Super flyweights Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka ended boxing in 2020 in style with a competitive bout that saw Ioka take his game to a new level.
On New Year’s Eve, Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka brought boxing to a close in 2020 with a spirited matchup from Ota-City General Gymnasium in Japan. Many thought that Ioka would lose his WBO super flyweight title to the younger Tanaka, but he retained his title by utilizing incredible skill and strategy.
Ioka (26-2, 15 KOs) is a four-division champion who won his WBO title in 2019 by stopping Aston Palicte. He lost his first attempt at earning the title in 2018 via a split decision loss to Donnie Nietes. His win over Tanaka marks Ioka’s second title defense.
According to the Sportsbook Wire, Tanaka (15-1, 9 KOs) was slightly favored heading into his bout with Ioka. At 25 years old, he is six years younger than Tanaka and was undefeated before their contest. A win over Ioka would have made Tanaka a four-division champion, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The first four rounds were filled with back and forth action. Tanaka started strong in round 1 and showed faster hands throughout the fight. He pumped his jab often and scored regularly, but Ioka stayed patient.
In round 2, Ioka connected with several strong counterpunches that rocked Tanaka. The next two rounds oscillated similarly, but things took a sharp turn in Ioka’s favor starting in round 5.
Ioka found a home for his left hook. He used that punch to drop Tanaka with 16 seconds left in the round. Tanaka got off the canvas, and the bell rang shortly after.
Kazuto Ioka exceeded expectations with his Dec. 31 TKO of Kosei Tanaka
Ioka kept on the pressure to start round 6. He landed several combinations to start the round, but a game Tanaka fired back. Tanaka had Ioka moving backward during the second half of the round, but he left his defenses open as Ioka connected on another left hook that sent Tanaka down with a little over a minute remaining.
Tanaka got back up and fought well to end the round.
By round 8, Tanaka was falling behind on the cards. In retrospect, two judges had the bout scored 68-63 and one on 69-62, all for Ioka. Tanaka would have needed to win the remaining rounds to pull off a majority draw, but he never got past the eighth.
Ioka figured Tanaka out and hit him with another left hook that badly wobbled Tanaka. Tanaka never went down, but he could barely stand on his feet. The referee jumped in at the 1:35 mark to stop the fight awarding Ioka a round 8 TKO.
— 360 Promotions (@360BoxingPromos) December 31, 2020
Ioka successfully defended his title and did it against a decorated champion. It was Tanaka’s first fight as a super flyweight, but his division premier didn’t go as planned. Hopefully, Tanaka can use this loss as a learning experience and regain his place as a world champion in 2021.
It will be interesting to see what the new year brings for Ioka. He only fought once in 2020, but the pandemic suppressed every boxers’ ability to secure ample fights. The super flyweight division is loaded with talent, including fellow champions Juan Francisco Estrada, Jerwin Ancajas, and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. The picture should gradually clear who the frontrunner of that group is in 2021.