Fighter of the Week: Kazuto Ioka
By Gary Kittilsen
Kazuto Ioka showed the ring generalship and wizardry that has made him a legend in Japan and cemented his legacy becoming the first Japanese fighter to ever win world titles in four different weight classes.
After coming up just short against Donnie Nietes six months ago. He was not to be denied this time around and would not leave it in the judge’s hands. Stopping the bigger, younger, stronger Palicte in the 10th round to capture the vacant WBO 115-pound strap as well as our fighter of the week award.
Ioka handed in one of the most complete fights of his career in what was nothing short of a masterful performance. The now four-division champ showed the ability to elude the power of the massive punching Palicte, land counter shots to his head and body and an ability to frustrate his opponent all night long.
After three evenly matched strategic rounds, Ioka seized control of the WBO title fight in the fourth round. Timing Palicte perfectly scoring with right hands and left hooks and swiftly getting out of the way of Palicte’s return fire. Piling up the points in rounds four through six the younger Palicte’s punch output dropped and begin to get frustrated.
The seventh round saw the hard-hitting Filipino attempt one last stand. Knowing his opportunity was slipping away he poured on power punches and caught Ioka with big right hands that caught his attention. However, the smaller Ioka’s chin stood up as he absorbed the shots, survived the onslaught and rallied back in the final minute of the seventh round, catching Palicte with several right hands upstairs and body shots that slowed him down.
From that point on it was smooth sailing for the now four division world champion. Ioka continued to score at will with straight rights to the head and lightning-quick left hooks to the body of his taller opponent and forced the Filipino to hit only air. The end came abruptly at the midpoint of round number 10. Ioka landed a perfect counter right that buckled Palicte and followed that up with a left hook-right hand combination that sent his opponent reeling backward.
Seizing the moment Ioka unleashed a flurry of power shots that landed and landed with accuracy causing referee Kenny Chevalier to call a halt to the bout and officially make Kazuto Ioka a four-division world champion.
Ioka’s performance was beyond masterful and will open up many lucrative doors. The 115-pound division is absolutely loaded and a rematch with future Hall of Famer Donnie Nietes is certainly an option.
The other champions in the division are Juan Estrada of Mexico and Jerwin Ancajas of the Philipines. Both those fights would be highly entertaining, and would have a huge interest in all parts of the world and could realistically be made this year.
If Ioka really wanted to go for greatness, an opportunity to become a five-division world champ against pound for pound elite and fellow Japanese champion Naoya Inoue would be an incredible contrast of styles and a win by Ioka would put him in an incredibly elite group of five division world champions.