge number of Lara's punches whilst landing some sickening counter shots of his own. For the first 4 rounds it was the same pattern of the fight.
In round 5 we began to see Ioka coming forward a bit more, and backing Lara away at times. The offensive work of Ioka was still mostly counters to Lara's intense pressure but it proved that Ioka was in control and could choose when and how to come forward. There was little Lara could do to stop him, or to defend against the increasingly frequent left hooks to the body which were chipping away at Lara's resolve.
By the end of round 6 we had began to see Lara slow notably whilst Ioka was becoming more aggressive and at one point it seemed he had momentarily buckled Lara's legs before the Nicaraguan regrouped and began throwing back. It was a brave effort from Lara but it was clear that he was being broken down and in rounds 7, 8 and 9 we saw Ioka become more and more aggressive. What had once been single counter shots were now fully fledged 3, 4 and 5 punch combinations to the Nicaraguan.
In round 10 Ioka began to actively hunt the knock out and for the final minute he seemed to have Lara going with something, god only knows what, keeping Lara upright until late in the round. The Nicaraguan seemed ready to go after beating the count but the bell saved him. Well we say saved him, he was quickly finished in round 11 with Ioka starting the assault early and finishing the challenger after just 71 seconds of the round, with Lara being counted out as he began to rise at 10.
The win for Ioka could mean he faces WBA “super” champion Juan Francisco Estrada, with the WBA officially instructing the two to negotiate from tomorrow. That fight would be much tougher than this one, though it's possible that the two men will go in different directions. Either way we don't expect to see Ioka back in the ring until his tradition December 31st bout. If it's not with Estrada it could be with fellow Japanese fighters Daigo Higa or Takuya Kogawa or possibly against WBA interim champion Stamp Kiatniwat.
For Lara the bout was a painful loss but he was impressive with high toughness and energy and we wouldn't be shocked to see him invited back over to Japan to face some of the other Japanese Flyweights, in fact a bout with Higa would be a potential FOTY contender.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier this year Kazuto Ioka (19-1, 11) became the second Japanese fighter to become a 3-weight world champion as he claimed a narrow majority decision over Juan Carlos Reveco (36-3, 19). The bout, which was competitive, had been described as controversial with some stating it was a robbery and the WBA demanding that the two men do it again in a rematch.
Although a rematch was demanded the WBA did allow both fighters to take an interim bout, which both fighters won, by decisions.
Today that rematch took place and this time there was no controversy at all, in fact the bout was more a statement of intent by Ioka than a competitive fight with the champion retaining his title in very impressive fashion, the fashion that may well alert the rest of the division and prove that he is, finally, a fully fledged Flyweight.
The fight started with Ioka looking accurate, sharp, quick and confident, but very much like a man who was fighting conservatively. There was next to nothing wasted by the champion whilst the challenger tried to force a high tempo, though was in effective missing regularly with shots that either fell short or hit the guard. If Reveco was looking to set the pace his aim failed as Ioka calmly stepped out of range, walked around the ring, rest himself and slowly but surely began to break down the Argentinian.
The breaking down process was beautiful to watch with Ioka setting out his stall early. He wasn't busy but what he was determined, landing numerous solid body blows from very early on, shots that seemed to land with a thud time and time again. Reveco, for the most part, took them without showing any real discomfort but it seemed like the sheer force on them was going to take something away from the Argentinian, especially given his high work rate and the question marks about him struggling to make weight.
Through the first 4 rounds the bout was competitive but it always seemed like Ioka was the boss, he was the one choosing when to fight, the one landing the telling blows and the one who controlled the action, despite Reveco's high out put. That changed slightly in round 5 as Ioka stood his ground more and in round 6 it totally changed with the champion essentially taking the round off. If anything those two rounds gave Reveco hope, though it was hope that was demolished in round 7 as Ioka got back in to things and began to bully Reveco, winning the exchanges and backing up the challenger, who was looking gutsy but out matched.
Things went from bad to worse for Reveco who was starting to wear the damage of the fight around his left eye and was losing his footing frequently when he let his shots go. Unfortunately he was also eating shots to both the head and body through round 8 as Ioka began to smell the finish. The smell became stronger in round 9 when Reveco was left bleeding from his eye and took an absolute pasting, with volley's of shots to the head and body. It was the type of round that constitutes a 10-8 and the sort of round that can be the end of fighters chances.
