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Half a century after Muhammad Ali set foot in Tokyo, the “war of the universe” continues. It’s not between the parallel universes of The Greatest Sports and Antonio Inoki’s wrestling ring. This is a battle between Japanese boxing and other places.

The approval battle continues. Yoshio Shirai He became Japan’s first champion in 1952, but in modern times Naoya Inoue has done more for the country’s fame than anyone else. Continuing undisputed bantamweight champion Kazuto Ioka will face WBA (regular) champion Joshua Franco for his WBO super flyweight belt.

Of course, this is only half the mountain to climb. In the United States and the United Kingdom, there is low engagement and little drive to do so with the lower weight classes, especially for matches in the Land of the Rising Sun, which are not broadcast worldwide.

That said, the chances of winning a unified champion are a promising spectacle. He may be trained by Robert Garcia, but Franco is rusty and has been out of action since August 2021, when he beat Andrew Moloney in a third straight fight against the same opponent. (he won two by unanimous decision, the second being ruled no contest).

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Ioka, who took two attempts to gain weight, has six wins (two of them by knockout), but the real test lies ahead.

Years after their first meeting, 2023 may finally be the year he faces off against the great Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez.

He can set it up on Saturday with the last major fight of the special year.

Ioka vs Franco Details

  • date: Saturday, December 31st
  • venue: Ota Ward General Gymnasium, Tokyo
  • Combat time: The main event ring walk is scheduled for around 11am UK time.
  • TV/Live Stream: No broadcasters confirmed for fight in UK
  • Undercard highlights: It’s no big deal for those who aren’t fans of Japanese boxing, but newly turned pro Hayato Tsutsumi is looking to build an impressive amateur career. He will face Pete Apollinar, a decent puncher but with a rather questionable 16-3 record.
  • Me predict: Ioka has shown few signs of slowing down, but Franco can cause him problems with his persistent and dangerous jab, showing angles and pushing his reach. Ioka wins by split decision.

Full card:

  • Kazuto Ioka vs. Joshua Franco.Ioka’s WBO and Franco’s WBA (regular) super-flyweight belts
  • Hayato Tsutsumi and Pete Apolliner.featherweight
  • Ryo Nakai vs. Kai Watanabe; Super Featherweight
  • Ryujin Owan vs. Robin Langle.super bantamweight
  • Satsuki Ito vs. Wassana Kamdee.super flyweight
  • Kentaro Miyamoto vs Taiga Ito.super welterweight
  • Akira Nakajima vs. Kantaro Nakanishi.super bantamweight
  • Kazuki Ogiwara vs Ayato Mochizuki.super featherweight

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