The final huge struggle of 2022 is right here, occurring in a division that has delivered the products as usually as any class within the sport over the past close to decade.

This yr, we came upon the Jr. bantamweight golden period isn’t over but. The New Yr’s Eve consequence from Japan will set the stage for its continuance in 2023. In a yr the place there have been unification matches in all places between Jr. flyweight and light-weight heavyweight, two titles can turn out to be one right here.

It’s a disgrace US TV received’t be out there to get pleasure from it.

The match is fascinating. In a yr when Jesse Rodriguez garnered headlines and votes for Fighter of the Yr for his work at Jr. bantamweight, huge brother Joshua Franco can garner the largest win within the household for 2022. Inactive since August 2022, Franco goes straight into the fireplace, touring abroad for an opportunity at glory.

Kazuto Ioka has been part of the title image for over a decade, successful belts in 4 weight divisions. Alongside the best way, he has acquired double digit wins over fighters ranked within the high ten of their divisions. Ioka is one among solely a handful of lively fighters within the sport to take action, sharing that feat with names like Nonito Donaire, Roman Gonzalez, Naoya Inoue, and Saul Alvarez. These are all bona fide Corridor of Fame entrants ready to occur.

Ioka, who may partially unify in his second division this weekend, with an eye fixed on a showdown with lineal king Juan Francisco Estrada if he does, is making it exhausting to not rely him of their ranks. Can Ioka additional burnish his credentials this weekend? Can he take his New Yr’s Eve report to 10-1?  

Let’s get into it. 

Stats and Stakes

Kazuto Ioka

Age: 33

Present Titles: WBO Jr. Bantamweight (2019-Current, 5 Defenses) 

Earlier Titles: WBC Minimumweight (2011-12, 3 Defenses); WBA Minimumweight (2012); WBA Mild Flyweight (2014*); WBA Flyweight (2016-17, 2 Defenses)

Peak: 5’4 ½    

Weight: 115 lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Tokyo, Japan

File: 29-2, 15 KO

Press Rankings: #2 (Ring, BoxRec), #2 (TBRB), #4 (ESPN)

File in Main Title Fights: 12-2, 5 KO (20-2, 11 KO together with WBA sub-title fights)

Final 5 Opponents: 118-9-7 (.907)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Oleydong Sithsamerchai TKO5; Akira Yaegashi UD12; Felix Alvarado UD12; Juan Carlos Reveco MD12, TKO11; McWilliams Arroyo UD10; Donnie Nietes L12, UD12; Aston Palicte TKO10; Jeyvier Cintron UD12; Kosei Tanaka TKO8; Francisco Rodriguez Jr. UD12

Further Present/Former Titlists Confronted: Juan Hernandez UD 12; Amnat Ruenroeng L12

*Ioka received sub-versions of the WBA belts at Jr. flyweight and flyweight solely to be elevated when major titlists Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada vacated these belts, respectively. Title reign dates mirror these strikes.


Joshua Franco

Age: 27

Title: WBA Tremendous Flyweight (2022-Current, 1st Protection*)

Earlier Titles: None

Peak: 5’4   

Weight: 114 ¾ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: San Antonio, Texas

File: 18-1-2, 8 KO, 1 KOBY

Press Rankings: #5 (Ring), #7 (ESPN)

File in Main Title Fights: 1st title struggle (2-0, 1 No Contest together with sub-title fights) 

Final 5 Opponents: 98-6-1 (.938)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Andrew Moloney UD12, NC2, UD12

Further Present/Former Titlists Confronted: N/A  

*Joshua received the WBA sub-title within the division in 2020 from Andrew Moloney in 2020 and has defended it twice. He was elevated to major WBA titlist when Juan Fracisco Estrada’s declare to the title was vacated in 2022.

The Decide: It’s exhausting to see the place this struggle can miss. Each males are effectively schooled, mod-range fighters who throw heavy leather-based to the physique. Ioka has the higher straight proper hand and extra correct jab. Franco has a greater uppercut and may put collectively some intelligent mixtures. Ioka is extra skilled and has been extra lively. Franco is youthful with presumably much less profession put on. 

This might find yourself trying a bit like Ioka’s fights with Donnie Nietes. Like Franco, Nietes is a basically sound battler with actual craft however Ioka stored it shut the primary time and received the second by being first together with his extra exact offense. Japan feels prefer it has fewer scoring controversies than most locations however being at dwelling can’t harm in a struggle that appears shut getting into. This might be the form of struggle the place it’s exhausting to resolve rounds, and that has to favor Ioka. Subsequently, the choose is Ioka by choice.

Rold Picks 2022: 59-17

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the Worldwide Boxing Analysis Group, and a member of the Boxing Writers Affiliation of America.  He will be reached at [email protected] 

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