Kazuto Ioka outboxes overweight Joshua Franco to claim WBA world title in Tokyo

Kazuto Ioka defeated Joshua Franco in his native Japan to reclaim a world title at super flyweight.

The rematch between the pair has seen a large amount of controversy in the lead up to the anticipated rematch between two of the best at 115 pounds. Ioka had traces of cannabis in his system from a test in the first fight on New Year’s Eve, the announcement peculiarly being this past Wednesday.

To follow on, Franco lost his WBA world title on the scales, coming in nearly 7 pounds over the weight limit. A second attempt was made by Franco, but his title was relinquished as his barely lost any extra weight.

However, the main event at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in the Japanese capital went ahead with the title only on the line for Ioka. The two boxed to majority-draw in the first fight which had Ioka’s WBO title on the line, but due to a demand from the governing body for Ioka to face Junto Nakatani he relinquished the belt to take the rematch with Franco.

Ioka boxed well over the 12 round distance to control his opponent all night against effectively a fighter two weight classes above him. However, it did no favours for the incoming Franco as he couldn’t find an answer all evening. The final scorecards read; 115-113, 116-112 and 116-112 to give Ioka the unanimous decision victory and the WBA title.

Rounds 1 to 3 saw both men start quickly with a lot of punches being thrown. It was Ioka who was out landing Franco with the cleaner and heavier shots, evidently Franco appeared a little rocked in the 2nd round but recovered well.

Franco put in a good showing in the 4th but did look sluggish as Ioka’s work rate dropped considerably. Franco’s connecting shots did not give Ioka much concern in the opening rounds. Round 5 saw Ioka step through the gears with a dominant round. Despite Ioka pulling ahead on the cards, Franco was still having some moments of success, but was just being outworked and outboxed by his opponent.

As the rounds ticked by Ioka was in more and more control. A gluttony of body shots in the 7th and a cut eye in the 10th were the notable moments in the second half of the bout as Ioka took full control further dominating down the stretch.

It was hard to find holes in Ioka’s performance all night as he demonstrated a a great blend of boxing and fighting to give Franco problems all evening. The scorecards could have been much wider with most struggling to give the American many rounds at all. Ioka improves to 30-2-1 (15 KOs) with Franco’s record moving to 18-2-3 (8 KOs).