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It’s a quiet time of the year for boxing, with many athletes taking the month off to focus on training ahead of a big month in January.
However, there is one title fight remaining this year, and it promises to be a juicy one. Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco step into the ring together on the 31st of December 2022, with both the WBO World Super Flyweight and the WBA World Super Flyweight belts on the line. It’s been four years since either man was defeated, and with the prospect of super flyweight unification on the line, this is a match worth getting excited about.
We look what each fighter brings to this bout ahead of their meeting this Saturday night.
Kazuto Ioka Seeks Seven Consecutive
Japan’s Kazuto Ioka has done a good job of flying under the radar, while simultaneously being one of the best fighters alive.
Since debuting as a professional in 2009, Ioka has fought 31 times for 29 wins. In fact, Ioka went his first five years as a pro without a defeat, stringing together 14 victories before suffering his first loss at the hands of Amnat Ruenroeng. He then won another nine on the bounce, taking his professional record to 23-1-0 before losing to Donnie Nietes. This was the last time Ioka lost in the boxing ring, and is now 29-2-0 as he heads into this fight.
Across his career, Ioka has won titles in four different weight classes. He’s known for his adaptability and fight IQ—while he can certainly win a fight with powerful knockout blows as he has previously done on 15 occasions, he’s also perfectly comfortable staying on the outside and picking up points. In his last three clashes that’s exactly what he’s done, winning on unanimous decision each time.
Joshua Franco Looking to Put Frustration Behind Him
In the last four years, three of the seven fights Joshua Franco has fought have ended in anti-climaxes. Two have been draws, while one was ruled a no contest. No doubt, Franco will be eager for a good clean fight here, where only one man walks away victorious—him.
Outside of these two fights and a no contest, only one other man has entered the ring with Franco and avoided defeat. This happened in early 2018, where the American was knocked out by Lucas Leone in the first defeat of his career. Prior to this, Franco had won the first 13 fights of his career, since debuting in 2015. Now, the 27-year-old sits at 18-1-2, having most recently defeated Andrew Moloney 18 months ago.
The fight against Ioka will also be a breath of fresh air for Franco, considering that six of his past seven fights have been against the two same men. The American has fought both Andrew Moloney and Oscar Negrete three times each, scoring two wins and a no contest against Moloney, and one win with two draws against Negrete.
Hard to Call But Ioka Slight Favourite
This fight could be anyone’s, with both men having plenty of skin in the game and ability in the ring.
Of the two, Ioka has the more potential to score a knockout, having won half his fights that way while Franco has only finished in a third of his. However, Franco is significantly younger than the 33-year-old Ioka, with a six year age gap. Whether this plays into Franco’s hand from a speed and fitness perspective, or Ioka’s from an experience and mental toughness angle, remains to be seen.
Tune in later this week when we’ll bring a betting preview for this clash, analysing all the best bets to be made on the final title fight of 2022.