By Mike Soltesz: As Manny Pacquiao enters the twilight of his incredible career, I find myself wondering which lighter weight boxer will take America by storm. There are some incredible fighters out there in the lower weight division.
As Americans, we usually focus on featherweights to middleweights. That is our definition of the lower weight classes. Even hardcore boxing fans sometimes forget the abundance of talent in the lower end of the sport. Fighters from 105lbs to 112lbs pounds have produced many great champions in the past such as Ricardo Lopez, Rosendo Alvarez, Jorge Arce, Michael Carbajal, Chiquita Gonzalez, Saman Sorjatorung and Myung Woo Yuh and the great Ricardo Lopez. Japan has also produced many great champions but they don’t get nearly as much recognition.
The country of Japan has also produced many great champions in the past and in recent memory boxers such as Fighting Harada, Koki Kameda, Akira Yaegashi and the best of recent times, Hozumi Hasegawa, a former bantamweight and featherweight champion. One has stood out as the man who could appeal to American audiences the most with his skill and exciting style. He is young and has already made boxing history. His name is Kazuto Ioka.
Kazuto Ioka is only 23 years old. He is the nephew of the first WBC 105 lbs. champion, Hiroki Ioka. The Japanese dynamo boasts an amateur record of 95-10. His style is to come forward and throw punches. It is a smart but aggressive style. He is fun to watch. Kazuto won his first world title in just his seventh pro fight, a fifth round knockout over Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Ioka showed a veteran’s poise and solid boxing skills for a young fighter as he dismantled his Thai opponent piece by piece. After two defenses of the minimumweight title, he tried to become a part of history.
As people know by now, unification bouts are as rare as the sanctioning bodies making fair rulings nowadays. Ioka and Akira Yaegashi made headlines by becoming the first all-Japanese unification fight in boxing history. Ioka won the fight by a close but 12 round unanimous decision. He has a piece of history all to himself and is just starting his career. He has recently moved up to 108 pounds and won a belt. All of this in only 12 professional fights. The sky is the limit for him and he will only get better with time.
Ioka has quite a few options at 108lbs and 112lbs. A rematch at 112lbs with Yaegashi is a possibility. IBF 105lbs. titlist Kazunari Takayama and WBA 105lbs. beltholder Ryo Miyazaki are possibilities if either is willing to move up. The best option for Ioka is to fight WBA 108lbs. champion Roman Gonzalez in a “unification” fight to determine the best fighter at the weight. Speed and skill versus power, describes Ioka vs. Gonzalez perfectly. This is the best fight in the lower weight classes that could be made in this writer’s opinion. Two young undefeated champions looking to prove who is better. This is the sort of high caliber fight that could launch the lower weight classes back to some prominence in the sport of boxing. If Ioka defeats Gonzalez it would be a major stepping stone to becoming the next little superstar.
May 27, 2013