WBO super-flyweight king Kazuto Ioka rolled back the years with a masterful eight-round dissection of young Japanese rival Kosei Tanaka in a battle of multi-weight champions at the Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo on Thursday.
Four-weight champion Ioka, 31, was widely written off beforehand, but showed he can still be a force in a talent-packed 115lbs division with a cultured display where his exquisite timing and precise punching held sway.
Tanaka, 25, had dared to be great, seeking to win a world title in his fourth weight class but his aggression and youthful verve proved no match for the superb box-fighting of Ioka (26-2, 15 KOs).
After an even first four rounds, punctuated by Tanaka’s steady drip of pressure and Ioka’s consummate body work, the champion took over. Ioka bloodied Tanaka’s nose and, backed up to the ropes, bowled him over with a counter left hook in the fifth.
Tanaka’s challenge started to unravel. He was dropped again by a pinpoint left hook in the sixth but gamely returned fire. The portents didn’t look good. But after being picked off at medium to long range, a switch-hitting Tanaka (15-1, 9 KOs) traded in the pocket in the seventh, eager to change the narrative.
Ioka, nursing a slight swelling to his left eye, was otherwise unruffled and in the eighth he unleashed another scorching left hook that effectively knocked out Tanaka on his feet. Referee Michiaki Someya was perfectly placed to intervene and cradle the challenger in his arms.
On the undercard, former WBC flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17 KOs) continued his bantamweight campaign with a fifth round KO of Yuki Kobayashi (16-9, 9 KOs).
A brutal right uppercut finished matters at the tail end of the fifth, with Kobayashi dropped and his nose leaking blood.