Kazuto Ioka is set for his latest year-end tradition.
The four-division titlist will headline his twelfth career New Year’s Eve show as he defends his WBA junior bantamweight title versus Venezuela’s Josber Perez. Both boxers made weight for their scheduled twelve-round title fight atop an ABEMA TV stream this Sunday from Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Ioka and Perez both weighed 114.6 pounds (52.0 kilograms) during Saturday’s official weigh-in under the supervision of the Japanese Boxing Commission.
Ioka (30-2-1, 15KOs) won the WBA title in his previous outing, a twelve-round decision over USA’s Joshua Franco (18-2-3, 8KOs) in their June 24 rematch at this very location, where he will appear for his eighth consecutive fight. The two fought to a twelve-round draw last New Year’s Eve in what was a WBA/WBO unification bout at the time. Ioka—an Osaka-born and bred boxer now based in Tokyo—was forced to give up his WBO title to move forward with a rematch versus Franco in lieu of a mandatory title defense versus countryman Junto Nakatani.
Overall, Ioka is 7-1-1 in title fights at junior bantamweight and 19-2-1 in major title fights spanning four weight divisions. The second-generation champ—whose uncle Hiroki was a two-division titlist during the 1980s and 1990s—has won titles at strawweight, junior flyweight, flyweight and junior bantamweight. His June 2019 knockout win over Aston Palicte saw Ioka make history as Japan’s first-ever four division titlist.
Venezuela’s Perez (20-3, 18KOs) attempts his second career title challenge. The 28-year-old came up short in a February 2020 bid versus unbeaten WBA flyweight titlist Artem Dalakian in Kiev, Ukraine. He has since won three straight, all by knockout versus lesser opposition in 2023 ahead of Sunday’s uphill battle.
Ioka is listed as a -1800 betting favorite according to bet365 sportsbook, which lists Perez as a +850 underdog.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox