Ismael Salas: “Kazuto Ioka Is Focused On Inoue”

Kazuto Ioka Targeting A Showdown Against Naoya Inoue

Kazuto Ioka (left), Naoya Inoue
Kazuto Ioka (left), Naoya Inoue

Kazuto Ioka Targeting A Showdown Against Naoya Inoue

Kazuto Ioka (26-2, 15 KOs) is less than a month removed from arguably the best performance of his career. On December 31, 2020, he scored an eighth-round TKO over the former three-division world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-1, 9 KOs) to retain the WBO World Super Flyweight title.

The champ was an underdog going into the fight. However, Ioka surprised many of the pundits and oddsmakers. He completely outclassed Tanaka, dishing out a boxing lesson. The win was so impressive and statement-making that it made him the 3KingsBoxing Fighter to Lookout For in 2021.

A four-division world champion (Strawweight, Junior Flyweight, Flyweight, and Super Flyweight), fans of the lower-weight divisions are now pondering, “what’s next for Ioka?” He has previously talked about wanting to face the winner of the March 13 115-pound world unification bout between WBA ‘Super’ World Super Flyweight Champion Roman Gonzalez (50-2, 41 KOs) and WBC World 115-pound champion Juan Francisco Estrada (41-3, 28 KOs).


During a virtual interview with RawBoxingTV, Ioka’s trainer, Ismael Salas, revealed that the 31-year-old resident of Tokyo has his eyes on a different opponent. According to the man that put together the strategy that sliced and diced up Tanaka, Ioka is looking to step in the ring against countryman IBF/WBA ‘Super’ World Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17 KOs).

“His focus [is on] Inoue. He said to me, I don’t like to keep going too much longer in boxing. I would like to make my mark.”

“He’s already a four-time champion. Tanaka tried to equal him but [was unsuccessful].”

“Why not try 118? He says to me, what do you think? I say, if you try, you try, you let me know.”

Salas explained that Ioka’s walking weight is only 126 pounds. With his career starting at 105-pounds, the trainer said he would have to revamp his training program for a fight against the naturally larger Inoue.

Both fighters are superstars in Japan. You would think that a showdown between the two would, of course, take place on domestic soil. On the contrary, Salas disclosed that his fighter wants it to happen in the United States.


Inoue is arguably the most explosive boxer in the world. Salas acknowledged that a fight against him is the ultimate risk, but would come with great reward. He was understandably very cautious on revealing the keys to defeating the fighter known universally as “Monster”.

“You have to work, everybody knows. Inoue, right now, is the more explosive Japanese fighter. Ioka is the more classic Japanese fighter.”

“Tanaka is not the monster; he’s the little monster.”

A read between the lines suggests Salas is saying that while Inoue is the bigger man and harder hitter, Ioka is the better overall boxer. Salas is implying that skills pay the bills, and Ioka’s IQ would play a significant role in such a matchup.


There have been no formal discussions between the two camps. Major negotiation must take place for a fight this significant. All things must occur against the backdrop of an ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.

What’s fascinating is that Ioka is even entertaining such a task. Inoue is an even more difficult task than Tanaka, or even the winner of Estrada and Gonzalez. Kazuto Ioka’s career shows that his legacy is set in stone. Despite his impressive resume, he wants more before he calls it a day. To target such a feared fighter in Inoue is the ultimate example of shooting for ultimate greatness. Serious boxing fans, for sure, would have their fingers crossed hoping the fight takes place. Stay tuned to 3KingsBoxing for the latest on this emerging story.

By: Michael Wilson Jr.

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About Michael Wilson 846 Articles
Michael is the host of boxing podcast "Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report" and is a writer/contributor for