Legendary Japanese star Kazuto Ioka on revenge mission in Donnie Nietes sequel
WBO junior bantamweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka will have revenge on his mind when he steps into the ring with old rival Donnie Nietes at the Ota City Gymnasium in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Having shared the ring together, in December 2018, the pair know each other very well. On that occasion, Nietes (SD 12) edged a very close fight.
“He was a very tough and smart fighter,” Ioka (28-2, 15 knockouts) told The Ring. “He moves well and counters very good.
“But I don’t recall being hit hard or getting in trouble, so I believe I can go after him more aggressively this time. His punching power is not as explosive as other fighters I have fought recently. I will look to exploit him with my own counters.”
Ioka, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 115 pounds, has had to wait three-and-a-half years for this rematch. During that space of time, Nietes has only fought twice and he’s turned 40 years old.
“Although people are saying Nietes is old now, I do not think so. I expect the same Nietes from last time,” said the defending titleholder.
Ironically, entering the first fight, it was the Japanese star who had fought just once in 17 months.
“This time, I have the advantage going into the fight in terms of being active,” said Ioka, who has trained at Shisei boxing gym, where he is regularly watched live via video link by Vegas-based coach Ismael Salas. “But I think he has had time to get himself back in proper condition.”
Ioka had been scheduled to face Jerwin Ancajas in a unification in December 2021. However, the fight was canceled due to rising Covid cases preventing foreign nationals from entering Japan.
The 33-year-old boxer-puncher subsequently defended his title against compatriot Ryoji Fukunaga (UD 12), but Ancajas was upset by Fernando Martinez and that put paid to the unification matchup.
“It was unfortunate, but Martinez is a young tough fighter,” he said. “I will focus on this mandatory and see what will happen in this division with the other champions.”
With Ancajas out the picture, Ioka has mixed feeling about whether his fight with Nietes qualifies as a superfight.
“Yes and no,” he said. “Yes, it is a good opportunity to get revenge on a legendary four-division fighter who beat me. But no, this is not equal to a big fight against [Juan Francisco] Estrada, [Roman] Gonzalez or a unification fight, which I have long craved.”
Nietes has been a professional for 20 years. The Filipino veteran has claimed titles at strawweight, junior flyweight; where he held The Ring championship, flyweight and junior bantamweight. He holds wins over Francisco Rodriguez Jr. (UD 12), Juan Carlos Raveco (TKO 7) and Ioka (SD 12). In total, the vastly experienced Nietes, who is rated No. 9 by The Ring, has taken part in 19 world title fights and has a record of 43-1-6 (23 KOs).
Following Mark Magsayo’s defeat at the hands of Rey Vargas on Saturday night, the Philippines is now left without a world champion. Nietes is bidding to restore his countries elite-level success.