Kazuto Ioka is a name that stands alone at the pinnacle of his division.

Holding a record of 31-2-1 and having held a large swath of alphabet belts throughout his 34 fight career, it is evident that Ioka is one of the greatest fighters in the lower weight classes, as of present.

However, the Ioka name carries more than just the accolades of Kazuto, but the storied lineage of his uncle Hiroki Ioka.

Competing in the professional ranks from 1986 through to 1999, Hiroki became a two-weight world champion, respected in his own right. Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Hiroki was born in 1969 and would then turn pro in 1986 under the instruction of the Miwa Tsuda Gym, where his first four opponents would all be debutants.

Ioka, then only 18, would claim the Japan Boxing Commission Minimumweight title against the 16-9-4 fighter Kenji Ono – his biggest step-up in competition thus far. Although, it would open the door to a much larger (or smaller, in this case) opportunity.

The WBC had just instated their minimumweight title and Ioka was given the chance to become the inaugural champion. In a 12 round classic against Mai Thonburifarm (then 11-1), Ioka would win; becoming the first WBC minimumweight champion and the youngest Japanese boxer to ever win world honours – a record he still holds.

One defence over Kyung Yun Lee, an undefeated 11-0 challenger, had prepared Ioka for a legendary trilogy against Thai fighter Napa Kiatwanchai. Kiatwanchai was only 6-0 leading into their first bout, one that would be a split decision draw after a gruelling 12 rounds.

Their following two meetings would fare much worse for Ioka, with a split decision loss, followed up by a late fight TKO in their final meeting. Although, in retrospect, their encounters would take more out of Kiatwanchai than it did Ioka; Kiatwanchai would lose the WBC belt to Jum Hwan Choi (then 19-2) and retire with a middling record of 16-8-1.

On the other hand, Ioka learnt lessons from his trilogy with Kiatwanchai and would move up to light flyweight, hoping to stake his claim in a more traditional division. In his home nation, he would go on to dominate from 1990 through to the end of 1991, where he would challenge the undefeated and imperial Korean Myung Woo Yuh (then 36-0).

In a sterling performance in which both men gave their hearts, Ioka would take ‘Sonagi Punch’s’ WBA World Light Flyweight title and his 0.

With two impressive unanimous decision defences to his name, the powerful Korean was once again knocking at his door, with a burning desire for his belt.

Taking to Osaka in 1992, in a highly contentious bout, Yuh would avenge the only loss on his record in an extremely tight showing, with the scorecards suggesting numerous stories; 112-117, 111-119 and 114-114.

Ioka found his time at light flyweight limited and, once again, would move up to what must’ve seemed at the time as better pastures.

With one easy tune-up, Ioka would partake in the most high-profile fight of his career against Venezuelan David Griman (then 17-1); whose only loss had come by way of the legendary Thai Khaosai Galaxy.

In the Prefectural Gymnasium, something of a home to Ioka throughout his career, the WBA World Flyweight champion would take charge moving into the second half of what was otherwise a competitive fight; Griman would win by TKO in the eighth round.

It would seem as though flyweight would be a belligerent weight for Ioka, with a slew of lower-level wins not able to assist in his next title fight, a WBA World Flyweight match-up with ‘Saen Sor Ploenchit’, then undefeated in 22 bouts. Ioka, ever the warrior, would keep the bout competitive until a 10th round TKO would once again stall the Japanese phenom.

The brilliant minimumweight and light flyweight would be cursed in his run at flyweight, as a few quick wins would spin his attention to Jose Bonilla, the 21-3 Venezuelan who would defeat ‘Ploenchit’ for the WBA World Flyweight belt. Again, despite skill and perseverance, luck would not be on the side of the stalwart Ioka, who would succumb to a seventh round TKO.

Many would call it quits at such losses, but the Ioka blood, as we see it today in Kazuto, is strong-willed and willing to fight.

In one last gamble for glory, Ioka would move up to super flyweight, where he would make himself comfortable with a duology of easy wins in Osaka, before heading to Nagoya in the spring of 1998 in an attempt to wrap Satoshi Iida’s WBA World Super Flyweight belt around his waist after years without such an honour.

Then 23-1-1, the southpaw Iida would win in what proved to be yet another highly entertaining back-and-forth bout for Ioka. It was a majority decision, with judge Masakazu Uchida scoring the bout a 114-114 draw. Ioka had cast his gamble, only to stumble on the scorecards yet again.

He would only fight twice more, ending his career at the tail end of 1998 after losing to rising Zainichi-Korean Masamori Tokuyama, yet another interesting figure in the history of Japanese boxing.

Hiroki Ioka would retire with a professional record of 33-8-1 in 42 bouts, having provided over 300 rounds worth of entertainment in a career spanning minimumweight to super flyweight. He has gone down as a two-weight world champion and four weight contender with grit and determination seeded in his light frame.

The fighter, despite not fighting anymore, could not stay away from boxing for long.

He went on to train and manage fighters through the Ioka Boxing Gym and Ioka Promotions, with the influence of his career going on to show within his own next generation blood.

In looking back on Ioka’s long career, it is easy to declare that he suffered in the pursuit of greatness, with each successive weight class draining him and reducing his capabilities within the ring.

However, that would be a far too dismissive take; to focus on his eight losses is to subtract from his double digit wins that, particularly early in his career, would highlight his outstanding pedigree.

Whilst suffering more losses than his gifted and accomplished nephew, Hiroki Ioka will go down as a fighter who showed heart, grit and resolve in every bout.

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