Following the big 9th Ioka seemed to relax, ease off the gas and know that he had it in the bag. Reveco on the other hand put it all on the line and seemed to swing everything he had at Ioka, though only managed to tag the air, on a very regular basis. It was an embarrassing round for Reveco in terms of his accuracy, but he had shown his true grit by just trying to fight following the previous round.
For all his guts and determination Reveco was looking like a beaten and desperate fighter who had little to offer, other than his heart. Sadly form him even that failed, with a body shot in round 11 sending him down. He beat the count but was ruled unfit to continue, subjecting him to his first stoppage loss, possibly even his final bout at the world level, if not final bout all together.
Last year we saw Osaka star Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) make a move to the talent laden Flyweight division. On his Flyweight debut it seemed as if the weight didn't suit him and he was beaten by tricky Thai Amnat Ruenroeng, who has since proven his quality with wins over Zou Shiming, McWilliams Arroyo and Johnriel Casimero. Following Ioka's Flyweight debut he began to grow into the division, but never looked quite the same fighter that he had been at both Minimumweight and Light Flyweight.
Yesterday Ioka made the first defense of the WBA title that he had narrowly won earlier this year, with a win over Juan Carlos Reveco. In his first defense he took on Reveco's countryman Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-3-1, 14), a man best known for his exploits at Super Flyweight, where he beat Zolani Tete.
On paper it was an interesting contest and a good test for Ioka as a first defense. It wasn't a big name challenger but a tough, strong and naturally bigger challenger.
Whilst Sosa appeared strong and powerful he seemed slow and that made life particularly easy for Ioka who boxed and moved beautifully from the first round to the last using his jab and straight right to pepper the challenger whilst later on the uppercuts were a key weapon for the champion.
Sosa, to his credit, never stopped trying to change the tide but lacked the finesse to do so and at the end it was little wonder that he was a wide loser on cards, with lopsided scores of 120-108, and 119-109, twice, all in favour of Ioka.
It now seems likely that Ioka will face a rematch with Juan Carlos Reveco on New Years Eve with that bout likely to be held in Osaka, the home of Ioka who is considered a major star in the area.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
In a number of countries we've seen a spate of weight jumping champions who have picked up straps at multiple weights. In Japan multi-weight champions are relatively rare with many really making their career in one division, possibly two. Amazingly 3-weight champions in Japan are scarce to say the least and at the start of this year only one Japanese born fighter had ever claimed divisional world titles in 3 division. That was the controversial Koki Kameda who had claimed titles at 108lbs, 112lbs and 118lbs. Today Kameda has been joined by the talented Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) who claimed the WBA Flyweight title and became the quickest fighter, in history, to become a 3-weight world champion and only the second Japanese born fighter to achieve the feat.
Ioka was fighting in his second Flyweight title bout and found himself up against talented Argentinian Juan Carlos Reveco (35-2, 19), a tough and determined boxer puncher from Mendoza, Argentina. Reveco was himself a 2-weight world champion and a man who had been in fine form winning his last 18 bout, including a victory in a previous visit to Japan against Masayuki Kuroda and a very impressive stoppage of the then interim champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep last December.
To us this was one of the most anticipated fights of the year and one that had been talked about for about a year. It was a clash of talented, exciting fighters with differing styles and a lot at stake. For all intents it was a must win for both and it was also a bout that had a sense of possible redemption for Ioka following his loss to amnat Ruenroeng last year in, an IBF Flyweight title bout, his first title bout at Flyweight.
Ioka's problem against Amnat was that he couldn't really get going and the Thai managed to find ways of shutting him down, time and time again. This time around Ioka got going from the off and found a home for his jab almost immediately and he kept Reveco at range during the opening rounds. Reveco tried to slip it but had little success in a very good opening round for the Japanese challenger. From then on though things became a bit tough with rounds 2,3 and 4 being incredibly close. Reveco was determined to get inside and unload flurries whilst Ioka was hoping to use his jab and keep the champion at range. Nether man could have things completely their own way and both managed to make a claim to any of those 3 rounds. We had given 2 of those 3 to Ioka though could easily have seen them go to Reveco.
In round 5 the challenger refound his groove, at least in the early portion of the round. Reveco seemed to wait, biding his time before turning it up late in the round to try and steal it, it was however too little too late for Reveco who, on our card, was 4-2 down.
