Kazuto Ioka already has designs on an encore with a win in his latest New Year’s Eve headliner.
A bold challenge awaits Japan’s lone-ever male boxer to claim titles in four weight divisions, as he next faces unbeaten countryman Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9KOs) this Thursday at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. The bout will mark Ioka’s second attempted defense of a junior bantamweight title, reigning in what is now a lucrative division given its top players.
The 31-year old Osaka-born boxer is joined by lineal champion Juan Francisco Estrada (41-3, 28KOs) and fellow four-division and reigning 115-pound titlist Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (50-2, 41KOs), with Thailand’s former lineal champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (49-5-1, 42KOs) right behind them.
A quicker path to that goal could be in place. Ioka still has to get past Tanaka, who enters this Thursday’s headliner as a -200 favorite according to BetMGM sportsbook, A win will allow him to look to next March, when Estrada and Gonzalez collide in a mouthwatering unification bout and rematch to their November 2012 classic.
“I would love to fight Estrada and/or Chocolatito,” Ioka (25-2, 14KOs) told BoxingScene.com. “They are both great champions that I highly respect.
Ioka still has a tall order ahead of him versus Tanaka, a former strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight titlist who aims to win a fourth divisional crown quicker than any other male boxer in history. This fight came about upon order from the World Boxing Organization (WBO), whose title Ioka claimed in a 10th round knockout of Aston Palicte last June.
A 12-round decision over unbeaten Puerto Rican Olympian and top-rated contender Jeyvier Cintron in this very venue last New Year’s Eve left Ioka with goals of pursuing career-defining fights and paydays to go along with them. Those goals remain in place heading into the New Year, one which he believes will lead to a desired return to the U.S. market.
“I hope that will be the case,” admits Ioka, whose lone stateside appearance came in a Sept. 2018 points win over McWilliams Arroyo in Inglewood, California. “I wish [Estrada and Gonzalez] the best and look forward to fighting them soon in America.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox