AMNAT RETAINS IBF 112LB BELT AGAINST TWO-CLASS CHAMP IOKA


May 7, 2014

OSAKA, JAPAN

IBF flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5 KOs), 112, from Thailand, successfully retained his throne as he displayed superior speed and sharpness to control the contest all the way, winning a lopsided gsplith decision over previously unbeaten Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9 KOs), 112, Japan, over twelve fast rounds on Wednesday in Osaka, Japan.

Hilton Whitaker (US) and Pawel Kardyn (Poland) tallied 119-108 and 115-112 respectively for Amnat, but Eddie Hernandez (US) saw it 114-113 for Ioka. The referee was Mark Calo-oy (US). Some 8,000 spectators were in attendance at Bodymaker Coliseum.

Ioka, formerly WBC 105-pound and WBA 108-pound champ, failed to win his third belt in the 112-pound category in his fifteenth pro bout. He suffered his first setback to the Thailander who had beaten him on points in the Kingfs Cup amateur tournaments in 2008. Amnat, nine years his senior at 34, was a slick-punching footworker that took the initiative with whiplash counters in the opening session and maintained the pace all night. Ioka tried to come close to the shifty champ with a peek-a-boo guard, but Amnat, ex-Olympian from Thailand, was too elusive for him to catch up with.

It was a bizarre fight, as the defending champ outfoxed, outmaneuvered, outlegged and outpunched the prefight favorite Ioka, 25, who attempted to mix it up, stalking the Fancy Dan all the way. Also strange was that Amnat looked much taller though Ioka, at the medical examination, was an inch taller than the 5f4h titleholder. Also amazing was that the champ so effectively utilized his longer reach by four inches to a full extent.

Ioka had a similar family structure as that of Floyd Mayweather, since his father was a professional boxer (like Floyd Sr.) and his uncle Hiroki was a two-class world champion (like Uncle Roger). Hiroki, 45, formerly WBC minimum and WBA light-fly ruler, wasnft successful in acquiring his third belt on four occasions as there was a big and thick wall before him like Franz Kafkafs gThe Castleh. Kazuto was eager to fulfill Ioka familyfs longtime dream since his childhood.

It was Amnat, an upright footworker with his left hand low, that dominated the first four rounds with ease, as Ioka cautiously probed the champfs fight plan with his tight guard without throwing punches positively. The fast Thailander landed sharp left-right combinations in the first, connected with a solid left hook in the second, lifted a vicious right uppercut in the third, and switched to southpaw stance to catch Ioka with a long uppercut to the face in the fourth. Too long waiting wasnft a good policy for Ioka as he apparently lost four points in as many rounds in the beginning of the contest.

Probably Ioka then might realize that Amnat wasnft the same boxer that he had faced six years ago in Thailand, as he, as a professional, became much more skillful and speedy than expected. The unbeaten Japanese star, who had once gained six national high school championships with a 95-10 mark including 64 stoppages and some controversial losses, aimed for a body attack to stop Amnatfs puzzling mobility, but the champ was too elusive for Ioka to land body shots effectively.

The seventh witnessed Amnat fading and slowing down on foot, but cleverly kept retreating to counter the still willing mixer Ioka, who, for fear of the champfs solid counters, couldnft turn more aggressive though constantly stalking him. Pressing the action, Ioka looked so frustrated that he couldnft catch the target with precision in the eighth.

The partisan crowd kept shouting to encourage Ioka to go and attack more and more, but his rival was such a shrewd and shifty counterpuncher that should Ioka carelessly go forward, he would connect with his trademark uppercuts with either hand with power and precision. The fading champ often grabbed Iokafs hands to keep him from retaliating with a two-fisted attack in the close quarter.

The referee Calo-oy, in round ten, finally penalized a point form Amnat for his repeated holding.

It was Ioka that desperately tried to dominate the last two sessions with his best effort, although Amnat kept moving around and occasionally countered him with a few but effective shots to the onrushing Japanese challenger. Ioka sometimes connected with sporadic shots to the belly, but his arms were often grabbed by the clever Thailander.

The dejected loser Ioka said, gI repent of this defeat. I wish to realize my dream of winning the third belt in the near future.h Ioka fought hard, but his opponent fought on an unexpected scenario that Ioka family had expected?depending on the totally counterpunching strategy.

The jubilant winner Amnat said, I believe in my victory. Ioka was a strong boxer, but I prepared a good fight plan and utilized uppercuts to him when coming inside.h

Iokafs father/trainer/promoter Kazunori gloomily said, gWefll try to materialize a rematch with Amnat.h It will take place this fall and Amnat said, gI welcome a rematch with Ioka and wish to enjoy fighting Ioka much more.h

If so, we look forward to watching Ioka that will study and solve Amnatfs Guillermo Rigondeaux style and strategy next time.

Three days ago there happened a big earthquake of the fifth degree on seismic scale in Tokyo. But the beloved local favorite Iokafs defeat was as big a shock wave in Osaka as that.

Promoter: Ioka Promotions.

(5-7-2014)


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