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Kazuto Ioka: “I am going to lift the audience on August 10”

By Anson Wainwright

Back in February, Japanese sensation Kazuto Ioka beat Oleydong Sithsamerchai to win the WBC minimumweight title, stopping the previously undefeated Thai in five rounds. Whilst winning the title, Ioka also eclipsed his uncle Hiroki, who had held the same championship 23 years previous by winning it in just his seventh fight while Hiroki won it in his ninth fight. Ioka, 22, built a stellar amateur background and was groomed for world championships from a young age. Today, he’ll look to make the first defence of his title when he meets mandatory Juan Hernandez, 18-1 (13), at the famous Korakuen Hall, Tokyo.

Anson Wainwright - You impressively beat Oleydong Sithsamerchai to win the WBC minimumweight title. Can you tell us about the fight and how you thought you performed?
Kazuto Ioka - I know that Oleydong is pretty good at challenging the opponent who really challenges him. That’s why I tried to pull out that spirit of his and threw my counterpunch. Since Oleydong is likely to lose his balance every time he punches, what I was thinking to do was to make use of that timing to return a punch. As for my punch that led to KO, I did it right at the moment I found his body unguarded after his punch.
AW- What did it mean to you to win the title, following in your uncle’s footsteps?
KI - The chairman of the gym that I belong to is a former world champion, Hiroki Ioka, and he is my uncle. He was a winner of minimumweight title and light flyweight title once, which means I regained the belt that my uncle used to hold. As I grew up watching him challenging to win another title, I know how hard it is to get there. I might not be boxing now if my uncle had won his third title (laughter).
AW - You will be fighting Juan Hernandez on August 10. What do you know about Hernandez?
KI - I surely wanted to do my first defence fight with the one that ranked first in the world (Hernandez). It is risky enough to compete with a first-ranked boxer and because of that, I should have much to learn. I believe that the audience will enjoy that kind of tension as well.
AW - You’re pretty big for strawweight; how long do you think you can make 105? What are your future goals?
KI - As a world champion, I just want to fight one of the strongest opponents for now. After that, I can switch to light flyweight to experience a WBA/WBC championship [fight] if possible, then to flyweight. When I feel my weight limitation, I can also try super flyweight to accomplish my fourth title.
AW - Can you tell us about your team? Who is your manager, trainer and promoter? Also what gym do you train at?
KI - My uncle is the chairman and my father is the trainer/promoter of Ioka Boxing Gym.
AW - You were a very successful amateur. Can you tell us about the tournament you won and the story behind why you weren’t able to go to the last Olympics? Also, what was your final record?
KI - Through 105 fights I experienced as amateur (95 wins with 64 KOs against ten RSC losses), I gained confidence. Regardless of being amateur or pro, I have been boxing for almost ten years and my attitude toward each fight has never changed.
AW – A few months back, Japan was hit by a terribly devastating earthquake. Can you tell us about the effect it had on you? Also, what would you like to say to your countrymen?
KI - I joined a charity boxing event after the earthquake. I would like to continue doing whatever I could as a boxer or as a person to make the situation better.
AW - What do you enjoy doing away from boxing to relax? What are your hobbies and interests?
KI - I love cars. I have been driving to my gym in my one-million-yen Honda “Fit" but as a reward of having won a world title, my sponsor is giving me a Porsche. I think I will take this opportunity to get a ten-million-yen Porsche "Cayenne"! (laughter)
AW – Finally, do you have a message for your fans?
KI-I’m greatly motivated toward the first defence fight on the 10th of August. I am going to lift the audience by showing punches from the first round. At the end of the event, you will find my hands raised for victory.



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