Kazuto Ioka-Francisco Rodriguez set for September 1 in Tokyo
Earlier this month the WBO ordered their junior bantamweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka to defend his belt against mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
Both teams had 30 days to agree terms and they reached a deal that will see them face each other in Tokyo on September 1.
Ioka, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 115 pounds, will be making his third consecutive mandatory defense since winning the vacant title with a 10th round stoppage of Aston Palicte in June 2019.
The 32-year-old, who previously claimed world titles at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight, holds wins over Akira Yaegashi (UD 12), Felix Alvarado (UD 12) and, most recently, Kosei Tanaka (TKO 8). Ioka’s record currently stands at 26-2 (15 knockouts).
His opponent, who is rated No. 7 at 115 pounds, lost to future hall-of-famer Roman Gonzalez (TKO 7) early in his career. However, the setback proved to be a valuable learning curve for Rodriguez, who knocked out Merlito Sabillo (TKO 10) to become the WBO titleholder before adding the IBF belt in a unification bout with Katsunari Takayama (UD 12).
The Mexican soon moved up to junior flyweight and lost back-to-back decisions to Donnie Nietes (UD 12) and Moises Fuentes (SD 12) in 2015. He has since moved up in weight again and is currently on a 15-fight win streak that includes triumphs over former titleholders Hernan Marquez (KO 3) and Oswaldo Novoa (UD 10).
Now 28, Rodriguez had been due to face countryman Julio Cesar Martinez for the WBC flyweight title late last year, but Martinez was injured and the bout was called off. The challenger’s record is 34-4-1 (24 KOs).
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