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Ioka survives Rodriguez test

WBO super-flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka was given a testing time before retaining his crown on the scorecards against a dogged Francisco Rodriguez at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Scores were 116-112 (all three cards), but Ioka had to dig deeper than expected. His more educated work was enough to impress the judges in a close call.

The four-weight champion was driven to the ropes by the former WBO and IBF strawweight king from Monterrey in the opening round, as the Mexican threatened with a stiff right hand.

Rodriguez’s unrelenting pressure was causing serious issues, but Japan’s Ioka was reeling off some hefty left hooks by the fourth. Ioka suffered a bloodied nose by midway, but began to find a groove in the second half of the fight as Rodriguez tired. The champion started to hurt Rodriguez to the body with the visitor also leaking blood from his nose and a cut on his left cheek.

Yet Rodriguez blasted back to stun Ioka in the ninth. The trenches war continued in the 10th with Ioka holding a slight edge with his combinations under furious pressure.

The Mexican was hampered by a cut left eye in the 11th, but both men went for broke in the last. The slicker Ioka employed his jab and fended off Rodriguez from the outside as the Mexican tore forward but it was not enough to seize the title.

Main image: Alamy.