As fans familiar with the celebrations know, it’s always a big night for boxing in Japan on New Year’s Eve. Over the years, in fact, over quite a number of them, we have seen some superb action, all of it of the lower weight variety, take place on the last night of the year in Japan.
And as all fans know, there are some excellent fighters from that side of the world who are plying their trade today; some of them pound-for-pound stars: see Naoya Inoue, Kenshiro Teraji, and Kazuto Ioka.
Ioka, the reigning WBO super-flyweight champ, will square off with the WBA “regular” champion, Joshua Franco, on this year’s big fight finale. This fight, between a formidable champion in Ioka, who has been the super-fly guy since June of 2019, against a significantly younger bandit from San Antonio, who has been WBA champ at regular status for two-and-a-half years, should be an action affair.
Ioka, now 33 years of age and 29-2(15) – with no less than 22 of these fights being world title fights; Ioka having ruled at four weights – will look to take another scalp on December 31. But 27-year-old Franco, 18-1-2(8), will not go easy. Franco, who fought three times with Andrew Moloney, will be making the third defense of his belt against Ioka, and he will be looking to derail a Japanese legend.
This fight is all but guaranteed to give fight fans a bang of an end to the fistic year. And already, with some weeks to go until the two-belt unification bout, it’s been reported how the WBO’s world championship committee has ordered the December 31 winner to face Junto Nakatani next, the fight to take place within the first half of 2023. Nakatani, unbeaten at 24-0, held the WBO flyweight title from 2020 to 2022.
The Ioka-Franco fight could well prove punishing for both men, and yet, already, the winner’s next assignment has been set. Is it just me, or do the lower wight champions have it tougher than, the bigger guys these days?