WBA super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka 31-2-1 (16) scored his first knockout in three years when he stopped Josber Perez 20-4 (18) in the seventh round at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday night.
At 34 years old the four-weight world champion from Tokyo showed no signs of slowing down, weathering an early storm from Perez before expertly dismantling the Venezuelan and putting him away with right cross at 2:44 of the seventh round.
The wheels started falling off for the 28-year-old Perez in the fifth round when a body assault saw him take a knee to avoid further punishment. Late in the frame a booming right cross from Ioka caught Perez flush on the chin late and sent him to the canvas again.
Perez looked to be on his last legs in the sixth and Ioka refused to let him off the hook in the seventh, showing his class to put his opponent away with 0:16 left in the round.
It was Ioka’s 22nd victory in world title fights, a record for a Japanese boxer.
“Right from the start Perez landed some good punches and it was a tough way to start the fight, but I was resolved to show everyone I could battle to the end,” Ioka said.
“I’m not usually concerned about getting knockouts, but I did want one here so the fans in this venue could savour it on New Year’s Eve.”
Ioka had been expected to face WBC counterpart and Ring Magazine champion Juan Francisco Estrada 44-3 (28) on the last day of the year but negotiations with the 34-year-old Mexican fell apart over money at the 11th hour.
Estrada has not boxed since his majority decision win over Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez 51-4 (41) in their trilogy bout in December last year.
“I had been highly motivated to fight Estrada, but I wish to fight on the customary New Year’s Eve and win over Perez very convincingly,” Ioka said at the press conference to officially announce the Perez bout.
“As the defending champion, I have to show that I’m on a different level and win by a landslide.”
Perez was happy to get the call up.
“I’ve been always training to welcome any sudden offer to come and wish to bring the world belt back to Venezuela,” Perez said.
Ioka remains hopeful the Estrada fight can be revisited next year.
“I have a fight that I want to make happen, but I need to win this one first. It goes without saying that I have to remain champion,” Ioka said.
Ioka, The Ring’s number one ranked contender behind champion Estrada, ditched his WBO 115-pound title in order to face then-WBA titleholder Joshua Franco 18-2-3 (8) in June in a rematch of their entertaining majority draw last New Years Eve.
The 28-year-old Franco of San Antonio, Texas came in more than six pounds over the weight limit of 115-pounds for their rematch and lost by unanimous decision before announcing his immediate retirement.