Kazuto Ioka is not without his lucrative options in the loaded junior bantamweight division.
Just in case a fight with the top players doesn’t quite work out for the four-division and reigning WBO 115-pound titlist, there remains at least one willing challenger in Andrew Moloney.
“I have been calling for this fight against Ioka for a long time now,” Moloney told BoxingScene.com. “I respect him a lot as a fighter and what he has achieved as a four-division World Champion but after [Wednesday’s win over Donnie Nietes], I am even more confident that I have what it takes to beat him.”
Japan’s Ioka (29-2, 15KOs) was able to avenge a past defeat in his latest win, a landslide twelve-round decision over Philippines’ Nietes on July 13 in Tokyo. Ioka won by scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 120-108 to retain his WBO junior bantamweight title for the fifth time. The fight was far more lopsided than their first meeting, when Nietes (43-2-6, 23KOs) claimed a twelve-round, split decision on New Year’s Eve 2018 in Macau.
Australia’s Moloney (24-2, 16KOs; 1NC) has campaigned for a shot at Ioka from the moment the legendary Japanese star became a four-division champ in a tenth-round knockout of Aston Palicte in June 2019. His cries have fallen on deaf ears, settling for the secondary WBA title which he would eventually lose to Joshua Franco. Their June 2020 clash resulted in his first career defeat and the start of their trilogy in which he’d go 0-2 with one No-Contest.
Three straight wins have followed for Moloney, including a second-round stoppage of Nicaragua’s Alexander Espinoza on the June 5 undercard of the Devin Haney-George Kambosos Jr. undisputed lightweight championship in Melbourne. Moloney came out unscathed to the point where he’s eager to return to the ring as soon as October, when Haney and Kambosos are expected to rematch.
Similarly, Ioka barely had a scratch after twelve disciplined rounds fought against Nietes. The 33-year-old has discussed a likely New Year’s Eve return in Tokyo, preferably in a title unification bout. Moloney is just as eager to travel as he is to welcome the defending titlist to his home country.
“He didn’t take much punishment tonight so hopefully he is ready to fight again by mid-October,” noted Moloney. “I think a fight between us would make a great co-feature to the Haney-Kambosos rematch in Australia which would make for a huge platform.
“Otherwise, if Ioka would like more time I’d be more than happy to fight him on New Year’s Eve in Japan. I think that would be really special. Australia and Japan have had some great rivalries in boxing over the years and I think myself and Ioka would make for another great one.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox