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Monday. November 21. 2022

Ioka to face WBA super flyweight champ Franco as title unification fight on New Year’s Eve

World Boxing Organization world super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka of Shisei Boxing Gym said in a press conference held online on Nov. 21 he will face World Boxing Association super flyweight champion Joshua Franco of the United States in a title unification fight on Dec. 31 in Tokyo.

The scheduled 12-round fight will be held at Ota City General Gymnasium starting 5 p.m. and is expected to be televised live nationwide by TBS, according to organizing sources. It will be Ioka’s 11th world title fight on New Year’s Eve,

Ioka told the conference from Las Vegas, Nevada, where he has been training for about two months, ‘’I myself wanted to have a title unification fight without fail on New Year’s Eve. While I didn’t mind my opponent as far as a title unification bout was concerned, Mr. Franco was picked because the timing was right. Since I could not have a title unification fight on last year’s New Year’s Eve, I am glad that I can finally have a fight on Dec. 31 this time.’’

The 33-year-old Ioka, who is making his sixth defense of the title he captured in June 2019, had planned to have a title unification fight with then International Boxing Federation world super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines on New Year’s Eve last year, it was called off due to the Japanese government’s restrictions on entry into Japan by foreign residents in response to the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

‘’I will climb through the ropes by preparing for lots of things. I want to put the victory first in the fight rather than its content,’’ Ioka added.

In this connection, Franco responded from the U.S. via online and said, ‘’As a boxer, a title unification fight is a bout I want to have at all costs. When I heard the offer, I responded quickly I want to do it. This kind of offer for the title unification fight seldom comes. So, I’m glad that I can have a fight.’’

The 27-year-old Franco, whose last fight was a 12-round decision victory over Andrew Moloney of Australia in August last year for his first defense of the title. His younger brother and former World Boxing Council world super flyweight champion Jesse Rodriguez, who has just relinquished the title to move up to the flyweight, will accompany him, according to Franco.

‘’I have been training very hard more so than in the past. Since I will have a fight away, I think it is important to control the fight,’’ Franco added,

Ioka has been training with his stablemate, including third-ranked Japanese super featherweight Musashi Mori and highly touted amateur-turned featherweight Hayato Tsutsumi, under the guidance of noted Cuban-born trainer Ismael Salas. Ioka is expected to return to Japan close to the title fight.

Ioka, Japan’s only four-division world titlist, has a record of 29 wins, including 15 knockouts, against two losses. For his part, Franco has an 18-1-2 win-loss draw tally with one no contest. He has eight KOs.