By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Boxing Beat
Don’t easily abuse a word of “genius” for any unbeaten prospect. It seems a misapplication that the word “genius” is used to all but Sugar Ray Robinson. In comparison with Robinson, even Mayweather (who can’t punch as he), De La Hoya (less sweet) or Leonard (flashy but less sophisticated) wasn’t worth being called genius—to this stubborn reporter’s eyes. But people here in Japan call a fast-rising, already two-class world champ named Kazuto Ioka, 24, genius although he fought merely thirteen times as a professional. Unbeaten Ioka (13-0, 9 KOs), 108, of Japan successfully kept his WBA 108-pound belt by a fine knockout over ex-WBA 105-pound titlist Kwanthai Sithmorseng (43-2-1, 22 KOs), 107.75, from Thailand, at 2:17 of the seventh round on Wednesday in Osaka, Japan.
Ioka, making his second defense in his second reign as 108-pound champ, was aggressive enough to overwhelm and overpower the 31-year-old durable Thailander from the outset. Busily moving in and out to keep his distance, Ioka, the nephew of ex-world minimum and light-fly champ Hiroki Ioka, whipped his shorter rival with sharp jabs and quick left-right combinations with precision. The muscular Thailander had once acquired the WBA 105-pound belt by defeating compatriot Pigmy Kokietgym in 2010 but forfeited it to Indonesian Muhammad Rachman via ninth round stoppage in his first defense in Thailand. Having scored twelve wins in a row since, Kwanthai won and defended the PABA minimum belt twice to his credit.
The baby-faced champ took the initiative as he positively threw lead jabs, dug solid shots to the belly and connected with countering rights. His attack was so accurate and so agile as to hit without getting hit. But the 5’5” Ioka, two inches taller, became more and more aggressive as the contest progressed as if he strongly intended to aim for a quick obliteration. Ioka sometimes absorbed a solid retaliation from Kwanthai, but kept attacking with solid and smashing combos upstairs and downstairs.
Apparently Kwanthai, a game Thailander, was slowing down because of his absorption of Ioka’s vicious body shots. The champ was really good at landing body shots as if he could be called “body snatcher”, having scored some previous knockouts by his effective attack to the midsection.
Ioka, in round six, accelerated his attack to make it an abbreviated affair. He mixed it up in the middle range and landed more effective blows to Kwanthai who fought back with strong rights. Strange enough, a couple of judges gave the sixth to the Thailander though Ioka hurt him more than Kwanthai did.
The seventh witnessed a picture-perfect finish with a body shot to the liver. Ioka battered the fading foe from all angles, and then landed a coup-de-grass to the side of the belly—followed by a left hook to the face. Down he went. He was prone in agony. Referee Erkki Meronen from Finland tolled the fatal ten against the loser who almost stood up but was unable to go on with his bad pain on the belly.
It was an eye-catching knockout. Ioka thus registered three consecutive stoppages since he acquired the vacant WBA 108-pound belt by demolishing Mexican Jose Rodriguez in six easy rounds last December. The triumphant champ said, “In this class I have established my position, and will not yield this belt to anyone.” The dejected loser said, “Ioka was too fast and too strong. He was quite different from all others that I had previously fought.”
Prior to the clearcut knockout, the official tallies were as follows: Ignacio Robles (Panama) and Reina Urbaez (Venezuela) both 59-55, Lahcen Oumghar (Netherland) 58-56, all in favor of Ioka.
Some cynic aficionados wish Ioka to face the WBA super champ in the same category, unbeaten Nicaraguan Roman Gonzalez, but his father/trainer/promoter Kazunori Ioka didn’t mention a possibility of his talented son against Chocolatito at all. It is already rumored that Ioka will outgrow the 108-pound category and aim at the third belt in the flyweight division on the last day of this year. It has become customary in Japan that our world champs appear and defend their belts on December 31st to be shown by a couple of television stations such as TV Tokyo and TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System).
If so, who will be Ioka’s target? Though compatriot Akira Yaegashi, who Ioka once defeated in a 105-pound unification bout in June of the previous year, is the WBC flyweight ruler, it will be very unlikely that he will respond to Ioka’s challenge this December. It may be most probably WBA 112-pound champ Juan Carlos Reveco of Argentina that Ioka will target for his third coronation. Reveco recently came here to successfully keep his WBA belt against Masayuki Kuroda via unanimous nod this February, but was neither impressive nor spectacular. Should it materialize, it will undoubtedly become a sensational event with great many fans to watch with high expectations.
Ioka, whose amateur mark was 95-10, 64 stoppages, had won six national high school championships, and entered Tokyo Agricultural University. His ambition to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games failed due to some controversial verdicts in final tournaments to decide the Olympians. Ioka promptly dropped out of the university and returned to his native Osaka to turn professional. He gained the national light-fly belt in his sixth pro bout, and dethroned WBC 105-pound champ Oleydong Sithsamerchai, previously unbeaten in thirty-six bouts, with a vicious body shot in the fifth session of his seventh in February 2011.
Naoya Inoue, newly crowned Japanese light-fly champ in his 4th bout
Though we admit Ioka is a vastly talented youngster, this story doesn’t end here. There has appeared another bright rookie in the same class named Naoya Inoue, only 20, who lately captured the Japanese national light-fly belt in his just fourth pro bout. Inoue is said to be very special since he beat up former or current champs such as Nobuo Nashiro (ex-WBA super-fly champ), Akira Yaegashi (current WBC flyweight ruler), Takuya Kogawa (national fly titlist) in sparring sessions. Everyone in the boxing fraternity in Tokyo praises Inoue’s strength, speed and skills despite his age. He is gunning to win a world throne in his sixth pro game in order to beat Ioka’s record of winning it in his seventh.
Inoue’s manager/promoter Hideyuki Ohashi, ex-WBC/WBA 105-pound champ who was in attendance, said, “Ioka and Inoue will be definitely destined to collide in the near future.” It will be a fantastic Dream Fight for Japanese fight fans.
One question. Do you agree that the earlier you reach a world championship, the greater your achievement is? If yes, you can be Japanese. Come here and wish for a future Ioka-Inoue confrontation together.
Promoter: Ioka Promotions.
WBA supervisor: Alan Kim (Korea).