Ioka vs Franco Disputed Draw Opens Questions On Next Fights

What's Next For Ioka and Franco?

Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco consider their next fight options
(clockwise from right) Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco (Instagram), Juan Francisco Estrada (Matchroom), Junto Nakatani

Future Fight Options Following Kazuto Ioka v Joshua Franco Failed Unification

Plenty of questions are being asked following the junior bantamweight unification contest between WBO champ Kazuto Ioka (29-2-1, 15 KOs) and WBA super champ Joshua Franco (18-1-3, 8 KOs) on December 31. The fight ended in a controversial draw. The question now becomes, what’s next for both fighters?

RELATED: Kazuto Ioka vs Joshua Franco Ends In A Controversial Draw!

One would think that Franco certainly wants a rematch. Many fans who have watched the fight felt the WBA champ did enough to win. But any rematch may be thwarted by boxing politics.

Junto Nakatani (24-0, 18 KOs) is the WBO mandatory challenger at 115. In November 2022, Nakatani vacated the flyweight belt and officially moved to junior bantamweight. Before Ioka – Franco, the sanctioning body ruled that the winner of that contest is obligated to face Nakatani by June 2023. Will Ioka go on and face Nakatani, or will he ask for an exemption and seek other fights?


An interested observer in attendance for the bout was two-divisional champion Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada (44-3, 28 KOs). His appearance is noteworthy.

Juan Francisco Estrada attends the Kazuto Ioka vs Joshua Franco fight
Juan Francisco Estrada attends the Kazuto Ioka vs Joshua Franco fight

Throughout 2022, Ioka also expressed a keen interest in facing El Gallo at some point in 2023. But how viable is a fight with Estrada at this point? Oddly enough, Franco is the fighter who has more options currently. He is drawing rave reviews for his performance against Ioka.

From a business perspective, the WBA champ is a free agent, able to wheel and deal with anyone who presents the best offer. Estrada is coming off a majority decision win in a high-profile trilogy bout with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez on December 3. He’s looking to fight one of the other junior bantamweight champions in 2023. Franco certainly fits the bill.

The dominoes will continue to fall in the aftermath of what folks saw in Japan on New Year’s Eve. It will be interesting to see what direction both Ioka and Franco go. Avid followers of the lower-weight divisions will be paying plenty of attention.

By: Michael Wilson Jr.

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Mike is the host of boxing podcast "Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report" and is a Senior Writer for