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Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa cap off 2023 with knockouts

Kazuto Ioka had originally intended to face Juan Francisco Estrada before a purse dispute torpedoed negotiations

Kazuto Ioka v Jeyvier Cintron - WBO Super Flyweight Title Bout Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images
Patrick Stumberg is a freelance writer for SB Nation, first joining the network in 2011 before linking up with Bad Left Hook in 2015.

First things first: happy new year! Hope your holidays were great and that your family threw a minimum of projectiles at one another.

Back to people punching each other for fun and profit.

As is standard, the last noteworthy boxing event of 2023 took place in Japan over the weekend. While pickings were relatively slim this year with Naoya Inoue stealing the spotlight on Boxing Day and many of the country’s biggest stars booked for the next couple of months, fans still got their money’s worth.

The co-feature saw Flyweight blue-chipper turned struggling bantamweight Daigo Higa (21-2-1, 19 KO) score his biggest win in years by stopping Nawaphon Kaikanha (58-4-1, 48 KO). His power has been significantly less of a factor since the JBC forced him to jump two weight classes after losing his title on the scale, but it showed itself here with a gnarly fourth-round body shot that put Kaikanha down for the count.

Shortly thereafter, WBA super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (30-2-1, 16 KO) predictably dismantled former flyweight title challenger Josber Perez (20-4, 18 KO). Perez, who got this opportunity when Ioka failed to come to terms with Juan Francisco Estrada for a long overdue unification, suffered three knockdowns in the climactic seventh round before staying down for the count.

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