By Jake Donovan
Kazuto Ioka enjoyed a successful first defense of his 108 lb. belt, scoring a 9th round knockout of Thai southpaw Wisano Kokietgym in their main event Wednesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
The bout served as the first appearance of 2013 for the precocious Ioka, who is still feeling his way around the 108 lb. division. Kokietgym came in as a highly motivated challenger, full of nationalistic pride as he and his cornermen chanted immediately following the playing of Thailand’s national anthem.
Pride and determination factored little into the fight once Ioka hit a groove. The defending titlist took a couple of rounds to warm up, but took over for good in the third round. Kokietgym proved a little too game for his own good, looking to engage the hometown fighter.
Ioka was more than game for the cause, calling the southpaw’s bluff as he picked up the pace from an action and power standpoint. Kokeitgym was unable to keep up or withstand the incoming. Such was never more telling than in the fight-ending sequence in the ninth. At a point when he was well ahead and could have easily put it in cruise control, Ioka chose to close the show.
With gym mate Ryo Miyazaki thrilling the crowd with his one-punch knockout an hour earlier (read more below), Ioka sought to deliver the perfect nightcap. Kokietgym was hurt early and slow in reacting to the incoming. Ioka recognized a challenger in distress and moved in for the kill.
Right hand shots stunned Kokietgym, but it was digging body shots that provided the most damage. A left hook underneath knocked the wind out of the challenger, with two more right hands to the ribcage forcing the challenger to collapse to the canvas in pain.
Referee Mark Nelson began to issue a count, but wisely waved it off midway through. The official time was 2:51 of round nine, with Kokietgym (now 43-9-2, 13KO) still flat on his back as the fight ended.
Ioka improves to 12-0 (8KO) with the win, his second since moving up to the 108 lb. division last New Year’s Eve. The precocious 24-year old has already packed a career’s worth of memories into a pro run just four years young. While his alphabet title in tow is of the paper variety, there’s no denying his talent and still rising potential.
Signs of greatness were evident when he leaped into the title fray in 2011. In just his 7th pro fight, Ioka showed no fear in tearing through unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai to win a 105 lb. belt. The win kicked off a Fighter of the Year-level campaign in 2011, followed by a career-best win in a split decision thriller over countryman Akira Yaegashi last June. The occasion marked the first time ever for two Japanese fighters to square off in a title unification bout.
Further validation is still sought by many in the industry, however. Awaiting him at 108 are title fights with Jesus Silvestre and – should he choose to remain in the division – unbeaten Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. Four pounds north, exists the chance for a third title reign should he wish to pursue a rematch with Yaegashi.
Such a move would do wonders for best friend and fellow titlist Miyazaki, who overcame a rocky start to deliver a highlight reel, one-punch 5th round knockout of Mexico’s Carlos Verarde in the evening’s co-feature.
The ending was far more spectular than was the beginning for Miyazaki, who looked sluggish and weight-drained in the first defense of his 105 lb. belt. The 24-year old was slow to the draw in the first several rounds, while the visiting Verarde fought like a man who traveled halfway around the world to win a major title.
Miyazaki was competitive throughout, but not a place you want to be in when you are the defending champion. Fortunately, his power was enough to carry him through the day. The bout was dead even after four rounds (38-38 on all three scorecards), but scoring rendered irrelevant less than three minutes later.
A back-and-forth round five came to a sudden and thrilling end.
An exchange in center ring ended with Miyazaki scoring a right hand to freeze Verarde in place. The sequence allowed the defending titlist to plant his feet just long enough to load up on a left hook that put Verarde flat on his back.
Referee Raul Caiz Jr. recognized the dynamic of the punch, waving off the bout without a count and signalling for immediate medical attention from ringside.
The end came at 2:22 of round five.
Miyazaki improves to 19-0-1 (11KO), making the first defense of the 105 lb. belt he acquired last New Year's Eve. The win came on the same show that saw best friend and training stable mate Ioka become a two-division champ.
Verarde gave it his best effort, and his stock goes up in defeat. Unfortunately, he still leaves Japan empty-handed, heading back to Mexico with a mark of 23-3-1 (13KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
Tags: Kazuto Ioka , Ryo Miyazaki