WBO king Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15 KOs) earned the adulation of all who watched on Wednesday night in Tokyo, Japan as he went twelve hard-fought rounds with WBO#2 Francisco Rodriguez (34-5-1, 24 KOs) to earn a unanimous decision at the Ota-city General Gymnasium.
The former WBO Minimumweight champion started the better of the two, landing hard shots to the champion, even driving Ioka into the ropes at one point. Rodriguez certainly fancied the upset, pressuring Ioka’s every move throughout the early rounds who was still looking to find his rhythm.
In the fourth he seemed to find his groove, timing the challenger’s shots before replying with left hooks of his own. Rodriguez continued in the same vein as previous, pressuring every move whilst landing with the harder shots to bloody the nose of Ioka.
In the sixth the momentum swung, Ioka now aimed to take the feet from under the Mexican with a solid body attack, this was effective and clearly had Rodriguez in trouble.
A cut appeared on the left cheek of Rodriguez from the jab/hooks that were finding their target but the tight grip the champion had of on his title had lessened a little when he was stopped in his tracks with a solid shot at centre ring. Ioka shook off the effects but was now cautious in his approach.
The action continued to heat up in the tenth, both men trading blows, Ioka shading the action with superb counter-punching. The action would inevitably slow in the eleventh, the champion jabbing his way through the round.
The closer was fought at pace with Both men believing that the fight was very much up for grabs, Ioka used his famed jab whilst Rodriguez bore forward in the hope of capturing his second world title, it wasn’t to be, all three judges saw the fight in favour of the champion by 116-112.
“It’s a tough fight, but I proved to be victorious. I wish to fight IBF titleholder Jerwin Ancajas next in order to prove I am the best 115-pounder in the world.” Afterward, Ioka wishes to exchange gloves with Juan Francisco Estrada to unify the super-fly belts.Kazuto Ioka
“Though under the pandemic, all the judges were Japanese. I believe my punches were more effective throughout the bout.”Francisco Rodriguez
Photo by Naoki Fukuda