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Kazuto Ioka ordered to defend WBO title against Kosei Tanaka

The fight would see Tanaka pursue a world title in a fourth weight class.


The WBO have ordered a 115-pound title fight between reigning titleholder Kazuto Ioka and former three-division titlist Kosei Tanaka, a sincerely intriguing development for what would be a very big fight in Japan.

Ioka (25-2, 14 KO) has already won belts in four weight classes, and Tanaka (15-0, 9 KO) would obviously be looking to match that.

The 30-year-old Ioka won the WBO junior bantamweight title in June of last year, claiming the vacant belt with a 10th round stoppage win over Aston Palicte, about six months after losing a controversial split decision to then-titleholder Donnie Nietes, who would vacate in February and hasn’t fought since.

Ioka last fought on Dec. 31, outpointing Jeyvier Cintron in Tokyo.

Tanaka, 24, has been one of Japan’s top fighters pretty much since turning pro in 2013. He won his first world title in his fifth pro fight in 2015. He won belts at 105 and 108 before moving to flyweight in 2018, where he beat Sho Kimura for the WBO title in that division. He’s defended three times, most recently on Dec. 31 against Wulan Tuolehazi, on the same card where Ioka beat Cintron.

The WBO approved naming Tanaka “super champion,” which meant he was free to vacate his title and get an immediate title shot at the next weight up, which he then requested and has been granted.

A purse bid will be ordered if the sides don’t reach a deal within 20 days.

If the fight gets made — here’s hoping! — let’s also hope for some US outlet to pick it up nice and legal, or at least one of those lovely YouTube streams from Japan, the legit ones put on by a promoter. This is too good a matchup to not have some good, reliable way to see.