The anticipated Dec. 31 struggle between Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco is now official, with the 2 assembly in Tokyo for a pair of junior bantamweight titles.
Ioka (29-2, 15 KO) might be defending his WBO belt, whereas Franco (18-1-2, 8 KO) brings the WBA strap to the matchup.
The 33-year-old Ioka, who has considerably quietly been among the best fighters of his era, additionally has received titles at 105, 108, and 112, and moved as much as 115 in 2018, breaking a brief retirement. He misplaced a title shot at Donnie Nietes in Dec. 2018 by controversial choice, however received that very same vacated belt about six months later with a victory over Aston Palicte.
Ioka has made profitable defenses towards Jeyvier Cintron, Kosei Tanaka, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Ryoji Fukunaga, and Nietes in a rematch.
Franco, 27, has fought six of his final seven fights towards two opponents. He went 1-0-2 in a bantamweight trilogy with Oscar Negrete in 2018-19, then moved down in weight to beat Jose Alejandro Burgos in early 2020.
His final three fights have all been towards Andrew Moloney. He scored an upset win over Moloney in June 2020, they went to a weird no-contest of their Nov. 2020 rematch, and he beat Moloney once more in Aug. 2021, which was Franco’s final struggle.
It’s an excellent matchup, and an opportunity for Franco to essentially legitimize himself as a prime man at 115, or for Ioka to make the case for a struggle subsequent yr towards the winner of the Estrada vs Chocolatito trilogy struggle, which is approaching Dec. 3.
No U.S. TV or stream has been introduced but, however hopefully we’ll know quickly. DAZN or ESPN+ may decide up the bout, in principle, as may FITE+, or we may get a PPV possibility. Or nothing. It’s solely potential we get nothing.