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Ioka vs. Arroyo: No Money Down on Likely The Best Match on Superfly3

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  • Ioka vs. Arroyo: No Money Down on Likely The Best Match on Superfly3

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    By Matt McGrain

    A fascinating ten-rounder which may be the pick of this week’s fight action is brewing nicely in the background of the Superfly triple header set for the legendary Forum in Inglewood this Saturday night, as Kazuto Ioka meets McWilliams Arroyo.

    Much more pertinent than the “WBC Silver Super Flyweight Title” the two are apparently contesting is the answer to the following question: which of these two storied little men is going to fight on? It is hard, in truth, to see what awaits the loser of this intriguing contest, making the already interesting even more so.

    Ioka (22-1) was once upon a time the most glittering jewel in the glistening crown of Japan’s boxing prospects. What is more, he delivered upon that promise, lifting straps at no fewer than three weights over the space of just six years and suffering just a single loss, to the brutal Amnat Ruenroeng. By 2017, Ioka was much adorned and much beloved when he suddenly, almost inexplicably, retired aged just 28.

    A story did emerge: he had married Japanese pop star Nana Tanimura and wedded bliss seemed to suit him a little too well. Training suffered. There were also reports that he had fallen out with his father, a key a part of his management team. It seemed that fighting was no longer in Ioka’s heart.

    McWilliams Arroyo, meanwhile, was suffering his own crisis of faith. Anyone can be knocked out – it’s merely a question of being hit with the right punch at the right time. Arroyo, however, was so unmanned by the genius of a prime Roman Gonzalez that he arguably failed to win a single round of their 2016 contest; scorecards of 120-108 and 119-109 twice were a fair reflection of a fight Arroyo may as well not have attended.

    It was nearly two years before he crawled back into a prize ring, but his return was, I thought, rather beautiful. Carlos Cuadras, it is true, had just been beaten by the wonderful Juan Francisco Estrada, but he had also handed Roman Gonzalez all he could handle not long after Arroyo (now 17-3) had been so embarrassed by him. The fight was neither elegant, nor pretty, nor was it particularly exciting, but it offered Arroyo redemption as he consistently out-fought the favorite to take a deserved victory over ten.

    Most pertinent to note was that Arroyo, despite of all the time he had spent outside of the ring dealing with whatever misery Gonzalez had inflicted upon him, was not at all rusty. This Saturday he steps into the ring a two-times defeated title-challenger vying for a third title tilt against a winner of the much less attractive and, on paper, one-sided bouts that are headlining Saturday’s card. He is on the road to his last chance.

    Ioka, meanwhile, has unretired with glory in mind. Every one of the twenty-three contests he engaged in during his first career took place in Japan. There is money in Japan. Home advantage resides in Japan. He is a sporting hero in Japan.

    Only one of these things is true of the USA. If Ioka was making a money grab he could do it at home under less pressure against a weaker opponent. This is a vanity project at worse and more likely a bold strike at conquering new worlds. The former three-time world champion is not visiting Inglewood on vacation.

    What this adds up to is a fascinating cross-roads contest between two boxers who might be gearing up for the fight of their lives while still clinging on to their peak years as sportsmen.

    Arroyo, a competent switch-hitter with a good dig, is a class below Ioka in terms of technical excellence but I have a suspicion that his time is now. This could be close and even too close to call in some of the ten rounds the two are set to contest but in making the fight ugly against the supposedly superior Cuadras, Arroyo was able to close the gap and out-hustle his opponent. I think we will see the same thing here as Arroyo, sharpened to a rare point, closes the stronger of the two and nicks a disputed decision.

    But trust me when I say no money is going down.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel