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WBO orders Kazuto Ioka to face Francisco Rodriguez Jr

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Ioka stopped Kosei Tanaka in December, while Rodriguez missed out on a shot at Julio Cesar Martinez when “Rey” withdrew due to illness

BOX-WBO-JPN-PUR Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images

With his lengthy debacle with the Japanese Boxing Commission firmly behind him, WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka is back in business. The sanctioning body has ordered him to face #2 contender Francisco Rodriguez Jr., giving them the customary 30 days to negotiate.

If “Chihua” Rodriguez’s (34-4-1, 24 KO) name rings a bell, it’s either from his brief stint as WBO minimumweight champ in 2014, his unsuccessful 2015 crack at Donnie Nietes’ light flyweight belt, or his planned clash with Julio Cesar Martinez last December, which fell apart less than two weeks from fight night due to illness on “Rey’s” part. He went on to fight better-than-his-record Martin Tecuapetla to a split decision win in February, his first fight in almost 15 months, and gets this opportunity because #1 Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is presently scheduled to rematch Carlos Cuadras for a shot at the winner of Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Chocolatito Gonzalez III.

With the WBC and WBA belts all tied up, the only other real option for Ioka is IBF champ Jerwin Ancajas, whose promoter has hyped up a potential unification but seemingly done little to make it happen. Now’s the time to do it, as Ancajas recently turned aside mandatory challenger Jonathan Rodriguez, so let’s hope that comes together after Ioka-Rodriguez.