Japanese Scene: Ioka Stops Sithsamerchai in Five

Sidney Boquiren recaps Friday's 105lb clash between Kazuto Ioka and Oleydong Sithsamerchai.  For more Japanese boxing updates, you can follow Sidney on twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

Former amateur superstar Kazuto Ioka pulled off an upset in stopping previously unbeaten WBC minimumweight king Oleydong Sithsamerchai, and, in the process, wrote history in Japanese boxing annals by becoming the fastest to a world title. Showing good speed and reflexes, Ioka flashed his advantage in power early, dropping the Thai beltholder in the second when they simultaneously landed left hands. Then, one minute into the fifth round, the youngster had Sithsamerchai writhing in agony from a left hook/uppercut timed and placed perfectly as the champ wildly came forward. Referee Bruce McTavish instantly waived the fight off, as it was apparent the Thai would not recover.

The hyped prospect debuted to a packed house in Osaka just 22 months ago, publicly making it his goal to attain a world title quicker than record holders Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Nobuo Nashiro. Making his way to the ring with only six appearances in the paid ranks, Ioka was perceived to be a talented boxer-puncher, and though many of the wins on the his opponent’s ledger were of the predetermined-type, the 21-year old was clearly at a deficit in terms of experience. While his last fight against Masayoshi Segawa (which nabbed him the national light flyweight crown) was a solid performance, Ioka still had questions about his chin and would also have to drop a weight class for the opportunity.

The fight began with the strapholder and his challenger presenting contrasting styles, as Sithsamerchai worked off his back foot, waiting to counterpunch, while the local product circled and looked for opportunities to close distance. The difference in speed was apparent quickly, and Ioka landed a few lefts and tagged the champ with a nice blow to the body. Despite declaring that he would stop the youngster within seven frames, the 25-year old titleholder looked to be in no hurry and patiently found the target with a few counters in the initial frame.

The next round seemed to favor the incumbent, as not only would Sithsamerchai find success when he allowed his opponent to come forward, but he would also do well when he took the action to the young pro. Landing lefts to the body and head, the champ dominated the first half of the inning. Just as the clock made its way through the last minute, the Thai connected with a straight left in close quarters. However, Ioka had started to throw a left hook just a fraction of a second after Sithsamerchai began his motion. The challenger’s punch carried with it much more power, leaving the beltholder surprised as he found himself on the mat.

The Thai southpaw did not appear to be hurt badly by the flash knockdown, and the chess match continued in the third and fourth stanzas. Sithsamerchai, who looked wild and off-balanced throughout the bout, refocused on counterpunching while Ioka continued to be the aggressor. The challenger found the mark with a few rights to the body, but was even more effective when he began to use the right as a lead blow. As the first third of the bout came to a conclusion, the Osaka native seemed to be in control.

Thanks to the WBC’s open scoring system, it was announced that the judges were split after the fourth frame, with two giving a nod to the youngster (38-37, 40-35) while one preferred Sithsamerchai’s counterpunching (38-37). However, it did not take long for Ioka to impose himself on the retreating champ when action resumed. Maintaining pressure on Sithsamerchai for the first minute, the challenger lured the Thai into coming forward. Wildly throwing a succession of punches, the visitor walked into Ioka’s territory haphazardly. He would take advantage of the proximity with a blistering left to the body. Sithsamerchai did not go down immediately, but it was clear he would not be getting back up anytime soon. The official time of the stoppage was 1:07 of Round 5.

Ioka remained perfect at 7-0 (5KO), and beat Tatsuyoshi and Nashiro’s record by one fight. The nephew of Hiroki Ioka, a two-division world titleholder in the 1980s, the 21-year old still has a long career ahead of him and one hopes that he continues to be hungry even though he has accomplished his first major goal. Should he continue to work with Ismael Salas, the man who trains Yuriorkis Gamboa, we could see even more improvement in the youngster as he learns to better use his skill set.

As it was reported that Ioka had to cut over 22-pounds to make the minimumweight limit, it would not be surprising if he opts to vacate the belt rather than roll up defenses (as is typical for Japanese champions). Sankei News notes that there is a possibility that he could make at least one defense in his next appearance. However, while there is decent competition in the region, Ioka has little to gain as the biggest names fight for a different organization (Nkosinathi Joyi – IBF) or have moved up (Roman Gonzalez et al). Apparently, his next goal is to become a four-division champion, a challenge of sorts to Koki Kameda, who became the country’s first titleholder at three weight classes last December.

Sithsamerchai suffered his first pro loss, falling to 35-1-1 (13KO).

See the stoppage here: Round 5

e-mail Sidney Boquiren

For more coverage of Japanese boxing, follow Sidney on Twitter: RingwalkNippon@Twitter

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