Report by Joe Koizumi
Photos by Boxing Beat
Unbeaten Japanese star Kazuto Ioka (12-0, 8 KOs), 108, impressively decked the first defense of his second world throne when he dispatched Thai veteran Wisanu Kokietgym (43-9-2, 11 KOs), 108, with a wicked body shot at 2:51 of the ninth round on Wednesday in Osaka, Japan. Ioka, still 24, had acquired the WBC 105-pound belt in his seventh pro bout, and won the WBA 108-pound diadem in his eleventh. Ioka was patient against the more experienced Thailander, steadily piling up points before he exploded a very well-timed right uppercut to the midsection, which sent him flat on the canvas for minutes.
Ioka was awarded Boxer of the Year award for 2012 by Sports Writers Association and the JBC, and proved his worth with his spectacular knockout. He patiently outboxed and outpunched the much more experienced and tough-looking Thailander, five years his senior at 29.
Prior to the trick happening all the judges had the baby-faced defending champ leading on points: Jason Garcia (US) and Raul Caiz Jr. (US) both 80-72, and Danilo Dongo (Peru) 77-75, all in favor of Ioka. The third man was Mark Nelson.
The Thai southpaw had a long career since 2001 and had a long reign as PABA light-fly champ since 2007. For him it was the first time to fight abroad and to fight in a quest for a world throne. He fought well with a fine display of good southpaw jabs and occasional straight lefts to the excellent Japanese counterpuncher.
Ioka steadily piled up points with compact combinations to the willing mixer, who came to fight despite his constant absorption of the champ’s jabs and left-right combos. Ioka busily kept moving in and out to avert Wisanu’s long lefts and connected with sharp counters to the face. Wisanu showed his resilience and retaliation though he was apparently behind on points. People thought it might be hard to finish such a durable and deft challenger.
But an end visited abruptly. After Ioka accelerated his attack in the eighth, Wisanu displayed his fighting spirit to mix it up with the more accurate champ. A smashing right uppercut exploded at the midsection of the Thai veteran, who badly fell in agony. He was flat there for long. Ioka displayed a fine victory to entertain some 8,800 spectators.
The champ said, “I wish to keep winning to be a legendary boxer, if possible.” His father and trainer Kazunori Ioka, 45, said, “Kazuto may keep this light-fly belt within this year, and may move up to win his third belt undefeated.” The vastly talented 24-year-old champ, the nephew of ex-WBC 105-pound and WBA 108-pound champ Hiroki Ioka, may extend his reign if not against Roman Gonzalez, the WBA super champ in the same category.
Ioka started to learn how to box when he was in the first grade of a junior high school at Ioka gym managed by his uncle Hiroki. He gained six national high school championships in Osaka and moved up to Tokyo to go on his amateur career in Tokyo Agricultural University. Kazuto unfortunately failed to go to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, and decided to quit his school life and return to Osaka to turn professional. His amateur mark was 95-10, 64 stoppages, including some controversial decision losses with some politics behind the scene.
Kazuto gained a world belt in his seventh pro bout, surpassing his uncle Hiroki’s record of winning a title in his ninth. His early acquisition of the belt was probably motivated by his regrettable failure to represent Japan as an Olympian. Having been previously coached by Cuban trainer Ismael Salas, Ioka boasts of good defensive and offensive skills despite his age. We look forward to watching a legendary boxer in the making, if successful.
Promoter: Ioka Promotions.
WBA supervisor: George Martinez (Canada).