(A look-back to 2019’s History Makers)
BOXER: 🇯🇵Kazuto Ioka🇯🇵
FEAT ACCOMPLISHED: Becoming the first Japanese fighter to Win World Titles in 4-divisions.
THE PATH TO THE GOAL:📈 Looking back to June 19th, 2019, Japan’s 🇯🇵Kazuto Ioka took on heralded top-challenger Aston Palicte of the Philippines to earn rights to be called the WBO Super-Flyweight World Champion. For Ioka, this was everything that he had worked towards since coming back from his brief retirement that lasted approximately 17 months.
The reason why Ioka retired in the first place was that he made a promise to his father that he would one day become a 3-division Champion back when he started taking boxing serious in his adolescent years. Ioka achieved this lofty goal back in 2015 against Juan Carlos Reveco at just the age of 25. Considering how young Kazuto was, and how dominant he became, he decided to continue on to dominate competition in the Flyweight division, defending his title 5 times.
Ioka retired afterwards, but kept a close eye at the talent of the vaunted Super-Flyweight division, which was at its deepest, with arguably its biggest overall spotlight in the boxing pantheon. Ioka attended the first of the three “Super-Fly” series that featured some of the best fighters in the division, who were also some of the best fighters in boxing. Ioka was thoroughly impressed with the competition and the entertaining turnout of the fights, but the one thing he took away from it all was that he felt that he had the skills to beat all of those guys, or at the very least, fight the best fighters tooth and nail. It was then that he got his mojo back to return to the ring, with his new goal to be a 4-Division Champion, something that had never been done in his country, and seldom accomplished overall in the smaller weight divisions.
Ioka in his first fight back to the squared-circle was dominant in his win over the impressive McWilliams Arroyo, and set up a big showdown with Donnie Nietes. It happened on December 31st of 2018 in China, and was one of the best displays of back and forth skills that boxing has had in the last half-a-decade. It was a closely contested bout through 12 rounds, and Ioka thought he did enough to secure the victory, but the Judges favored Nietes in that one. Ioka would get a second chance at fulfilling his goal, and Ioka made sure to take full advantage of his opportunity against a game opponent in Aston Palicte. Palicte went for it all, but Ioka late in the fight raised his game a couple levels, and ultimately authored up the most explosive finish that he has had in his career to get that 5th World Title in a 4th weight class.
Considering Japan’s proud history of serious Champions (most notably sub-126 lbs.), Kazuto could now say he has something that nobody else has, even factoring in some of his great contemporaries like 🇯🇵Naoya Inoue & 🇯🇵Kosei Tanaka, as the leaders of a Golden-Age in Japanese boxing.