By Jake Donovan
Kazuto Ioka survived a second-round knockdown to score two of his own in stomping Thailand's Stamp Kiatniwat in the 7th round of their flyweight title fight Saturday evening in Kyoto, Japan.
It wouldn't be a New Year's Eve bash without the ring presence of Ioka, who was making the fourth defense of his flyweight title. This festive night was unlike any other for the 27-year old from Osaka, who has scored drama-free victories in each of his five previous appearances on his holiday.
For that, sports fans can thank the presence of Kiatniwat, an 18-year young upstart from Thailand who was game for the cause in his first career title fight.
The bout followed the pre-fight script in the opening round, with Ioka boxing well and doing all of the things a veteran three-division titlist should do to an infantile challenger who was stepping way up in class.
The thing about having never previously lost, however, was that Kiatniwat didn't know - or want to know - how to act like a loser. Rather, he performed as if he had the audacity to hand Ioka his first-ever New Year's Eve loss. That moment showed its first signs of threat in round two, when a right hand shot slammed home against the chin of Ioka, who hit the ground hard but somehow managed to steady himself over the course of referee Rafael Ramos' mandatory eight count.
By round's end, he was forced to shake loose the cobwebs that came with said sequence, as well as rapid swelling around his right eye.
In the span of just three minutes, none of that mattered one bit. Ioka immediately resumed control, at first outboxing Kiatniwat before transitioning into a thorough breakdown of his challenger.
Round six was signature Ioka sutff, beating Kiatniwat's body like a drum in providing the first signs of evidence that a spectacular knockout victory was en route. It would come one round later, as a pair of knockdowns had officially beaten the fight out of the game contender. The latter of the two knockdowns came without a mandatory count, as the referee immediately halted the contest.
The official time was 2:51 of round nine.
Ioka improves to 21-1 (13KOs) with the win, with nearly 2/3 of his career coming with a major title at stake. He is now 13-1 in such contests, with title reigns at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight. Saturday's feat became a bit more significant as there is room atop the flyweight mountain following the departure of former World lineal champ Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez, who now serves as a reigning super flyweight titlist.
In that, there's no shame in Kiatniwat (15-1, 6KOs) suffering his first career loss, knowing it came at the hands of perhaps the very best flyweight in the world.
The title fight aired live on Fuji TV in Japan and on TyC Sports in Argentina and the United States. Also on the show, Yukinori Oguni upset the apple cart with a 12-round title lifting effort over previously unbeaten super bantamweight champ Jonathan Guzman.