A rare attractive mandatory title fight is now destined for a purse bid hearing.

Whether or not the bout comes to fruition is another story.

BoxingScene.com has learned that talks have stalled in the WBO-ordered junior bantamweight title fight between defending champ Kazuto Ioka and former flyweight titlist Junto Nakatani. The pair of elite Japanese boxers were instructed on January 9 to reach terms within the 30-day negotiation period, but have failed to produce a deal.

The WBO has now scheduled a purse bid hearing for February 23. The session will be open to all WBO-registered promoters, with a minimum accepted bid of $100,000 to validate the bid. Ioka will earn the favorable end of a 75/25 split, though BoxingScene.com has learned there is a chance of Ioka potentially going in a different direction—even at the risk of being stripped of his WBO title.

Ioka is promoted by Yusuke Ninomiya of Shisei Boxing, while Mr. Honda’s Teiken Promotions represents Nakatani. The ordered title fight didn’t come as a surprise, given the resolution reached during WBO’s annual convention last October which called for the winner of Ioka's approved WBA/WBO unification clash with Joshua Franco to face Nakatani within 180 days. Ioka and Franco fought to a twelve-round draw in their spirited New Year’s Eve clash in Tokyo, with the competitive nature of the fight creating high demand for a rematch.

However, Ioka (29-2-1, 15KOs) was already locked into the mandatory title defense with Nakatani and out of exceptions to file after having used it up to first face San Antonio’s Franco (18-1-3, 8KOs). It remains unlikely that the WBO will have a change of heart should the four-division champ head in a different direction at this point, though it would also depend on the cooperation of Nakatani and Teiken absent a head-on collision.

Nakatani (24-0, 18KOs) was named the mandatory challenger during the WBO convention, having been promised the ranking in exchange for vacating his WBO flyweight titlist. The 24-year-old southpaw from Sagamihara, Japan made his junior bantamweight debut on November 1, when he outpointed former unified strawweight titlist and current top ten junior bantamweight contender Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez in Saitama, Japan.

The fight was the first for Nakatani following a two-year stay as WBO flyweight titlist, where he made two successful defenses before vacating after revealing he was no longer able to make the 112-pound limit.

Ioka (29-2-1, 15KOs) will enter the seventh defense of the WBO junior bantamweight title he has held since June 2019 following a tenth-round knockout of Aston Palicte. The Osaka native—who is now based in Tokyo—became the first Japanese male boxer to win titles in four weight divisions with the feat, but fell short of creating more history for Japan as the majority decision draw with San Antonio’s Franco (18-1-3, 8KOs) denied Ioka the chance of becoming Japan’s first ever unified titlist in two separate weight divisions.

Ioka previously held titles at flyweight, junior flyweight and strawweight. His strawweight run concluded with a thrilling twelve-round win over countryman Akira Yaegashi in their June 2012 WBC/WBA unification bout—the first in history between two reigning titlists from Japan.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox