By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada
WBC strawweight champ Kazuto Ioka (10-0, 6 KOs), 105, unified the 105-pound belts as he pounded out a close but unanimous verdict (115-114 and 115-113 twice) over WBA titlist Akira Yaegashi (15-3, 8 KOs), 105, over twelve hard-fought rounds on Wednesday in Osaka, Japan.
Carlos Sucre (US) saw the see-saw affair 115-114, Anek Hongtongkam (Thailand) and Koichi Sugiyama (Japan) both had it 115-113, all for the 23-year-old Ioka. The referee was Yuji Fukuchi (Japan) who handled the fast-moving affair well.
Ioka’s opening attack had Yaegashi’s left optic swollen from the first round, which kept the loser from showing his usual combinations against the sharpshooter. The WBA champ’s corner began to use Enswell to reduce Yaegashi’s swelling from the end of the initial session, but it began to be swollen bigger and bigger so that it looked like a black egg in later rounds.
Taller by two inches, Ioka outpunched Yaegashi, 29, to take the first session, but the WBA ruler took back a point with solid short rights to the face in round two. The third was Ioka due to his left jabs, which became a factor of his victory as the contest progressed. The fourth saw Ioka circling with occasional jabs to the willing mixer Yaegashi.
After the fourth, the open scoring system indicated deadly even 38-38 by all judges. The official tallies showed after the fight that they were least identical and some rounds of the first four were given to either.
Yaegashi, despite his swollen eye, turned loose in the fifth, smoothly throwing jabs and combinations to the cautious counterpuncher. But it was Ioka that took the sixth with good display of left jabs and quick counters. Referee Fukuchi had the damaged optic of Yaegashi examined by the ringside physician midway in the sixth, and the doctor advised the ref to have it go on.
After the eighth, the announced tallies were as follows: 77-75 twice for Ioka, and 77-76 for Yaegashi. It really looked a hairline give-and-take battle.
The last four sessions were evenly fought by the still fast-punching combatants, but Ioka was in command in three rounds, while Yaegashi dominated the twelfth and final stanza.
The victor Ioka said, “I really appreciate people’s spiritual supports, with which I could win this most important game of my life. Yaegashi was strong and durable, so I had a very tough fight.”
The crestfallen loser reviewed the process and said, “Without such a badly swollen eye I could have shown a better performance, but I did my best.”
Ioka will make his decision as to which of the WBA or WBC belts he will renounce in ten days since mandatory challengers of the two organizations are waiting for their turn. Both supervisors of the WBC and the WBA, Robert Yalen and Alan Kim, highly praised the furious fight. “It might be the Fight of the Year here in Japan.”
Although there were no knockdowns, the crowd looked fully entertained by the give-and-take battle. Now our male world champs reduced to seven, out of which are champs in the same categories (bantam and super-feather classes). Since such a unification bout is so interesting, we hope they will materialize also in the 118 and 130-pound divisions. If so, the rarity value of the world championship will become higher without doubt.
Promoter: Ioka Promotions in association with Ohashi Promotions.