Yet another major New Year’s Eve boxing card from Japan will proceed without the backing of a major stateside platform.
Kazuto Ioka—the lone-ever Japanese male boxer to win titles in four weight-divisions—looks to prevent countryman Kosei Tanaka from matching that feat as they collide Thursday evening at Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo. The bout will be contested for Ioka’s junior bantamweight title, with the event airing live on TBS in Japan and on several other outlets throughout the world, including Fox Sports in Australia, Boxnation in the United Kingdom and ESPN2 Mexico—not to be confused with the United States version.
Unfortunately, boxing fans in the U.S. will have to be a bit more resourceful in order to tune in live for the final title fight of 2020.
Efforts were made by event handlers to secure stateside coverage in time for the fight, which will mark Ioka’s eighth career New Year’s Eve appearance. The issue is not limited to a lack of interest from U.S. platforms—although the 4:00 a.m. ET start time proves challenging—but rather the asking price to distribute the event far exceeding any potential return in picking up such a show.
The feeds for Boxnation and ESPN2 Mexico will pick up beginning with the main event, with any undercard bouts to be shown via tape-delay.
Absent the fight being carried live on YouTube or a social media platform not geo-blocked in the U.S., the best legal option for stateside fans will be to purchase through iSakura—a streaming service which carries up to 98 channels from Japan. First-time users have the option of purchasing a three-day trial, available for $3.00 for 98 channels and $2.50 for 48 channels, with both options carrying TBS.
A full breakdown of the service is provided by our friends at AsianBoxing.info.
Ioka and Tanaka have both been out of the ring since appearing on the same show in this very venue last New Year’s Eve. Ioka (25-2, 14KOs) turned away the challenge of unbeaten Jeyvier Cintron, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision to make the first defense of the belt he claimed in a 10th round knockout of Aston Palicte last June in Chiba, Japan.
Tanaka (15-0, 9KOs) made the final defense of his flyweight title with a 3rd round knockout of Wulan Tuolehazi in the evening’s chief support. The win marked the third successful defense of the belt he won in his 12th pro fight, a 12-round decision over Sho Kimura in Sept. 2018 to Vasiliy Lomachenko for the fastest to three divisional titles by a male boxer.
The win over Kimura and the 12 furiously paced rounds leading to that point was recognized by BoxingScene.com as 2018 Fight of the Year. A win on Thursday will leave Tanaka with the record for the quickest four-division titlist in boxing history, also strengthening his case to be included among any respectable Top 10 pound-for-pound list.
Ioka, 31, makes his ninth New Year’s Eve appearance in 10 years on the title stage, beginning with a 1st round knockout of then-unbeaten challenger Yogdoen CP Freshmart in Dec. 2011. The win marked the second defense of the strawweight title he claimed earlier that year in just his eighth pro fight.
The final strawweight title defense for Ioka came in a June 2012 unanimous decision over Akira Yaegashi in the first-ever unification bout between two reigning titlists from Japan. This Thursday will mark just the second time in Ioka’s incredible career where he enters a title fight versus another Japanese boxer.
Ioka is 8-1 overall on New Year’s Eve, all in title fights and the lone loss coming outside of Japan in a Dec. 2018 points loss to Donnie Nietes in their vacant 115-pound title fight. Tanaka is 3-0 on the year-end holiday, all in title fights and in separate weight divisions—strawweight in 2015, junior flyweight in 2016 and flyweight last year.
Stateside boxing fans wishing to purchase the iSakura streaming service in time to watch the fight are urged to do so in advance. Link to purchase a select package can be found here—iSakuraiptv.com/recharge/usd.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox