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Kazuto Ioka vacates WBO 115-pound title, Nakatani-Moloney ordered for vacant belt

Kazuto Ioka (left) lands a left hand on Joshua Franco
Fighters Network

Kazuto Ioka has officially relinquished the WBO world junior bantamweight title, the sanctioning body announced Friday morning.

The WBO also announced that mandated negotiations must take place between Junto Nakatani, the mandatory challenger, and Andrew Moloney, although an agreement could be made between the two parties rather than WBO calling for a purse bid. 

The WBO ordered a clash between Ioka and Nakatani on January 9, but a deal was not struck between the two parties during the 30-day period. A purse bid hearing was called for February 23 by the WBO, but that was canceled after Ioka relinquished the title. 

Ioka reportedly vacated the WBO title due to attempting to negotiate a rematch against WBA world titleholder Joshua Franco, with that fight taking place in June or July, should a deal be struck between Franco and Ioka. 

Should a deal be reached between Nakatani and Moloney, it would be a clash amongst junior bantamweight contenders ranked in the top 10 by The Ring. Nakatani and Moloney are ranked No. 7 and 9, respectively. 

Nakatani (24-0, 18 knockouts), who resides in Sagamihara, Japan, last fought on November 1, defeating Francisco Rodriguez, Jr. of Mexico by unanimous decision. 

The 25-year-old southpaw won the vacant WBO world flyweight title in November 2020, knocking out Giemel Magramo of the Philippines in the eighth round. Nakatani would make two successful defenses of the WBO title, knocking out Angel Acosta in September of 2021 and Ryota Yamauchi on April 9.

Nakatani is promoted by Akihiko Honda, who has a good working relationship with Top Rank, which promotes Andrew and twin brother Jason. Both Moloney brothers are managed by Tony Tolj. 

Moloney (25-2 1 ND, 16 KOs), who resides in Kingscliff, Australia, defeated Norbelto Jimenez by unanimous decision in his last bout on October 16. The 32-year-old has won his last four bouts since losing to Franco in August 2021. 

Moloney’s other blemishes on his record include a controversial no-decision against Franco in November 2020 and a decision loss to Franco five months prior. 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]