By Derek Bonnett: When does a unification world championship boxing match go completely unnoticed? When the two minimumweight combatants have a combined weight that’s less than your average single heavyweight. On Wednesday, June 20, Kazuto Ioka unified the WBC and WBA minimumweight titles with the closest of unanimous decisions over Akira Yaegashi at Bodymaker Colosseum in Osaka, Osaka, Japan. It’s a shame more fans did not take note because what they missed was a Fight of the Year candidate replete with effective aggression, precision punching, and plenty of heart and balls.
From the early goings, Yaegashi fought with a badly swollen left eye. The mass extended back to his left ear and forced the referee to halt the action for numerous trips to the ringside physician. Each trip only served to invigorate Yaegashi, who waded in with power shots while Ioka tried to keep more distance and punch for accuracy. Both men implemented their plans well. After four rounds, all three judges’ scorecards and my own at SecondsOut read 38-38. Ioka created some wiggle room in the middle rounds to gain a three point lead on my card, but Yaegashi’s never say die attitude landed him three of final four rounds on my scorecard. The official scores all favored Ioka 115-113, 115-113, and 115-114. My score for SecondsOut also favored Ioka 115-114.
Ioka, 23, improved to 10-0 (6). The nephew of former 105-pound great Hiroki Ioka now holds the WBC and WBA titles. Nkosinathi Joyi holds the IBF strap and Moises Fuentes owns the WBO variety. Yaegashi gamely fell to 15-3 (8). In a perfect world, Ioka would grant Yaegashi an immediate rematch if he cannot secure a further unification bout with Joyi or Fuentes.
Another potential bout on the horizon which lighter weight fans started clamoring for is to see Ioka move up in weight to meet WBA light flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez. From my perspective, Ioka still seems a level below Gonzalez, who is the closest thing I have seen to Ricardo Lopez in terms of skill and power since Finito ended his hall of fame career. Ioka will be ready soon enough, but I would rather see him settle matters with Joyi and rematch Yaegashi for now.
Talent and action shouldn’t be measured by the pound because today’s strawweight division produces it in surplus.
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