Saturday, March 25, 2023  |


Japan rings in New Year with Uchiyama, Ioka defenses



While much of the world will spend their New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop in Times Square or catching a local fireworks display, Japan continues a yearly tradition of having its best fighters defend their world titles in dueling events on opposite ends of the country.

In Tokyo, two junior lightweight titleholders will defend their titles in separate bouts, while two of the highest-regarded junior flyweights in the world perform for their hometown in Osaka.

The capital-city bouts will feature WBA junior lightweight titleholder Takashi Uchiyama (20-0-1, 17 knockouts) defending against compatriot Daiki Kaneko (19-2-3, 12 KOs) in the main event, while WBC 130-pound titleholder Takashi Miura (26-2-2, 19 KOs) faces Dante Jardon (24-3, 20 KOs) of Mexico City.

In Osaka, former unified strawweight champion and current WBA junior flyweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka (13-0, 9 KOs) faces Felix Alvarado (18-0, 15 KOs) of Nicaragua in the twelve-round main event, while former WBA strawweight titleholder Ryo Miyazaki (20-0-3, 11 KOs) faces Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. (22-2, 14 KOs) of Thailand in his first bout since moving to 108 pounds.

Uchiyama, 34, will be making the eighth defense of his belt, with this being his third consecutive New Year’s Eve defending his title. Uchiyama won the belt with a twelfth-round stoppage of Juan Carlos Salgado in 2010 and is rated No. 1 by THE RING at 130 pounds. Kaneko, 25, of Yokohoma, Japan, is the Japanese junior lightweight champion but is stepping up significantly in class.

Miura, 29, is making the second defense of the title he won in April with a ninth-round TKO of Gamaliel Diaz and is rated No. 7 by RING at 130 pounds. Diaz’s next fight was an eighth-round KO loss to Jardon, 25, in August. Miura has won six straight since being stopped by Uchiyama in a vie for his countryman’s title.

Carlos Cuadras (28-0, 23 KOs), THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior bantamweight contender, will also be in action against Thai fighter Songseanglek Phosuwangym (1-9) in a six-round bout. Cuadras, 25, is a native of Mexico City but lives and trains in Tokyo, where he is promoted by local outfit Teiken Promotions.

Ioka, whose uncle Hiroki Ioka defeated Hall of Famer Myung-Woo Yuh to win the WBA junior flyweight title in 1991, is currently rated No. 3 by THE RING at 108 pounds. Ioka had been the WBA’s “regular” champion, which THE RING doesn’t consider valid, but assumed full title recognition when Roman Gonzalez gave up his claim to the title and moved to flyweight.

Alvarado, 24, has knocked out his last five opponents but hasn’t fought the same level of competition Ioka has.

Miyazaki, 25, made two defenses of his title before vacating, but was thought to be lucky to escape with a majority-decision victory against Mexico’s Jesus Silvestre in September. Miyazaki is rated No. 6 by THE RING at 105 pounds.

The Uchiyama/Miura twin bill is presented by Watanabe Promotions and televised by TV Tokyo, while the Ioka/Miyazaki card will be promoted by Ioka Promotions and televised locally by TBS.

Photo by Toru Yamanaka-AFP/Getty Images

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and is a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.