Japan's Kazuto Ioka knocked out Venezuela's Josber Perez on Sunday in the seventh round of his first WBA super flyweight title defense.

The victory at Ota City General Gymnasium marked Ioka's 22nd victory in a world title fight, the most by a Japanese boxer.

Perez came out punching hard and connected often enough to put Ioka on the defensive in the first two rounds.

Japan's Kazuto Ioka (R) throws a punch at Venezuela's Josber Perez during the fifth round of their WBA super flyweight boxing title match at Tokyo's Ota City General Gymnasium on Dec. 31, 2023. (Kyodo)
 
Japan's Kazuto Ioka (R) and Venezuela's Josber Perez exchange punches during the sixth round of their WBA super flyweight boxing title match at Tokyo's Ota City General Gymnasium on Dec. 31, 2023. (Kyodo)

"Right from the start Perez landed some good punches, and it was a tough way to start the fight, but I was resolved to show everyone I could battle to the end," Ioka said after his first knockout in three years.

From the third round, Ioka began finding openings for some lethal counter punches. Two fifth-round knockdowns turned the fight Ioka's way as Perez struggled to fend off Ioka's well-timed and accurate jabs.

With the seconds ticking down in the seventh round, Ioka delivered two shots to the body before catching Perez square on the nose with a right that sent the Venezuelan down for the count.

"I'm not usually concerned about getting knockouts, but I did want one here so the fans in this venue could savor it on New Year's Eve."

The 34-year-old Ioka, who won the title in a unanimous decision in June, improved to 31-2 as a pro with one draw. He has won 16 of his bouts by knockout.

Perez, 28, the WBA's sixth-ranked contender, saw his record fall to 20-4 in 24 fights.

Japanese boxer Kazuto Ioka reacts after knocking out Venezuela's Josber Perez during the seventh round of their WBA super flyweight title match at Tokyo's Ota City General Gymnasium on Dec. 31, 2023. (Kyodo)

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