One of the best fights on the schedule is now official. Four-division champion Kazuto Ioka will defend his WBO Jr. Bantamweight World title on New Year’s Eve against unbeaten three-division WBO champion Kosei Tanaka.
The 31-year-old Ioka (25-2, 14 KO) has been excelling at the world level for nearly a decade, having claimed his first title in 2011 as a minimumweight. He enjoyed strong reigns at 105, 108, and 112 pounds, losing only to Amnat Ruenroeng by split decision along the way, and smashed Aston Palicte to become Japan’s first male four-division champion last year.
He made his first title defense last NYE against Jeyvier Cintron.
Tanaka (15-0, 9 KO) has pushed a breakneck pace in his rise through the lower weights, winning a WBO minimumweight belt of his own in 2015 at the age of 19. He defended that title once, the light flyweight title twice, and the flyweight title three times before moving to 115, where he became Ioka’s mandatory challenger per WBO policy.
He’s unquestionably among the most exciting fighters in the sport, and I can’t imagine this matchup being anything other than fireworks. Tanaka is in search of his fourth division and if he does so, he will be the first boxer who has done it in fewest fights. The current record is held by Oscar de la Hoya who did it in 24 bouts.