In their second fight in six months, Kazuto Ioka of Japan (30-2-1, 15 KOs) seng Joshua Franco of San Antonio, Texas (18-2-3, 8 KOs) home from Tokyo Saturday empty-handed.
Ioka defeated Franco by a majority decision to win the WBA super flyweight title in Tokyo at Ota City General Gymnasium. Scorecards were 116-112 twice and 115-113. When the result was announced, Ioka burst into tears over his victory.
With the victory, Ioka became a four-division champion, the only boxer in Japan to hold this record, and a sure lock for the Boxing Hall of Fame after 14 years as one of Japan's most accomplished boxers.
Scale Fail for Franco Sets the Tone for Rough Week
Joshua Franco blew through the 115-pound weight limit Friday by more than six pounds. Photo: Naoki Fukuda
It was a rough week for Franco, who lost the title on the scale with an epic weight fail. He came in more than six pounds over the 115-pound limit. Explanations pointed to miscommunication about a reported failed drug test positive for cannabis by Ioka, allegedly leading to Franco and trainer Robert Garcia claiming they believed the fight would be canceled. Nevertheless, Franco is responsible for being on weight right up to the point he does or doesn't step on the scale.
Ioka agreed to let the fight continue, which was no surprise as he has a warrior's mentality and was determined to win the title from Franco he failed to secure in a hotly contested draw in December.
Joshua Franco was the busier fight, but Kazuko Ioka was the more effective.
Franco was the busier fighter, but Ioka's punches were cleaner and more effective, especially in the early rounds. He successfully rattled Franco with uppercuts and several body shots, but he couldn't score the knockdown or the stoppage.
In the ninth round, Ioka began to feel the victory, although he was down on one of the cards after ten rounds, and Franco was within range of another draw on a second card. But the Texan would have needed a knockdown or knockout to win. Unlike Jaime Munguia a few weeks prior, it wasn't in the cards for Franco.
Franco suffered a cut over his left eye in the fifth round, with blood coming down his face but not impairing his vision enough to halt the fight.
Division Unification Goal for Ioka
Kazuko Ioka now hopes to unify the super flyweight division.
Ioka gave up his WBO super flyweight title after six successful defenses to pursue the rematch with Franco instead of facing mandatory challenger Junto Nakatani, who went on to win the vacant title with a 12th-round knockout of Andrew Moloney of Australia.
Ioka now hopes to pursue unification of the division against Natakani, WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada, and the winner of Saturday's IBF title fight between champion Fernando Martinez of Argentina and challenger Jade Bornea of the Phillippines, which opens the Showtime Boxing card supporting Carlos Adames vs. Julian “J-Rock” Williams.
The bout did not air in North America. It was offered as a Japanese television PPV which was difficult to access for all but the most hardcore viewers, which was an opportunity lost for fans to see one of Japan's best talents, second only to Naoya Inoue. There was no “Garciacast” as in the first fight, a live stream on Instagram from Franco's corner with commentary by retired champion Mikey Garcia alongside his brother and Franco trainer Robert Garcia. The main event took place at approximately 7 am ET/4 am PT.
Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist and the only woman journalist who is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). She is West Coast Bureau Chief based in San Diego, California.