One more prediction for 2022, as Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco meet in a junior bantamweight unification on Saturday, Dec. 31, live from Japan!
Who do we got? We’ll tell you!
Scott Christ (91-39)
I’ll keep mine short because my dick-around during the year means I’ve been out of the race for, like, months. Anyway, I think Ioka wins. But this is Franco’s big chance and it’s a good matchup. Hope it’s a good fight!
Anyway, I’m gonna pick Franco officially because whatever. In for a penny, etc. Franco SD-12
Wil Esco (105-25)
If I’m being completely honest, I really wanted to find a good reason to pick Joshua Franco here to avoid a draw with our good pal Patrick. But alas, I can’t pull the trigger here in good conscience.
Franco, although a capable fighter, has been out of action for a while, is rumored to not be the most disciplined fighter as far as training goes, and he’s fighting away in Japan. That’s not quite the recipe for success one would hope for, and I think Ioka is just going to be sharper here and that’ll be the difference maker. Franco may look good in spots, but I don’t think he’ll have the gas in the tank to keep it up over the duration. Anyway, I had first dibs on Ioka in this pick, so direct all of your ire to Stumberg. Ioka UD-12
John Hansen (103-27)
It’s good to see Joshua Franco break out of his time loop, finally free of a Groundhog Day existence stuck fighting Oscar Negrete and Andrew Moloney again and again (x6) for years and years (x4). Sadly, there’s no Andie MacDowell, Cristin Milioti, or Emily Blunt waiting for him, h’s got Kazuto Ioka instead.
Ioka is world class. Thinking specifically of young Felix Alvarado here, we’ve seen Ioka fight guys like Joshua Franco. Franco hasn’t done the same, partly because Ioka has years and a dozen extra pro fights on him, and partly because there just aren’t that many fighters on Ioka’s level. Franco has matched or bested Very Good guys in his recent trilogies, but Ioka is a step up from Very Good.
I have a soft spot for a guy that’s confident enough to love and celebrate a younger brother that’s captured the hearts of everyone they both know. And I think Franco could have what it takes to win a fight like this. But, we already know Ioka has that level, and that’s the pick for me. Ioka UD-12
Patrick Stumberg (105-25)
Kazuto Ioka is one of my favorite boxing stories to follow, not just because he’s an impeccable and entertaining fighter but because the WBO is so incensed at him being champion that they’re basically firing a gatling gun of mandatories at him. That, combined with a deep-seated bias towards Japanese fighters due to PRIDE FC being one of my main introductions to combat sports, probably leaves me ill-equipped to give a fair and balanced analysis.
Still, I can at least couch the subjective in the objective. Though Ioka doesn’t move as much as Andrew Moloney, he offers the same sort of razor jab and steady body attack that produced Moloney’s greatest success throughout the trilogy. Plus, he’s more than proven his ability to keep cool in the face of heavy fire against the likes of Kosei Tanaka, so I don’t see him wilting when the physically larger Franco refuses to go away. Franco is an excellent offensive fighter despite his relative lack of power, but Ioka just seems too adept at exploiting the holes in his defense, so he’ll pull away in a competitive firefight. Ioka UD-12