By Jake Donovan
The second time was a charm for Kazuto Ioka in his quest to win titles in three weight classes. The 26-year old turned
back the best that visiting flyweight titlist Juan Carlos Reveco had to offer in gutting out a 12-round majority decision to
claim the crown Wednesday evening in Osaka, Japan.
Scores were 114-114 even, and 115-113 and 116-113 in favor of Ioka. BoxingScene.com had it 116-112 in favor of Ioka, watching from the living room couch.
Both fighters weighed in right at the divisional limit of 112 lbs.
Reveco knew what he was up against from the moment he flew in from Argentina. The visiting titlist was all aggression for 12 rounds, taking the fight to Ioka from the opening bell, though in throwing caution to the wind also giving away key moments in rounds that ultimately cost him in the end. Ioka—the more refined boxer of the two—knew to remain patient, jabbing from the outside and at times allowing Reveco to work his way inside before peppering him with combinations.
The rounds in which Reveco won were decisive and pain-inflicting. He was unapologetic in his primitive attack, launching overhand rights and left hook from long range. The moments in which his punches landed were enough to force Ioka to rethink his own approach, his confidence level apparently waning as the action proceeded into the second half of the contest.
If there was a key moment in the fight where Ioka was able to secure victory, it came in the middle rounds. With Reveco’s aggression also came reckless brawling, lunging in and literally walking into his opponent’s well-timed combinations. Ioka knew enough to play matador defense, keeping his chin protected to avoid getting caught with anything careless before coming right back with straight right hands upstairs.
Determined to come up big on the road, Reveco came out swinging to begin the championship rounds. It was unclear if Ioka was disinterested in engaging, or just keeping something in reserves for a big finish. The strategy nearly cost him the fight, as a big 11th round pulled Reveco even on one scorecard and slightly ahead on another.
However, the fight was eventually won by Ioka in the final three minutes. Reveco went all in, but was largely ineffective in his undisciplined attack. In stark contrast, Ioka remained as calm as an assassin, watching wild power punches sail by before responding with slick combinations and enough sense to slide out of harm’s way to avoid getting caught with a wing and a prayer.
It was enough to edge out the decision on two of the three scorecards, collecting his third divisional title in the process. The win moves Ioka’s record to 17-1 (11KOs), adding a secondary flyweight belt to his collection of past titles held at strawweight and junior flyweight. A “super” version of his current title is in possession of unified titlist Juan Francisco Estrada.
Ioka came up in his first crack at a flyweight belt, biting off more than he can chew in dropping a 12-round decision to Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng last May. The bout was designed to celebrate Ioka's arrival as a flyweight, but instead served as a breakout performance for Ruenroeng, who enjoyed a banner year in 2014 and has emerged as one of the best flyweights in the world.
Wednesday's win puts Ioka back in the hunt, but there is still work to be done if he wants to serve as more than middle of the pack.
Above Estrada and Ruenroeng resides one of the very best fighters on the planet, unbeaten reigning World flyweight king Róman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez. A fight between Ioka and Gonzalez has been discussed as far back as 2012, but has never evolved beyond talk.
Meanwhile, Reveco’s title reign comes to a close after nearly five years with an interim or regular version of the belt around his waist. The 31-year old Argentine falls to 35-2 (19KOs), snapping an 18-fight win streak. His lone other defeat also came on the road and in a title fight, falling short to 2000 Olympic Gold medalist Brahim Asloum in their Dec. ’07 junior flyweight title fight in France.
In the chief support, local favorite Katsunari Takayama made the first defense of his second reign as a strawweight titlist with a technical unanimous decision win over Thailand’s Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. The bout was stopped at 2:19 of round nine when Takayama (29-7, 11KOs) was left with a gusher of a cut over his eye after a clash of heads.
A full recap of the fight can be found
Both bouts aired on TBS in Japan. Ioka-Reveco also aired live on TyC Sports in Argentina and the United States.