Kazuto Ioka Looking to Unify with Fernando Martinez at 115 then Challenge Estrada
Kazuto Ioka (29-2, 15 KOs) is fresh off successfully defending the WBO junior bantamweight title for
the fifth time. He defeated four-division champ Donnie Nietes (43-2-6, 23 KOs) on July 13 in a rematch at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Ota-City, Japan.
Having lost a disputed decision to Nietes previously in December 2018, it was sweet revenge for the
defending champ. This time, he dissected and picked apart Nietes in a dominant performance.
On July 14, the 33-year-old held a press conference in his native Japan. He looked back on the victory over Nietes and disclosed what he would like to do moving forward. The champ said he used the experience of their first fight as fuel and inspiration for the rematch. His trainers had a set strategy, and the fighter stuck to it with extreme discipline. He was ecstatic over the victory.
IOKA’S MASTER PLAN
In terms of his future in the ring, Ioka has a blueprint in mind. The focus is on unifying the division,
with one particular fighter as the final destination point.
(Translated from Japanese) “At the end of the year, there was a unified battle. The IBF line may be
strong. So if you put two belts together, you might be able to pull out [Juan Francisco] Estrada.”
Given what he disclosed to the press, Ioka would like to next face current IBF 115-pound champ Fernando
Martinez (14-0, 8 KOs) at the end of this year. Should he fight and defeat Martinez, he hopes that would lead to a fight with reigning WBA champion Estrada (42-3, 28 KOs) in 2023. As an added incentive, Ioka said he would like to face Estrada in the United States
It’s an attractive strategy. Junior bantamweight is one of the best divisions in boxing. Many pundits
rate Martinez as the weakest world champion at 115. Given Ioka’s popularity and drawing in his native Japan, he has the cache to bring Martinez over for a match. Ioka is a four-division world champ, including a one-time unified champion at 105-pounds. A win over Martinez would make Ioka the first fighter in history to be a unified champion at both 105 and 115.
WILL WE SEE IT?
Word on the street is that Estrada is in negotiations for a trilogy with future Hall of Famer Roman
‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs) later this year. Would Estrada be interested in facing Ioka? One would think so, especially if it’s an Ioka who comes to the table as a unified champ and is willing to fight in the States.
His only fight in America was a unanimous decision victory over McWilliams Arroyo in September 2018.
But, he has trained in the States on numerous occasions over the years. Hardcore heads would welcome him returning to the States to face Estrada or any current prominent fighter in the division.
Overall it’s an ambitious path that Ioka is laying forth. If successful, it would further increase
his already high standing in the lower-weight divisions.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
By: Michael Wilson Jr.