Written by Tré Berry III | 12/31/2021
Though this wasn’t really the fight that reigning WBO Super-Flyweight Titlist 🇯🇵Kazuto Ioka (28-2-0, 15KO) planned for, he got a good, respectable challenge from fellow countryman 🇯🇵Ryoji Fukunaga (15-5-0, 14KO) today through 12 rounds of solid craftsmanship exhibited by both. Ioka being one of, if arguably the most consistent operator in the sport, he did what he typically does, and did enough of it en route to securing his 4th defense of his current WBO title, and can now look ahead to much bigger prospects. Due to worldly circumstances potentially forcing him to alter his plans, he may have to go the alternative route that he has hinted going earlier this year. What path may that be Continue reading and we will break it down for you.
Fukunaga stood his ground, trying to get the lead hand going, and showed no fear of the decorated Champion. Ioka, normally the cautious stubbornly slow starter, stuck to the script, and remained patient, as he took a long look into his replacement opponent to pick up any cues on a game plan. Fukunaga is a southpaw with a good deal of range, so Ioka was moving right, and looking for opportunities to step inside to get the left hook off to the ribs, and landed a couple of solid ones in the opening stanza.
Fukunaga remained aggressive in the second round, while Ioka began to open up a bit, seeing certain tactics that he could exploit. Ioka stepped in even further, getting to the challenger’s chest, to where Ioka began to rip the inside uppercut. Fukunaga threw often, but as customary to all Kazuto Ioka opponents in the past, much of them bounced off of the gloves, elbows, and forearms.
Ioka was sharp in his punch delivery, focusing on accuracy over power at this point to soften up the target. Ioka began to base most of his work off of the jab, and began to use his intellect to confuse the challenger, utilizing creative ways to get to the inside for the left hook to the body.
Fukunaga’s confidence began to ramp up, as he was fully intent on relishing in his opportunity, while Ioka stayed at his own desired pace. Ryoji had himself a very good 4th round, getting off first, and finding areas to split the guard and land the left cross to the sternum. Ioka closed the gap a bit late as he brazenly began to fire, and connect with double and triple left hooks to get around the guard, catching the ear.
Ioka began to operate more in counter punching mode, forcing the regional champ to open up first to tip his poker hand. Fukunaga constantly changed levels in the 5th in efforts to try and get Kazuto to drop his hands…but such is never the case when it comes to Ioka. Kazuto’s right cross began making it’s mark in the round, carefully placing, and scoring it upstairs.
Ioka was intent on turning the pressure up a bit in the 6th round to try and bully Ryoji, and get him on his back foot to take the threat of the sting off of his punches. Fukunaga started to use the jab more, and smartly was hooking off of the jab whenever Ioka would step in too close. While Ioka was winning most of the rounds, Fukunaga certainly wasn’t overwhelmed with the action, and began to mix up his combinations, often ending with a body attack.
Ryoji got back some of the space in round 7 that Ioka was closing in on, and used the 1-2 combination often in range, of course with the intent of landing, but also in keeping Ioka out there in his desired range. Ioka landed a beautiful cross to the jaw in the 7th round, as the tit for tat action continued at this point of the fight.
Round 8, Ioka began to fight off the backfoot as a change of tactic, as Fukunaga was beginning to become a little overeager, understanding that he was falling behind in the points aspect of the equation. Ioka threw the right upstairs often, and continued to focused on the body attack with the left hook.
An excellent three punch combination was landed by Kazuto. Ioka began to get back to the script by barreling forward, & landed his most impressive combination of the fight, of 5-punch variety, landing them all.
Fukunaga was heavy on the front foot in the 9th round, and kept his lead hand low to try and bait him into leading with the left hook. Ioka was a bit more reserved in the 9th stanza, and the challenger was taking advantage of the lulls in the action with an intelligent method of attack. Every time Ioka committed to the body, Fukunaga followed with something upstairs, and while he wasn’t hurting the Champion, he was certainly getting his attention during these skirmishes.
Round 10, both fought this frame exclusively in the mid-range. Ioka was cautious in his pursuit, remaining coiled like a cobra until he found the openings he liked. He often shoveled with the hook to the liver. Ryoji was trying to alter his left hand to try and get around the high guard of the WBO titlist. Ioka seeing that he was pressing the action more, began to check the left hook to keep him honest.
The Championship rounds dawned upon us, and Fukunaga was pressing full force behind the right hook, and left cross, throwing the authoritative jab to keep Kazuto Ioka stuck behind his shell, and it was somewhat working in the early goings of the 11th. Ioka with his back to the ropes landed an excellent jab, cross, jab combo to the jaw, and did some of his best work in the middle of the round.
Ioka began to play with Fukunaga a bit, dropping his hands while on the ropes, and fired multiple variations of combinations off of them in efforts to try to exert his dominance. It didn’t deter the challenger from pressing forward, but it may have been enough to put the 11th round into question regarding the scoring portion.
Round 12, Fukunaga was looking to throw every variety of punch to the head and the body, but he couldn’t quite find anything consistent enough that would stick in order for him to get Kazuto in heaps of trouble. Ioka remained methodical, and pop-shotted Fukunaga with the cross to the body, and with the left hook upstairs whenever Fukunaga dropped his right hand on his pursuit inward. Fukunaga came to win this fight, and the effort should be commended. Ioka left no doubts through his performance, and didn’t see the need to press the action up to the final bell of the 12 round contest.
The fight was over, and both embraced with a good deal of respect for one another, as Fukunaga proved his worth as a legitimate Super-Flyweight contender in the WBO ranks, and Ioka showcasing the consistency that has brought him to a sustained level of greatness throughout the last 10 years.
Two of the scorecards were acceptable, with those 2 judges scoring it 118-110 and 116-112 in Kazuto’s favor, however a 115-113 card was too close for the action that took place…nonetheless, the correct man won, and Ioka by Unanimous Decision defended his burgundy Super-Flyweight belt for the 4th title defense in his most recent world championship stint.
KAZUTO IOKA NOW FORCED TO RETHINK PLANS AROUND WORLDLY EVENTS
Kazuto a while ago expressed 2 different paths to chase further greatness, creating lanes of options for himself. Of course his original plan was to get 🇵🇭Jerwin Ancajas in with him, beat him, then target either the 🇲🇽Juan Francisco Estrada vs. 🇳🇮Chocolatito Gonzalez Lineal Championship winner, or the 🇹🇭Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. 🇲🇽Carlos Cuadras rematch, to get in on the action that the core-4 has been saving for themselves.
His initial plan may have to either wait, or dissipate altogether, as there is no telling how long the borders around Japan will remain closed under Government response to the variant, with those fighters unfortunately being left out of the loop during that duration of time due to no way of getting in.
Well the second plan that Kazuto Ioka leaked a while back was the grandest of all. While he is still Japan’s only ever 4-division world titlist, he wants to go even further to become a rare 5-division belt holder, and face off against the most dangerous boxer in the world in order to do it. Undefeated skilled warrior 🇯🇵Naoya “Monster” Inoue (22-0-0, 19KO) is thee Ring-Lineal/WBA/IBF Bantamweight Champion of the World, and Ioka is on the short list of those that actually expressed interest in fighting the dangerous Champion.
Considering that they’re both countrymen, who may be stuck on Japanese soil for a while, they could just remix their initial plans en route to forming what would be by far the biggest, and the greatest Japanese fight/event of them all, and boxing as a whole would greatly be beneficial to it. A win would be astronomical to each of their careers, so this is a scenario that both legendary Japanese boxers should begin to entertain on a serious note, as a live plan.