Kazuto Ioka and Donnie Nietes are ready to run it back.

BoxingScene.com has learned that a deal has been reached for a rematch between Japan’s Ioka and Philippines’ Nietes, coming just before the deadline for their WBO-ordered junior bantamweight title fight. The sequel is tentatively scheduled for July 13 in Japan, with more definitive details not available other than the two sides agreeing to terms to the point of avoiding a WBO purse bid hearing.

The bout was initially ordered April 1, with their respective camps— Ioka represented by TLAROCK Entertainment, while Nietes now fights under the Probellum banner headed by promoter Richard Schaefer—ordered to come to terms. All involved parties complied with the order just before the deadline for a fight that will take place more than 42 months after their New Year’s Eve 2018 clash in Macau, China. Nietes (43-1-6, 23KOs) claimed a split decision to win the vacant title. Both boxers were aiming to become four-division titlists, with Nietes doing so by the slimmest of margins.

The hope by the Filipino icon at the time was to parlay the belt into a lucrative showdown with the division’s elite stars—then-lineal/WBC champ Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Estrada (now the current lineal/WBA champ) and former four-division champ Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. Instead, came the mandate for a rematch with countryman Aston Palicte, with whom Nietes fought to a draw in September 2018 and saw little value in proceeding with a second fight.

Ioka was willing to fill the void left behind by Nietes, scoring a tenth-round knockout of Palicte in their June 2019 vacant WBO junior bantamweight title fight. With the feat, Ioka became Japan’s only-ever male boxer to win major titles in four weight divisions and just the second overall, joining legendary female boxer Naoko Fujioka who has won belts at five different weights.

Four successful title defenses have followed, three of which have been ordered mandatory title fights. Ioka (28-2, 15KOs) turned away top-ranked contenders Jeyvier Cintron, Kosei Tanaka and Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez Jr. in succession, all ordered by the WBO in lieu of legacy-defining fights that carry life-changing paydays.

The fight with Tanaka was forced upon Ioka, who sought to unify against either Juan Francisco Estrada (42-3, 28KOs) or Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs). Tanaka—an unbeaten three-division titlist at the time—enforced his WBO “Super” champion status to have the mandatory title fight ordered. Ioka made his countryman pay, scoring an eighth-round knockout in arguably the crowning achievement of a career worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Following the win over Rodriguez, the 33-year-old Ioka was set for a title unification clash with then-IBF titleholder Jerwin Ancajas due to take place last New Year’s Eve in Tokyo. The fight was canceled due to Japan’s restrictions on foreign travelers crossing its borders beginning last November to combat the spread of the Omicron variant. The development disallowed Ancajas to enter the country, leaving Ioka to settle for an optional title defense versus countryman Ryoji Fukunaga whom he outpointed over twelve rounds.

Any chance of a rescheduled unification bout dissolved once Philippines’ Ancajas saw his five-plus year title reign come to an end following an upset decision loss to Argentina’s Fernando Martinez this past February.

The move benefitted Nietes, even if his mandatory status is based more on his past title status than on merit.

The 39-year-old Filipino has fought just twice since his win over Ioka, ending a 27-month hiatus in a ten-round decision win over Pablo Carrillo last April 3 in Dubai. The fight was his first after signing with D4G Promotions which has since transferred much of its roster—including Nietes—to Probellum, which housed Nietes’ last fight also in Dubai.

An advertised WBO junior bantamweight title eliminator with Norbelto Jimenez last December 11 ended in a ten-round draw and mass confusion. Dominican Republic’s Jimenez was told that the fight was scheduled for twelve rounds, as was introduced by the ring announcer. The former title challenger was furious when the fight ended after ten rounds, having to settle for a draw which seemed to work out for Nietes who is now poised for a shot at a second junior bantamweight title reign.

Ioka and Nietes have both claimed titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight.

Ioka ended a brief retirement upon his ring return in 2018, winning in his U.S. debut as part of an HBO ‘Superfly’ card in California before falling short versus Nietes three months later. The balance of his career has taken place in his native Japan, including his past four fights held at the famed Ota City Gymnasium in Tokyo. The same card that housed Ioka’s U.S. debut also featured Nietes-Palicte.

The rematch with Ioka will surprisingly mark the first pro fight in Japan for Nietes, who has fought in six other countries over the course of his 19-year career.

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