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Ioka decision’s overweight Franco, wins vacant WBA super flyweight title

Jun 25, 2023 10:15 am

Challenger Kazuto Ioka of Shisei Boxing Gym pounded out a unanimous decision over former World Boxing Association super flyweight champion Joshua Franco of the United States and won the vacant WBA title on June 24 in Tokyo.

While there were no knockdowns during the 12-round fight at Ota City General Gymnasium, it was the 34-year-old Ioka who connected with more effective punches.

Two of the three judges scored the fight 116-112 and the remaining judge had it 115-113, all in favor of Ioka, ranked sixth in the division.

The title match was held after Franco was stripped of the title on June 23 as he failed to meet the super flyweight limit of 52.16 kg (115 lbs.) in his official weigh-in by weighing as heavy as 55.2 kg in his first attempt.

While he managed to reduce the weight only by 0.2 kg in his second attempt, he gave up the title as he quit any further weight reduction. But Franco tipped the scales at 58.0 kg in the morning of June 24, which was less than 58.96 kg (130 lbs.) both sides agreed after Franco’s failure to meet the division’s weight.

The 27-year-old Franco was allowed to have a fight, although the title would have remained vacant even if he had won or drawn.

It was their direct rematch as both fought to a majority draw on Dec. 31 last year. Ioka, relinquished his World Boxing Organization super flyweight title in February as he opted to have the rematch with Franco rather than fighting with a designated challenger.

While Franco started out strongly by sticking out left jabs, Ioka, who weighed in at 52.0 kg, landed overhand rights to the head and left hooks to the body and fended off Franco’s offense in the fourth round.

In the fifth stanza, Ioka unleased a barrage of straight rights to the head, left hooks to the body and uppercuts, which resulted in Franco suffering a cut above his right eyelid.

Both boxers exchanged blows the rest of the way with Ioka taking the 12th and final round clearly by moving forward and by connecting with effective punches.

After the fight, Ioka said, ‘’Ever since last New Years’s Eve, there’ve been a lot of things happening. But thanks to my fans’ support, I was able to return to a world champion. Mr. Franco was strong just like in our first fight. I am happy that I was able to beat such a great champion like Franco. I am satisfied with the fight.’’

With the victory, Ioka, Japan’s only four-division world champion, has a record of 30 wins, including 15 knockouts, against two losses and a draw. For his part, Franco fell to an 18-2-3 win-loss-draw tally with one no contest. He has eight KOs.

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