By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda (to come soon)
Japanese champ Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14 KOs), 115, barely kept his belt by eking out a close but unanimous verdict over previously unbeaten top contender Jeyvier Cintron (11-1-1NC), 114.75, two-time Olympian from Puerto Rico, over twelve Tom-and-Jerry rounds on Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan. The official tallies were as follows: Wes Melton (US) and Philip Austin (Australia) both 116-112, and Julio Cesar Alvarado (Panama) 115-113, all in favor of the defending champ.
In earlier rounds, the much taller puzzling southpaw Cintron made good use of his reach and swift footwork, outpunching Ioka with precision. But Ioka, six years his senior at 30, accelerated his attack in later rounds, aiming at the breadbasket that sometimes looked effective. Sensing it was so close, Jeyvier became aggressive in the final session, but his last surge wasn’t enough to dethrone the four-division champion Kazuto. The referee was Tony Weeks (US).