It took Kazuto Ioka six more months than he originally hoped but he has now become the WBO super flyweight champion and made history in the process.
With incredible athleticism, defensive awareness and timely punching, Ioka stopped the bigger Aston Palicte in the 10th round to win the WBO title at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan. With the win, Ioka became a four-division world champion, having previously won championships at minimumweight, light flyweight and flyweight.
Palicte tried to bully Ioka around with his larger frame and longer reach and had some success early on in the fight. But Ioka remained patient stepping back and throwing the occasional left hook upstairs while avoiding Palicte’s best punches. Ioka really started to use his incredible upper body movement to dodge Palicte’s shots in the fourth round and from that point forward, he was outboxing the taller Palicte the rest of the way.
As the fight wore on, Palicte started to become increasingly frustrated with his inability to hurt Ioka, who remained mobile around the ring throughout the fight. Palicte did manage to dominate the first two minutes of round seven, throwing wild haymakers at Ioka but still didn’t knock him down. Ioka still got to throw a couple of jabs and left hooks late in the seventh as Palicte tired himself out at the end thanks to that onslaught of punches he threw at the start of the round.
The eighth and ninth round was all Ioka, as he continued to step back and avoid Palicte’s right hand and was able to outbox him on the inside. The 10th round saw Ioka really become the aggressor and threw a furious combination of punches that hurt Palicte in the middle of the ring. Ioka continued landing shots for several more seconds until the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, awarding the win to Ioka. At the time of the stoppage, Ioka was ahead on all three of the judges' scorecards.
The fight was streamed on UFC Fight Pass worldwide outside of Japan, the first world title bout since Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions and UFC signed a multi-year deal to broadcast boxing shows on the platform. Ioka becomes the second-ever Japanese boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes behind five-division champion Naoko Fujioka and is the first male Japanese boxer to do so.
Ioka had a chance to win the title on December 31, 2018, but lost a split decision to Donnie Nietes in Macau, China. Nietes would go on to vacate the belt after Palicte won a title eliminator this past January, meaning both Palicte and Ioka, the two highest-ranked available contenders at the time, were ordered to fight for the belt. Now Nietes joins a crowded list of super flyweight champions with Kal Yafai (WBA), Jerwin Ancajas (IBF) and Juan Francisco Estrada (WBC) also holding titles.