Earlier today we saw WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 16) [井岡一翔] record his third defense as he defeated mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr (33-5-1, 24) in a compelling 12 round bout that had a bit of everything, and turned out to be a very well contested, and exciting bout that saw both men needing to take some big shots.
The challenger was incredibly confident in his ring walk and it was clear from the energy and demeanour that he wasn't in Japan to make up the numbers. Ioka on the other hand looked like a man who who was missing the fans that he would have hoped would have been at the venue, though weren't due to the increasing number of Covid19 cases in Japan. He didn't look worried, but he didn't look as confident as we've seen him in the past.
The confidence of Rodriguez wasn't just for show and he raced out to start the bout, putting Ioka under pressure and using a lot of movement to make Ioka feel uncomfortable. It was a close round overall but one where Rodriguez seemed to have the more eye catching moments and the best highlights, including landing a number of big right hands.
Rounds 2 and three were quite similar to the opening round, with Rodriguez holding his own with Ioka, who was taking heavy right hands whilst looking to land left hooks to the body. The two men seemed to have very different tactics, with Ioka looking to take the legs of Rodriguez away, whilst Rodriguez wanted to fight in spurts, catch the eye and apply intelligent pressure. It was a very interesting start to the bout, and one that was genuinely very competitive.
As the rounds went on the action kept picking up, and by the end of round 5 it seemed like Rodriguez had been the man getting the better of things. His aggression, his strength and his eye catching right hands up top were certainly impressing and it seemed like Ioka, who's well known for being an adaptable fighter, had got his gameplan wrong. The lack of fans perhaps leaving him just a touch flatter than we'd seen from him.
In round 6 and 7 however Ioka began to find his range, his tempo, his counters and his space with more freque ncy. Rodriguez was still having moments, but the Mexican was slowing down, he had put a lot in to the early rounds, used a fair bit of energy, and was struggling just a little bit to close the distance for his bursts. The extra space allowed Ioka to show case his counter punching, and he was he who started to land the better shots, making Rodriguez pay for his aggression with more regularity. Round 7 was a real changing point and Ioka went on to take round 8 as well as he began to take slowly take control. The momentum the champion was building seemed likely to see him take the fight away from Rodriguez, however the Mexican bit down hard and had a stellar round 9, as he hurt Ioka, and showed the same energy he had shown earlier in the bout. The round saw Ioka holding quite a bit, something that Rodriguez complained about after the fight when talking about the result, and something that did go completely unpunished, though had seen both men holding at times on the inside earlier in the bout.
Sadly for Rodriguez the round wasn't the start of a major fight back, and instead rounds 11 and 12 were both good ones for Ioka, as he got back to boxing, making Rodriguez miss, and spoiling when he needed to. It was something he needed to do to win, and something that did end up deciding the bout, with Ioka taking the last 2 rounds to secure a 116-112 win on all 3 cards.
Talking about the scorecards, they were certainly interesting. Not a single round in the first half of the fight saw all 3 judges agree. The unanimous round was round 7, for Ioka, who also took rounds 8, 11 and 12 on all 3 cards. Rodriguez on the other hand took round 9 on all 3 cards. Other than that the results of the rounds were split on the cards. Amazingly however it was one of those fights where judging was tricky. Although both men had very good rounds, they also had a lot of competitive close ones, making this a really close fight, and a very hotly contested one.
After the contest Rodriguez stated that he thought he'd won, and that he would have won had the bout been on neutral territory. He complain about Ioka holding and hitting behind the head, though in all honesty it was something both men were guilty of, and neither seemed to be doing it maliciously but more incidental shots up close.
As for Ioka he seemed to accept his performance wasn't great, and that he couldn't fight the fight he wanted, but getting the win was key. He also stated that the bout he's going to try and get next is a unification bout with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas, something he and his team are going to be trying to negotiate for the big New Year's Eve show that Ioka will be on.
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.