Kazuto Ioka: ‘For myself, history is on the line’
Skilled boxer-puncher Kazuto Ioka will meet equally talented Donnie Nietes for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title in Macau on Monday.
Ioka and Nietes, who are rated No. 3 and No. 7 by The Ring Magazine respectively at 115 pounds, will meet in a fight that has added significance because the winner will become a four-division titlist. Both men have previously won world titles at 105, 108 and most recently 112.
They fought on the same “SuperFly 3” card in their most recent outings in September. Nietes (41-1-5, 23 knockouts) attempted to win a world title in a fourth weight category, drawing with Filipino countryman Aston Palicte, while Ioka (23-1, 13 KOs) returned from a 17-month hiatus with an impressive 10-round unanimous decision over McWilliams Arroyo.
“There were many obstacles to clear in the last fight,” Ioka told RingTV.com through manager Taku Nagashima. “This time around I can confidently say I am stronger, faster and smarter than I have ever been in my career.
“I only took maybe two or three weeks off after the Arroyo fight, so, at this point, I am sure that I will be very ready for this fight.”
The 29-year-old Japanese star is eager test his mettle when he finally meets Nietes.
“I feel that this will be a terrific fight because I’ve always had tremendous respect for Donnie Nietes and I’m honored that this fight is happening,” said Ioka. “It is really destiny that both of us on our different paths in life will meet in Macau for the four-weight championship.
“For myself, history is on the line, as no boxer in Japan history has ever been a four-weight champion. I’m sure, in the future, many Japanese boxers will have this opportunity but I’m really excited to be in this position to achieve history now.”
The 36-year-old Nietes is like a fine wine and has improved as he’s moved through the weight classes. He held the WBO straps at strawweight and junior flyweight for lengthy reigns. However to the former janitor’s considerable credit, he decided to step up and dared to be great, winning a third title at flyweight before again stepping up in weight.
Ioka is full of praise for his rival and has considerable respect for his many talents.
“He is a very crafty veteran who is a smart boxer,” he said. “I’m not quite sure which area to exploit specifically, except to say, just like with the Arroyo fight, I will show up to fight a fight that the boxing world will appreciate.”
For the Arroyo fight, Ioka traveled to Las Vegas to work with Ismael Salas. This time Salas has brought his expertise to Tokyo to prepare Ioka for the challenge ahead.
Nagashima, of TLAROCK Entertainment in Tokyo, is pleased that all parties were able to work out a deal that has huge ramifications potentially not just for the two boxers but also the region as a whole. The manager also has his eyes on other silverware.
“I’m very happy that together with TLAROCK, ALA and Tom Loeffler, we quickly were able to put this fight together,” said Nagashima. “As I told ALA, this is a type of matchmaking in Asia that can be the start of something new in Asia boxing that can have global viewership. So this fight is just a positive for Japan, Philippines, Asia and for boxing.
“As for Kazuto, to win and become a four-weight champion will put him in the elite status of boxing. Also it will open up the door of opportunity to unify the belts. Personally, if Kazuto wins, I would like to explore a fight and go after the WBA belt (held by Kal Yafai).”
You can order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page.