By Jake Donovan
Whatever controversy came of their first meeting, Kazuto Ioka proved to be the better man in an 11th round stoppage win over Juan Carlos Reveco in their flyweight title fight rematch Thursday evening in Osaka, Japan.
A right hand body shot forced Reveco to the canvas for the bout's lone knockdown, as he was rendered unfit to continue at 1:57 of round eleven.
The sequel came eight months after Ioka prevailed in his second bid at becoming a three-division world champion. The once precocious talent from Osaka fell into a holding pattern as he moved up in weight following title reigns at strawweight and junior flyweight. His luck ran out in a 12-round loss to unbeaten Amnat Ruenroeng in their May '14 title fight.
Five wins have since followed, including his title-winning effort over Reveco this past April. The decision was met with mixed reviews. with some believing the long-reigning titlist from Argentina was robbed while others viewers simply saw the fight for what it was - a close affair with Ioka prevailing by the slimmest of margins.
Reveco successfully lobbied for a rematch, the closest he would come to a win in this sorted affair. The former champ struggled mightily to make weight, having to strip down to his birthday suit in order to hit the 112-pound mark. He did his best to overcome the chaos of fight week which included a dispute over the color of the gloves he was to use.
By fight night, his greatest concern was figuring out how to overcome the adjustments made by Ioka.
While the rematch was competitive in moments, the overall sense was that Ioka was in control and well on his way to a second win in as many tries versus the Argentine slugger. Subtle defensive shifts allowed him to remain in close range while managing to avoid most of the incoming. Reveco served as the aggressor but swung and missed on the majority of the exchanges.
A relatively close affair through six threatened to become a rout over the second half of the contest. Ioka perfected the art of 'make-'em-miss, make-'em-pay' in slipping Reveco's punches and immediately returning fire, racking up points on the scorecards and also producing a cut over his opponent's left eye.
The first threat of a stoppage came in round nine. Ioka had Reveco pinned along the ropes, offering punches in bunches as referee Mark Nelson closely observed the suddenly one-sided action. Reveco managed to survive the attack but was quickly running on fumes.
By round 11 he had the fight beaten out of him, as Ioka closed the show. A left hook followed by a right uppercut to the midsection forced Reveco to the canvas. He managed to beat the count but was in no condition to continue in forcing to the referee to call a halt to the contest, thus allowing those in attendance to proceed with any lingering New Year's Eve plans.
Ioka now moves to 19-1 (11KOs), with all three wins in 2015 coming versus Argentine boxers. A pair of wins over Reveco (now 36-3, 19KOs) surrounded a 12-round decision nod over Roberto Domingo Sosa in September.
The latest win marks his second successful flyweight title defense and now 11-1 in title fights spanning three weight divisions. Ioka's first reign began with a 5th round knockout of Oleydong Sithsamerchai in Feb. '11, the feat coming in just his 7th pro fight.
Reveco had claimed an interim flyweight title the previous July, his reign eventually upgraded to full titlist in holding some version of the belt for nearly four years before running into Ioka in April. A confidence building win over journeyman Breilon Teran came in September while biding time for a rematch with Ioka, but now faces a major uphill climb in attempting to return to this level.
Meanwhile, the future looks brighter than ever for Ioka scores his fifth consecutive New Year's Eve win dating back to 2011. The flyweight division remains loaded with talent and is also coming with lucrative options now that American cable giant HBO has made the decision to showcase the talents of World flyweight champion Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez.
The careers of Gonzalez and Ioka have managed to run parallel for years despite both fighting in or near the same weight classes for years. A showdown in 2016 remains a longshot, but there exists plenty of opportunities for both fighters in the meantime.
The bout aired live on TBS in Japan and on TyC Sports in both the United States and Argentina.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox