It will soon be New Years Eve in Japan, which is a big deal and a holiday that is celebrated through the 3rd of January. With that celebration comes an annual boxing event that features some of Japan’s biggest stars. This year is no different as WBO Super Flyweight Champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2) goes up against rising star Kosei Tanaka (15-0).
This fight is mouthwatering for those purists of the sport and rightfully so. You have the champion Ioka, who is battle tested but a little older, fighting the younger Tanaka, who is fighting at Super Flyweight for the first time.
When it comes to Kazuto Ioka, he is that veteran fighter who you love to watch. He doesn’t do anything fancy, but he is very disciplined with his attack. Ioka keeps a high guard, and his straight right hand has put away quite a few and hurt many more. He is consistent with his pressure and has a very solid body attack. In his last fight, he stopped Aston Palicte late in the fight to claim the WBO crown.
After retiring once before and threatening to retire before the Palicte fight, it’s hard to tell where he is mentally coming into this fight. People in boxing often say that when you have one foot out the door, it’s hard to keep that competitive edge. Regardless, I think Ioka trained hard for this one because he may feel that some are counting him out and are already making room for the younger Tanaka.
Speaking of Tanaka, here is a fighter who defines the word ambitious. He absolutely wants to be the best and knows that it often means, not being comfortable during the process. Last year, Tanaka flew out to Vegas and L.A to get top quality work in (Click HERE to learn more about that visit). This is the type of sparring that will see him continue his historic streak. If Tanaka wins, he will be the fastest to four world titles in four different weight classes. He really wants this and only wants the biggest fights.
For those that have never seen Tanaka fight, he is very twitchy and has some serious speed and power. He thrives on the roar of the crowd which is why this one had to be in front of fans. Tanaka is the real deal, but the question is whether this step up was too high and too soon for him. Tanaka already has a significant following but a win against a well-respected warrior like Ioka could potentially catapult him to stardom right away.
This fight is going to have the ebbs and flows your looking for from two world class fighters. This fight is happening at the right time which is why so many are excited. Ioka may be a little past his peak but close enough to still compete at an extremely high level. On the other hand, Tanaka is on the rise and has not peaked as of yet.
In the end, I think youth and speed will give Tanaka the decision victory. This will certainly set up a shot at one of the other champions within the red hot SuperFly division.
You can catch this fight on BoxNation, ESPN in Latin America and several other streaming services. The fight is in Japan so prepare yourself for an early morning fight if you want to catch it live.