Whoever wins when WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka faces WBA titlist Joshua Franco on New Year’s Eve, he’ll have an assignment waiting for him. The WBO has officially ordered the winner to fight former flyweight champion Junto Nakatani “no later than” 180 days afterwards.
On the one hand, this is standard operating procedure; WBO champions automatically get the mandatory slot upon vacating and moving up in weight. On the other, it’s the latest in one of boxing’s weirder under-the-radar storylines, which is their insistence on making Ioka (29-2, 15 KO) fight like twice as many mandatories as everyone else. Of the five challengers he’s turned aside since beating Aston Palicte for the belt in 2019, only Ryoji Fukunaga wasn’t a mandatory, and that’s because he stepped in for then-IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas on short notice.
The silver lining is that, as stated, he’ll have about six months to take care of any other business before Nakatani (24-0, 18 KO) comes knocking. My ideal scenario would see Ioka/Franco fight Nakatani afterwards while Fernando Martinez fights Juan Francisco Estrada/Chocolatito Gonzalez in another two-belt unification, then the winners meet for undisputed.
Plus, Ioka vs. Nakatani would be absolute fireworks.