Advertisement: IBO Boxing

Ioka: Tattoos Have Nothing To Do With Boxing, I Hope To Chip Away At JBC Rule

Kazuto Ioka figured he would have to face the music at some point.

Controversy has swirled from the four-division and reigning WBO junior bantamweight titlist’s 8th round knockout win over Kosei Tanaka this past New Year’s Eve in Tokyo. The part that’s make the news has nothing to do with the fight itself, however; rather Ioka’s violation of existing and antiquated rules with the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC).

A panel discussion is taking place over the form of discipline to dole out over Ioka fighting with visible tattoos, which is frowned upon as it relates to boxing in Japan. The JBC rules state that national boxers with “a tattoo or other markings that makes the audience feel uncomfortable" shall not be permitted to compete in a boxing event.

“For me in boxing, the commission asks me to [conceal] it before I enter the ring,” Ioka previously explained in a YouTube video last October. “But it really makes no sense and it has nothing to do with boxing, so I hope to chip away at this rule.”


The outdated rule does not extend to fighters outside of Japan, or even those who relocated to Japan from elsewhere (such as Venezuela’s former three-division titlist Jorge Linares, who lives in Tokyo). It also exists from a time when tattooing was illegal in the country. A ruling handed down last June by the Supreme Court of Japan deemed that it was no longer a crime to tattoo without a medical license, rejecting an appeal from Japan’s State’s Attorney’s office and throwing the case out of court, according to national published reports.

Boxing has yet to catch up in this regard, with the latest commission probe overshadowing an otherwise remarkable feat in the ring.

“People who are watching boxing are focused on the action in the ring, not the tattoos they [sport],” notes Ioka. “Then there are international boxers who reside in Japan and fight for gyms here that have tattoos and they are allowed to fight without having to [conceal] because they are foreigners. 

“So, it is an awkward as well and inconsistent rule. If they are going to ban it, then they should ban it for all fighters , Japanese and foreigners.”

Ioka (26-2, 15KOs) decided to get a tattoo shortly following his return to the sport in 2018 after abruptly retiring the year before. The 31-year old Osaka native entered the ring on New Year’s Eve with ink across his lower left abdomen and a full sleeve on his left arm.

“I decided to get it to symbolize that I was going to do something that I could not turn back on,” explains Iota, who has fought three times in Japan since his return, which preceded his U.S. debut and a fight in Macao. “If I decided to return, I can’t run away from that decision. In addition, it was to symbolize my feeling towards my family which was dedication that it was forever and never regret.”

Ioka notes that he applied concealer in an attempt to reduce visibility to his ink, but that the application wore off by the time he entered the ring. To his point, less attention was paid to his markings than the spectacular performance in the ring. Ioka—Japan’s only-ever male boxer to win titles in four weight divisions—denied his countryman that same honor, dropping Tanaka—a previously unbeaten three-division titlist prior to fight night—twice before stopping him in the 8th round of their highly entertaining title fight.

Whatever fate the JBC has in store shouldn’t prove consequential to the rest of his career. According to our friends at, expectations are for Ioka to receive a “Strict Caution”, although the most severe punishment would be an indefinite license suspension.

Either way, there stands a greater chance of the four-division titlist bringing back his act to North America. In his sights are unification bouts with lineal king and WBC titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (41-3, 28KOs), four-division and reigning WBA titlist Roman ‘Chcocolatito’ Gonzalez (50-2, 41KOs), and Philippines’ Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22KOs) whose last five defenses of his IBF belt have taken place in the U.S. or Mexico.

“When I returned, I intended to fight [extensively] in America,” said Ioka, who scored a 10-round win over McWilliams Arroyo in their Sept. 2018 bout in Carson, California before returning to Asia for his past four bouts. “I didn’t intend to return to Japan and fight. But, if the commission says I can’t fight here because of the tattoo, then I will only fight internationally.”

That’s not to say that the history-making titlist will turn his back on his nation altogether. Ioka will proudly fly Japan’s flag no matter where he fights.

At some point, though, it is hoped that the JBC can balance its longstanding reputation as an organization with integrity, with just enough flexibility to catch up to 21st century culture in the least offensive sense.

“I hope one day, Japan boxing will become more popular to a point where people watch boxing not based on a world title match or not,” envisions Ioka. “To do so, old thinking and structure may have to be reconsidered. I hope more fighters will go fight at—let’s say at Madison Square Garden (in New York City) and that it would change the perception of Japanese boxers in a positive way.

