By Jake Donovan
Kazuto Ioka recorded the second successful defense of his 108 lb. title with a 7th round stoppage of Kwanthai Sithmorseng in their main event Wednesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
The outcome was never in doubt, and not just because viewers were watching via one-hour tape delay on TBS Japan. Ioka was a heavy favorite heading into the bout, as his level of competition since moving up in weight is a considerable dropoff from his reign of terror as a strawweight titlist.
Action began slow, with Ioka picking his spots and showing no fear of the incoming. Sithmorseng boasts a modest knockout-to-win ratio, which suggests minimal power considering his largely unimpressive resumé. The closest the visiting Thai came to winning a round came in an aggressive third, when Ioka played defense while preserving his energy for later in the fight.
In retrospect, it appeared as if the defending titlist was hoping to avoid an early rout without actually having to carry his opponent. The intensity picked up in round four, as Sithmorseng could provide little more than a brave showing. Ioka landed at will until finishing off his challenger with a combination late in the 7th round. A double left hook - first to the body and then upstairs - put Sithmorseng down and out at 2:17 of round seven.
The win is Ioka's third straight knockout since moving up to the 108 lb. division late last year as he improves to 13-0 (9KO).
Sithmorseng falls to 43-2-1 (22KO) after coming up very short in his first fight outside of Thailand. The loss is his first since April '11, suffering a 9th round knockout at the hands of then-strawweight titlist Muhammad Rachman. The 29-year old Thai native is now 0-2 in title fights.
Ioka, meanwhile, rolls to 7-0 in title fights spanning two weight classes. His strawweight title reign began in just his 7th pro fight and capped with a watershed moment for his native Japan. The precocious boxer outlasted Akira Yaegashi in their instant classic last June, claiming a well-earned decision to unify two belts at straw weight.
The bout marked the first time two defending titlists from Japan met in a unification bout, though both fighters immediately defected to higher weight classes. Yaegashi presently reigns as the lineal flyweight king, where Ioka could very well head in the near future.
Ioka's stablemate, Ryo Miyazaki barely outpointed Jesus Silvestre in the evening's co-feature, but immediately announced his intention to move up to junior flyweight. Ioka vacated a belt late last year to provide the opportunity for Miyazaki to fight for and win a strawweight crown.
A similar move would provide plenty of opportunities for mentor and protégé. Ioka would have no shortage of challenges at flyweight should he choose to once again vacate and move up. A rematch with Yaegashi or even a long awaited showdown with unbeaten former two-division titlist Roman Gonzalez both serve as mouthwatering matchups.
Tags: Kazuto Ioka