Reveco seemed to sense that something had to change and he made those changes in round 6 as he put his foot on the gas and started to really take the fight to Ioka with several lovely crisp flurries. It was a really poor round from Ioka who struggled to land anything of note and it seemed that it was the champion who had found another gear. Round 7 was another one for the champion who had quickly close things up on our score card and shown that he had the will to win and the ability to put Ioka under fierce pressure. It was impressive from the champion who was fighting his fight and making Ioka look second best.
The champion tried to continue his success in round 8 but Ioka began to adjust, using his feet to act as the matador to Reveco's bullish assaults. It was the sort of change Ioka needed as the champion was coming on strong and building his momentum. The tactics weren't the prettiest from the Japanese fighter but worked enough for him to repeat them in the 9th round with Reveco failing for find the success he had had just a couple of rounds earlier.
Going into round 10 it was all to play for, we had it 6-3 to Ioka bout could easily have seen it going 6-3 to Reveco with a number of those early rounds being to close to call either way.
It seemed like it was the defending champion who felt the need to change things and in round 10 he really stepped up again in what was one of the fights best rounds with both men landing solid shots as they momentarily traded on the inside. It was a spectacular round though it was quickly forgotten as the 11th outshone it in every way with Reveco seemingly doing enough to take both rounds, though an argument could certainly be had in regard to the 11th. It seemed clear that neither man was sure they'd done enough and that they were going to have to dig deep with shots traded on the outside and the inside.
With rounds 10 and 11 both picking up the pace there was no doubting that round 12 had the potential be the best of the bunch and that's exactly what we got as the two men traded blows, and showed off what they were about. Reveco went all out trying to turn the fight around, as if he knew he had to do something more than the home town hero, Ioka managed to shift between holding his own in exchanges of blows and landing clean accurate counters. Watching Ioka here it was clear he was proving he could do everything he needed to, though at times it left us wondering why he seemed reluctant to trade earlier on. The round was so good that the TYC Sports commentator, Argentinian TV channel, expressed his admiration for the action with an exclamation of "Fantastico", a viewed shared by us and many others.
With the amount of close and highly competitive rounds there seemed to be no clear cut way to call the bout. TYC Sports had the Argentinian well ahead, 116-112, though they had seemed very pro-Reveco through the bout giving Reveco a lead of 78-74 after 8 rounds. We had had it 115-113 to Ioka though could certainly see the same score in favour of Reveco.
Slowly the cards were read out with scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-113, giving Ioka a majority decision that was received by tears from his team who know how valuable this win was to his legacy.
For some the result was controversial though in reality it was a bout that was close either way. The momentum shifted several times, the action was high quality from both, many rounds were very competitive and overall the fight was sensational. It was a highly skilled and action heavy fight that saw both men change their tactics throughout. Ioka's jab early saw him taking the lead, Reveco combinations and aggression saw him coming back into things, the Ioka was forced to use his feet before Reveco found a way to cut the distance.
A rematch between the two wouldn't be a bad choice though we expect that Ioka has other plans. The division is a stacked one with bug names, exciting contenders and a lot of good looking match ups. Showdowns with domestic rivals such as Suguru Muranaka and Koki Eto appear to be appealing, a fight with Brian Viloria would be mouth watering, a rematch with Felix Alvarado would also be an exciting proposition. If he's wanting an easier first defense a possible showdown with Noknoi Sitthiprasert may be interesting given Noknoi's run of form which has included more than 50 straight wins.
It really is an exciting time to follow Ioka, though it seems almost certain that we won't see him competing at Super Flyweight. He still seems a bit unsure of himself as a Flyweight and although he seems to have the size to fill into a very good Flyweight we don't seem him really looking comfortable against any of the division's top guys, such as Juan Francisco Estrada or Roman Gonzalez. Those wanting to see an all-Japanese super fight between Ioka and Naoya Inoue will almost certainly be left wanting and in fairness it would appear to be a huge mismatch in favour of Inoue, who is simply too big and too strong for Ioka. Thankfully though with so many exciting options our there Ioka could well be busy with some great fights and not need to look towards his fellow star for a major bout.
(Image, from a post fight press conference, courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
*Note Japanese licensed promoted fighters Roman Gonzalez and Jorge Linares, both of Teiken, have also become 3 weight world champions.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.