Kazuto Ioka and Joshua Franco fought to a majority draw on New Year’s Eve in Japan, meaning both fighters have retained their 115 lb world titles, and no unification was achieved.
Scores from the judges were 114-114 and 114-114 from two of the three, with the third scoring it 115-113 for Franco.
Franco (18-1-3, 8 KO) was the busier fighter in the bout, generally the aggressor and arguably out-working his opponent, but Ioka (29-2-1, 15 KO) did land some good shots and kept the fight close and competitive, particularly in the latter half of the fight.
The result maintains the status quo basically, and Franco, 27, will feel like he got the short end of the stick on the road, but to be clear for people who sometimes don’t take this into account, no, the three judges were not local Japanese judges — they were Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa (who scored it for Franco), Ferlin Marsh of New Zealand, and Jose Roberto Torres of Puerto Rico, and the referee was Melva Santos, also of Puerto Rico. Japan is also notable for having a better reputation than many countries in terms of home fighters not being given the benefit of the doubt or favorable cards.
As much as Franco will surely feel like he got a bad break, it’s also a fight where he really proved his quality against a highly-respected, high-level fighter, and I think this can only see his stock rise going into 2023, even with the draw.
For Ioka, 33, it’s not a setback, but it may be a sign that the clock is starting to tick a little loudly.
A rematch could be possible, of course, and would be a good fight for both guys, as this one was. If Franco’s recent career is any indication, we can expect them to fight three straight times over the next year or so.