By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Sumio Yamada
In an encounter of three-class ex-champions, Filipino veteran Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23 KOs), 115, was awarded a split verdict over Japanese speedster Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13 KOs), 114.5, to acquire the vacant WBO junior bantamweight belt on New Year’s Eve at the Wynn Place Kotai, Macao, China. The hairline tallies were as follows: Patricia Morse Jarman (US) 116-112, Levi Martinez (US) 118-110, both for Nietes, and Samuel Nieto Gonzalez (Panama) 116-112 for Ioka. The third man was Robert Byrd (US).
Ioka, an artful dodger, made best use of his faster side-to-side footwork to avert Nietes’ punches, but he should have thrown and hit more punches to the Filipino rival. It was Ioka that kept jabbing and moving away from Nieto’s retaliations.
His strategy appeared to be successful, but now that Ioka’s fight plan resulted in a decision loss, he as well as his chief second Ismael Salas would have to review the defect of their strategy. It’s true that Ioka often had Nietes missing with his shifty mobility, but he should have been more aggressive with more convincing shots. Nietes occasionally caught Ioka with a solid punch at a time, which might be evaluated by the officials in such a close affair.