Japan's Kazuto Ioka successfully defended his WBO super flyweight world championship for the fourth time on Friday, winning a 12-round unanimous decision over dogged sixth-ranked compatriot Ryoji Fukunaga.
Ioka was content early to watch his opponent probe from a distance at Ota City General Gymnasium before gradually going over to the attack from the second round.
The champion chose his spots to land flurries of punches that kept him ahead in points. Although the southpaw Fukunaga was far from outmatched through the first six rounds in his first career world title fight, he suffered some battering in the seventh and eighth rounds.
By the 10th round, with Fukunaga needing a knockout to win, Ioka took a purely defensive stance, and the challenger began taunting him. Fukunaga dared the champ to attack by spreading his arms wide, but Ioka was content to fight from the ropes and counterpunch until Fukunaga ran out of rounds.
The fight was hastily announced this month to replace Ioka's title unification bout against IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines, who was unable to enter Japan amid the current strict coronavirus border controls.
"Without the unification bout, my state of mind was extremely complicated, but I intended to show those people supporting me a good fight," Ioka said. "Having won this fight, I will move forward in a way to make a unification bout (in 2022) possible."
Ioka's record improved to 28-2 in 30 bouts, while Fukunaga, the Japan super flyweight champion, saw his record fall to 15-5 in 20 pro fights.