Friday, June 09, 2023  |



Kazuto Ioka-Joshua Franco rematch set for June 24 in Tokyo

(Photo by Naoki Fukuda)
Fighters Network

Looks like the rematch between Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco is set. 

Ioka and Franco will square off on June 24, Robert Garcia, who trains Franco, announced on social media late Sunday night. The 12-round bout will take place at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Ioka’s hometown of Tokyo, Japan. 

The first fight took place on December 31, which resulted in a majority decision draw. One judge scored the bout 115-113 for Franco, a score that seemed aligned to what most of boxing media and fans thought was the correct score of the fight.

The clash between Ioka and Franco will pit two of the best fighters at 115 pounds against each other. Ioka and Franco are ranked No. 2 and 3, respectively, by The Ring.

The WBA title, which Franco owns, will be the only world title up for grabs after Ioka vacated the WBO world junior bantamweight title in February, reportedly due to attempting to negotiate a deal with Franco. The WBO had ordered Ioka to defend his world title against Junto Nakatani on January 9, but after a 30-day period to finalize a fight, the sanctioning body had ordered a purse bid.

After Ioka vacated the world title belt, the WBO ordered Nakatani and Andrew Moloney to fight for the world title belt, which will take place on May 20 on the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undisputed lightweight championship fight in Las Vegas. 

Prior to the draw against Franco, Ioka (29-2-1, 15 knockouts) defeated Donnie Nietes by unanimous decision on July 22. The win over Nietes avenged the only defeat of his career, which took place in December 2018. 

Since the loss to Nietes, the 34-year-old is unbeaten in his last seven fights, including wins over Francisco Rodriguez, Jr., Kosei Tanaka and Jeyvier Cintron.

Franco (18-1-3, 8 KOs), who resides in San Antonio, Texas, was elevated to full WBA world titleholder status after Ring Magazine champion Juan Francisco Estrada relinquished the title belt in August of last year. Franco held the secondary title. 

The 27-year-old Franco is familiar with fighting rematches. He fought three times against Oscar Negrete, winning once and fighting to two split-decision draws. 

Franco recently defeated Andrew Moloney by unanimous decision in June 2020. Less than five months later, both fought to a No-Decision after a cut opened over Franco’s eye, officially from an accidental clash of heads. 

In August 2021, in their third fight, Franco won a unanimous decision over Moloney. Franco is the older brother of newly-crowned WBO world flyweight titleholder Jesse Rodriguez. 

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]