By Jake Donovan
Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte can confidently proceed in preparing for their super flyweight title fight.
Weeks worth of discussion surrounding fight details, international broadcasting rights and other concerns have all been resolved for the vacant WBO 115-pound title, which will take place on June 19 at Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba, Japan.
“The agreement with Roy Jones Jr Boxing Promotions (RJJBP) CEO Keith Veltre is now signed, sealed, and delivered,” Taku Nagashima informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday.
The bout will air locally on TBS, which has houses most of Ioka's bouts throughout his illustrious career. RJJBP enjoys an exclusive arrangement with UFC Fight Pass, which also plans to carry the event.
Both boxers will make their second bid at this very title, interestingly with each fighting to separate disputed decisions with Philippines’ Donnie Nietes.
For Ioka (23-2, 13KOs), it means a second shot at boxing immortality in Japan, as he vies to become his nation’s first-ever four-division titlist. The 30-year old from Tokyo came up just short in a controversial 12-round decision loss to Nietes last December in Macao, China.
It was just his second fight since returning to the ring after previously having called it a career two years ago. His comeback fight came in a decisive 10-round win over Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo last September in Inglewood, Calif., his first career fight outside of Japan—and one which came on the undercard of Philippines’ Palicte’s disputed draw with countryman Nietes in their own vacant title fight.
Because of Nietes’ long standing with the WBO, he was permitted to remain at the front of the line for a second crack at a fourth-division title. That opportunity came in his aforementioned win over Ioka, while Palicte was ordered to win one more fight before being permitted to return to the queue.
That opportunity came in January, when Palicte (25-2-1, 21KOs) registered a 2nd round knockout of Jose Martinez in their title eliminator. Nietes was ordered to negotiate terms for a rematch immediately thereafter, with the WBO offering just a 14-day window before ordering a purse bid.
The shorter-than-normal negotiating period came about amidst concerns that talks would only stall. Such fears were ultimately confirmed on the day of the scheduled purse bid hearing in late February, when Nietes—a four-division titlist—contacted the WBO in writing to inform of his relinquishing the title to instead pursue more lucrative fights in the twilight of his career.
The move was expected by Palicte, who sought out the next-highest rated challenger.
Ioka (23-2, 13KOs)—who turned 30 this past March—was more than willing to answer the challenge, hardly surprising given his early rise to fame.
The former three-division titlist made history in his first reign, outpointing Akira Yaegashi in their thrilling June ‘12 strawweight war which marked the first-ever unification bout between two defending titlist from Japan.
Title reigns at junior flyweight and flyweight were less inspiring, but he’s found new life at super flyweight following a dominant win over Arroyo last September.
Ioka is presently just one of four boxers ever from Japan to win titles in three weight divisions. He is currently in the company of Koki Kameda (108, 112, 118), legendary Hozumi Hasegawa (118, 126 and then 122) and Kosei Tanaka, who currently reigns as a flyweight titlist after having held belts at strawweight and junior flyweight.
Naoya Inoue is technically also among that lot, having won titles at 108- and 115-pounds while presently in possession of a secondary bantamweight title. The unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant will seek an upgrade as he faces unbeaten IBF titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez on May 18 in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament.
One month later, Ioka will have a chance to leave the growing pack for a place all his own as Japan’s first-ever four-division titlist—with his shot at history coming just outside of his adopted Tokyo hometown.
“I’m grateful to the WBO and to the (Japanese Boxing Commission) for another opportunity to fight for title,” Ioka told BoxingScene.com. “I want to thank Aston Palicte and say may the best fighter win.
“I’ve never been more hungry to win in my life and I look forward to fighting my best"
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox