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Kazuto Ioka retains super flyweight title with decision over Francisco Rodriguez Jr

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The win marks Ioka’s third title defense at 115 pounds

BOXING-JPN Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

In what was by all accounts a gritty, back-and-forth battle, WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka successfully defended his title in Tokyo this morning with a unanimous decision over mandatory challenger Francisco Rodriguez Jr.

All three judges turned in scores of 116-112, though the official scorecards reveal that they agreed on just five of 12 rounds. You can watch the fight here on YouTube, at least until one streaming service or another finds it and shuts it down.

“Chihuas” Rodriguez (34-5-1, 24 KO), a former minimumweight champion, entered the ring in the midst of a 16-fight winning streak that dated back to 2016. Despite none of those victories coming over noteworthy opponents, he nonetheless gave a genuinely excellent fighter in Ioka (27-2, 15 KO) his toughest out in some time.

Rodriguez hasn’t even hit 30 yet, so there’s plenty of time for another big-name matchup. He was slated to fight Julio Cesar Martinez last year before “Rey” pulled out, and after that performance, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to them revisiting that fight.

The 32-year-old Ioka has now defeated three consecutive mandatories, having previously beaten Jeyvier Cintron and Kosei Tanaka. While two of the other three 115-pound belts will be tied up for a while due to the Estrada-Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai-Cuadras situation, he should have enough leeway to chase major fights for a while.