By Jake Donovan
It may not be Roman Gonzalez in the opposite corner, but Kazuto Ioka can expect to face another unbeaten junior flyweight from Nicaragua in his next title defense.
The undefeated rising star from Japan will spend his third consecutive New Year’s Eve in a boxing ring. This year’s festivities will include the next – and perhaps final – defense of his 108 lb. belt as he faces unbeaten contender Felix Alvarado in Osaka, Japan.
Both sides confirmed that the bout is official, though Alvarado’s side was far more descriptive in its details.
“Felix has already signed the contract to fight, and is at his most highly motivated in preparation for his fight with Ioka,” Pablo Fretes, Alvarado’s manager, confirmed via email reply. “For the past four days we were in Costa Rica, doing a detailed report with Japanese television network TBS (who will televise the fight, as is the case for all of Ioka’s bouts).”
The undercard has not yet been announced, but is likely to feature 105 lb. titlist Ryo Miyazaki, Ioka’s protégé and also who is expected to move up in weight in 2014. Miyazaki benefited from his mentor’s climb up the scales, claiming the vacant belt left behind by Ioka in taking a unanimous decision over Pornsawan Porpramook last New Year’s Eve.
A developing tradition in Japan, Ioka’s year-end appearance once again comes opposite a show headlined by 130 lb. titlist Takashi Uchiyama. The unbeaten titlist headlines in Tokyo, defending against Daiki Keneko.
Prior to the bout being signed, there was rampant speculation that Ioka (13-0, 9KO) would relinquish his 108 lb belt – which he won last New Year’s Eve – in pursuit of a run at flyweight.
Such a move would make sense, given Ioka’s more lucrative optoins. Gonzalez has already moved up, and such a pairing has been discussed for at least a year, though not any closer to reality at present time. More in line with the jump in weight would be a potential rematch with Akira Yaegashi, the reigning lineal flyweight king who defends his crown next month versus Mexico’s Edgar Sosa.
Ioka and Yaegashi waged war in their June ’12 105 lb. championship bout, marking the only time in Japan’s rich boxing history that two of its major titlists met in a title unification match. Ioka prevailed by split decision, only for both fighters to vacate the strawweight division immediately thereafter.
The upcoming showdown with Alvarado (18-0, 15KO) marks the third defense of the 108 lb. crown Ioka won last New Year’s Eve, scoring a 6th round stoppage of Jose Rodriguez in their vacant title fight. Ioka has won three straight fights inside the distance since moving up in weight.
Alvarado fights outside of his native Nicaragua for the first time in his career, but has no question that the reward will far exceed the risk.
“Felix is okay with being away from home for Christmas and New Year’s,” Fretes insists. “He is determined to win the world championship, which we fully believe will be the case in Osaka. After that, Felix will enjoy the celebration with his family.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox