WBO Bantamweight titlist Kazuto Ioka fought through some trouble to retain his WOrld title with a well earned unanimous decision over a determined Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez on Wednesday evening at the Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan.
The 12 round entertaining and competitive main event was scored by Judges Yuji Fujuchi (116-112), Nobuto Ikehara (116-112) and Michiaki Someya (116-112) in favour of Ioka, who was fighting for the first time since his controversy with Japanese Boxing Commission, which started out after Ioka’s eight round knockout victory over his fellow countryman Kosei Tanaka back in New Year’s Eve.
Ioka fought on Wednesday, concealing all his tattoos as it’s still illegal to compete with tattoos in Japan after being cleared of the scandal that originated from faulty drug testing practices.
Rodriguez showed up ready to make a statement and in the first round, established dominance snapping Ioka’s head backwards with a right hand and pressured the highly favoured champion into the ropes but Ioka regrouped and established his jab, maintaining a calm pace for the remainder of the round.
Rodriguez had more success in the second round adding a lot of pressure to Ioka and giving him more troubles with his right hand. More of it in round three and round four was the highest as Rodriguez doubled the pressure on Ioka, making it physically tasking for the champion. While fighting inside, Rodriguez connected a left hook that stunned Ioka and no doubt drew his attention.
Ioka gradually grew into the fight and instead of engaging in the brawl, started targeting him with counters, timing his punches and rebounding with left hooks. Rodriguez still got the pressure up and tried put more pressure in Ioka but the champion kept the replies going out and his left hooks continued finding his home on the challenger.
Rodriguez needed war and in round five, will pause and gesture to the local favourite to engage, he will taunt with his left and connect a right hook combinations that left the champ bloodied but Ioka was capable of taking all those shots and kept pumping his Jab.
Ioka gradually took control of the fight which was due to the challenger tiring out and also due to the accumulation of body work from the champion. By the end of the eight round, Rodriguez was bloodied while dealing with a cut from the flush Jab and hooks from the champion.
Rodriguez connected a big shot in the ninth round that saw Ioka freeze in his tracks and afterwards fought from a distance, tightening his guard against Rodrigues who kept coming. Both got engaged in a back and fourth in the 10th round with Ioka getting the better of Rodriguez.
Ioka turned his focus to his Jab as action really slowed in the eleventh, Rodriguez in his part was dealing with blood flowing from his cheeks but still did his best to trouble Ioka, who connected his Jabs.
Rodriguez was a bloody mess but kept his view on the World title at stake. He upped his output and aggression on Ioka, who pumped his Jab and fought from the inside but at that time, hopes for Rodriguez were slim as the Judges saw the fight too far out for Rodriguez to win.
Ioka, who previously held a World title at strawweight, junior flyweight and flyweight successfully defended the WBO junior Bantamweight title for the third time and this being eight months since his knockout victory over Kosei Tanaka.
Ioka knocked out Aston Palicte in the tenth round of their meeting back in 2018 to win the WBO world title and cemented his Hall Of Fame credentials, writing his name in History as the second person from Japan to win a world title in four weight classes.