Kazuto Ioka outpoints Francisco Rodriguez Jr in entertaining clash, retains WBO 115-pound title
Japanese star Kazuto Ioka successfully defended his WBO junior bantamweight title for the third time with a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision win over Mexico’s Francisco Rodriguez Jr. at the Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo on Wednesday. All three judges scored the bout 116-112.
Ioka, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at 115 pounds, was slow out of the blocks, but he gradually solved the style and landed the more effective punches in the middle sessions. That ebb and flow continued into the later rounds and some of the action was of the highest caliber.
Rodriguez, who is rated No. 7 by The Ring, got off to a great start, pressuring the defending titleholder and scoring well with right hands while chopping away to the body. However, as the pace dropped, Ioka, a four-weight world titleholder, began to have his own success and he appeared to pull back the deficit.
The champion scored with speed and accuracy in the middle portion of the fight and Rodriguez’s tempo dropped. It looked like the Mexican was short on ideas at this stage, but he matched Ioka punch for punch in a terrific 10th round and displayed plenty of courage.
It was all Ioka (27-2, 15 KOs) down the stretch and some excellent counter punching cut Rodriguez over the left eye and blood also poured from his nose.
Despite a No. 10 pound-for-pound rating, Ioka remains on the outside looking in at 115 pounds. Ring Magazine champion Juan Francisco Estrada, former multi-weight world titleholder Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai have proven to be the top international attractions in this division.
Ioka (27-2, 15 KOs) hopes to unify with long-reigning IBF titleholder Jerwin Ancajas in his next bout.
Rodriguez drops to 34-5-1 (24 KOs).
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