As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2021, Jose “Chon” Zepeda’s knockout victory over Ivan Baranchyk is the run away leader for 2020 Fight of the Year honors. Zepeda won via 5th round knockout in a wild fight in which both fighters scored four knockdowns.
However, most outlets have held off on announcing their winner because of the upcoming showdown pitting WBO super flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2) against current WBO flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0) that takes place on December 31st at the Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo. Ioka is a four-division champion while Tanaka would match that feat with a victory.
The fight is expected to be an all out war. Both men began their title runs in the 105 pound minimum weight division and most experts predict that their styles will mesh perfectly when they meet in the ring.
Ioka’s longtime trainer Ismael Salas tested positive for COVID-19 in late November in the United Kingdom while in quarantine for Joe Joyce’s fight against Daniel Dubois. The positive test naturally put his status in doubt for this upcoming Japanese super fight. New Year’s Eve is traditionally a night loaded with championship bouts in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Salas arrived in the country two weeks and immediately entered a 14 day quarantine period. He was officially cleared by the commission on Tuesday and will be in Ioka’s corner on fight night.
“I passed the PCR test and everything is good,” Salas told BoxingScene.com.
The world-class trainer kept in constant contact with Ioka while he was at his home base in Las Vegas and also during his time in quarantine in Japan. He expects his pupil to put on a spectacular performance.
“Ioka is in great shape like always and he is very focused. It is going to be a great fight because I know Tanaka is a great fighter. He is a three-time champion but hasn’t fought anyone at the level of Ioka. Tomorrow we will see if he is ready,” said Salas.
This will be Ioka’s first fight since his unanimous decision victory over Jeyvier Cintron last year on New Year’s Eve. Tanaka defeated Wulan Tuoluhazi by third round knockout on the same card.
Salas has already met up with Ioka and said that they are ready to go and just waiting for fight night.
“We are ready to go. Ioka did 105 rounds of sparring and I watched it all on FaceTime. In my 14 days in quarantine I checked everything and we were always in contact . My wife is Japanese so it makes the communication easier,” Salas stated.
“We have a great plan and now it is up to him to perform in the ring tomorrow. Kosei Tananka is very solid. He has great technique and lots of strong points but we are ready. Physically, tactically and mentally everything is good with Ioka. He has been with me since he was 10 or 11 years old and like always he is very serious and very focused.”
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