Kazuto Ioka To Battle Ryoji Fukunaga On New Year’s Eve

Ioka Salvages December 31 Date as he Faces the Hard-Hitting Fukunaga

Junior bantamweight boxers Kazuto Ioka and Ryoji Fukunaga each posing with belts
Kazuto Ioka (left), Ryoji Fukunaga

Ioka Salvages December 31 Date as he Faces the Hard-Hitting Fukunaga

Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15 KOs) will, after all, fight on December 31 as previously scheduled. The 32-year-old will make the fourth defense of the WBO world junior bantamweight title against countryman and substitute opponent Ryoji Fukunaga (15-4, 14 KOs). The match will happen at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan.

Originally, Ioka was to fight current IBF world junior bantamweight champ Jerwin Ancajas in a unification contest. It was postponed after the Japanese government implemented a 30-day travel ban due to concerns about the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

In a December 16 released statement by the Shisei Boxing Gym to local media, the champ expressed disappointment in not facing Ancajas but is looking forward to getting back in the ring.

“Not being able to have the unification bout on New Year’s Eve is unfortunate. But now that this is decided, I want to win and build on that for my next fight.”

For Fukunaga, it’s a golden opportunity. Ranked sixth by the WBO at 115, the 35-year-old southpaw has won his last five fights. In February 2020, he TKO’d Froilan Saludar to win the WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title, which earned him his current world ranking.

Domestically, the challenger has a reputation for being a hard-hitter, so he has a puncher’s chance. He fell into this bout due to unforeseen circumstances but will be on a mission to score what would be considered a big upset.

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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 3kingsboxing.com.