Home Boxing News Fernando Martinez stuns Kazuto Ioka, more unification bouts on the horizon

Fernando Martinez stuns Kazuto Ioka, more unification bouts on the horizon

Fernando Martinez (left) lands on Kazuto Ioka. Photo credit: Kyodo News

IBF super flyweight champion Fernando ‘Puma’ Martinez 17-0 (9) claimed the biggest scalp of his career when he dethroned WBA champion Kazuto Ioka 31-2-1 (16) to be crowned unified champ at 115-pounds at the Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday night.

Japan’s Ioka, 35, was finally starting to get recognition for his storied career after winning world titles in four separate weight classes but often being overshadowed by other little big men like Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez 51-4 (41) and Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 27-0 (24).

There was even talk of Ioka facing recently crowned Ring Magazine and WBC super flyweight champion Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez 20-0 (13), a fight that would have seen his profile skyrocket.

Instead, Ioka was handed his first defeat in almost six years as Argentina’s Martinez, 32, turned the fight into a coming out party.

It was obvious from the opening bell that Ioka had a fight on his hands. Martinez came out firing, throwing power shots from both hands from awkward angles. The visitor snapped Ioka’s head back with uppercuts, slammed home over hand rights to the head and snuck in left hooks around his guard.

The first four rounds looked close to a clean sweep for Martinez.

Ioka came on in the mid-rounds. He withstood Martinez’s rushes, stood his ground and pushed his opponent back with stiff jabs and a targeted body attack.

The sharper punching continued to come from Ioka through the back third of the fight, but it was hard to deny the effectiveness of Martinez’s bludgeoning power shots. Both men took punishment in the fight, but neither found themselves on the canvas.

At the final bell judge Stanley Christodoulou saw it 117-111, judge Jean Pierre Van Imschoot scored it 116-112, while judge Edward Hernandez Sr handed in an outrageous 120-108 card, all for Martinez.

The new unified champ was in tears as the enormity of what he had achieved sunk in.

“Ioka is a living champion who has won four categories. I gave everything I had in the ring and managed to fight the way I hoped,” said Martinez.

“I gave him everything I had. We gave the fans what they want. A war.”

Next up for Martinez could be Rodriguez, who was an interested observer of the fight. The 24-year-old San Antonio southpaw expressed his interest in facing the winner of Ioka-Martinez following his stunning seventh-round knockout of Juan Francisco Estrada a week ago.

“I want the winner of Kazuto Ioka and Fernando Martinez. It’s a great fight, I think Ioka might be a little too technical for Martinez so he’ll come out with the victory,” Rodriguez said after the win.

“I would love to fight in Japan. I’ve been out there a few times, I’ve been to the boxing out there and it’s a different atmosphere so I would love to go there and fight whoever.”

WBO super flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka 20-1 (11) is also jockeying for position. The 29-year-old, who has won world titles in four separate weight divisions, is scheduled to defend his belt against Mexico’s Jonathan Rodriguez 25-2-1 (17) at the Kokugikan in Tokyo on July 20.

“IBF World Super Flyweight Champion Fernando Martinez (Argentina) 16 fights, all wins (9 KOs),” Tanaka posted to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I’ve just seen the game. I’ve been imagining this since last year.

“I want to beat this fighter and become a four-division champion.”