Is Kazuto Ioka Being Held to a Different Standard By the WBO?
On June 1, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) ordered that the current WBO World Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka’s (26-2, 15 KOs) next fight must be against their mandatory challenger, Francisco Rodriguez Jr (33-4-1, 24 KOs). Both parties have received a 30-day window to negotiate a fight. Failure to do so will result in the match going to a purse bid.
Ioka’s last two outings against Jeyvier Cintron in December 2019 and Kosei Tanaka in December 2020 were mandatory title defenses. A fight against Rodriguez Jr represents three mandatory defenses in a row. So, that makes this ruling by the WBO quite odd.
It is not that Rodriguez is a terrible fighter or an undeserving challenger. Since consecutive losses to then WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes and Moises Fuentes in 2015, he has gone on to win his last fifteen fights. In truth, Ioka v Rodriguez Jr would be an excellent fight.
WHERE’S THE CONSISTENCY?
However, why would the WBO force the champ to engage in so many mandatory defenses in a row? You have not seen this level of insistence with the WBO and their champions in any other divisions. Traditionally, sanctioning organizations allow their champions at least one voluntary defense before ordering said fighter to face a mandatory challenger within a calendar year. One would think the same standard would apply to Ioka.
The Japanese superstar was 3KingsBoxing’s 2021 Fighter To Watch. He has eyes on a unification bout this year. A perfect fight for him would be a showdown with IBF World 115-pound world champ Jerwin Ancajas. It would have happened if he were allowed an optional title defense.
That possible fight now has to be kicked down the road. Overall, this is a disappointing decision. Questions should be raised about how they operate, particularly when it comes to Kazuto Ioka.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.