“For me, I have a brand in Japan as a world champion boxer, I hope to elevate this brand and take it internationally and be a role model to young fighters to dream big. So, I’m not really thinking about my tattoo [affecting] this fight, which I believe was great for Japan boxing, I’m thinking more about the future and to make boxing better for young fighters who are trying to make boxing as their living.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

User Comments and Feedback
Comment by Boxingfanatic75 on 01-09-2021

[QUOTE=Boxfan83;21006511]Its a stupid rule just like your response. Kamikaze lover. And I own a 3/4 of a million dollar home, I dont mind spending the rest of my time in my backyard, especially after the lap pool is done.[/QUOTE] I…

Comment by 1Eriugenus on 01-08-2021

'And I own a 3/4 of a million dollar home, I dont mind spending the rest of my time in my backyard, especially after the lap pool is done.' In the UK (& probably also Ireland), we'd say 'Bully for…

Comment by Chippie on 01-08-2021

Japan is a crazy culture

Comment by ShoulderRoll on 01-08-2021

They should keep the rule. I like that there are places where traditional attitudes and standards are maintained. As opposed to the rest of the more "liberal" world that has turned into a mess.

Comment by _Rexy_ on 01-08-2021

[QUOTE=fourtheboys96;21005349]Trust me. Ioka's tattoo is quite far from the gang-type tattoos in Japan. He's got a western type lion. [b]Japan lion tattoo looks like a dragon.[/b][/QUOTE] That sounds more like a Foo Dog

Top Headlines
Gilberto Ramirez Will Push To Finalize Marcus Browne Clash For WBC-Interim Rey Vargas Regrets Dropping Title, But Very Pumped To Face Gary Russell Team Charr: Very Unprofessional Of Don King, WBA Will Notice And Make Right Decision Fury-Joshua: WBO To Conditionally Approve Undisputed Championship Joseph Diaz-Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov Title Fight is Back On Yeis Solano vs. Mykquan Williams - ShoBox Tripleheader Weights Troy Isley Inks Promotional Pact With Top Rank David Morrell Made WBA 'Regular' Champ, Ordered To Face John Ryder Yoka-Djeko Set For March 5, De Carolis-Richards Secured By Matchroom, More Sofiane Oumiha Turns Pro on March 6, Frank Warren To Fast-Track Michael Coffie vs. Darmani Rock as Co-Feature of Plant-Truax Broner Wants 'Tough Test' February 13th, But Insists It’s About AB, Not His Opponent Claressa Shields vs. Marie-Eve Dicaire Tops All-Female PPV, March 5 Josh Warrington Furious With Xu Can's Refusal To Fight Behind Closed Doors Leo: I Have A Lot Of Doubters & I’m The Underdog Against Fulton; All Fuel To Flame Hearn: Garcia Is Not Ready For Davis, Deal For Haney vs. Garcia Will Be Easier To Make Warren: A Joyce-Usyk Fight Puts Winner In Tremendous Position The Greatest Encore: Ranking the Best Heavyweights Since Ali Tszyu-Hogan: Stapleton vs. Colosimo in Works For Proposed Card Luis Nery Aims To Have Unification in Next Fight, Says Promoter Deontay Wilder vs. Dillian Whyte Would Be Massive Fight, Says Hearn Tommy Frank vs. Kyle Yousaf British Title Clash May Land in April Stephen Fulton Overcomes The Nightmare of COVID; Realizes Dream Of Fighting For World Title Ryan Garcia's Father: Lopez is Not 'King' at 135, He Beat a 130-Pounder Vergil Ortiz: I Want All The Belts, No Easy Fights, I Want To Face The Best Reynoso: Berchelt Can End a Fight With One Punch - But So Can Valdez! Munguia's Promoter Hopes To Secure Golovkin Title Clash Usyk vs. Joyce Clash is Being Discussed, Says Frank Warren Carlos Gongora Inks Promotional Pact With Eddie Hearn Ryan Garcia's Father Backs Son's Two Round KO Prediction of Gervonta Davis Samuel Vargas Aims To Use Experience To Shock Conor Benn Dylan Price Takes Out Samuel Gutierrez in Four Rounds Bob Arum: Golden Boy Wouldn't Put Ryan Garcia In With Teofimo Lopez; Easy Work Angelo Leo: Always Wanted To Celebrate Title Win With A Crowd, More Motivation To Stay Champion Thurman To Arum: Stop Talking Sh-t! Not My Fault You Can’t Afford Fight For Crawford Michel Rivera: Ryan Garcia Has a Great Punch But a Glass Chin Hearn Says Boxing Events Must Continue or Sport Could Fizzle Out McGirt Was Unaware of Kovalev's Doping Test, Felt Camp Was Going Well Manager: Pacquiao or McGregor Would Beat Mayweather in Rematch Dominic Breazeale Vows To Blast Out Otto Wallin With Huge Knockout
Latest Forum Threads