Kazuto Ioka to close out ’23, Vergil Ortiz to kick off ’24

Kazuto Ioka to close out ’23, Vergil Ortiz to kick off ’24



Pound-for-pounder Kazuto Ioka will face Josber Perez on the traditional New Year’s Eve card in Japan. Then, on Saturday, Vergil Ortiz Jr. will return to the ring after a 17-month hiatus.

KAZUTO IOKA (30-2-1, 15 KOs)vs.  josber perez (20-3, 18 KOs)

Kazuto Ioka defeated Joshua Franco in their rematch.  Yuichi Tamazaki / AFP via Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Dec. 31
Time: 3 a.m. ET / midnight PT (main event later in show)
Where: Ota City General Gymnasium, Tokyo
TV/Stream: No TV in U.S.
Division: Junior bantamweight (115 pounds)
At stake: Ioka’s WBA title
Pound-for-pound: Ioka, Honorable Mention
Odds: NA
Also on the card: Yoshimitsu Kimura vs. Kosuke Saka, 12 rounds, junior lightweights; Daigo Higa vs. Navapon Khaikanha, 10 rounds, bantamweights; Hayato Tsutsumi vs. Luis Moncion Ventura, 10 rounds, featherweights

Background: Ioka, 34, proved he has plenty left in the tank by outpointing overweight Joshua Franco in their rematch to regain a 115-pound title on June 24, six months after they fought to a draw. Ioka won his first world title as a 108-pounder in 2011 and has worn one belt or another almost continuously since then, making him one of the most consistent boxers in the world. He’s undefeated (7-0-1) since he lost a split decision to Donnie Nietes in 2018, a setback he avenged last year. Perez is a 28-year-old from Venezuela who will be making his second attempt to win a major title. He lost a one-sided decision to 112-pound champ Artem Dalakian in 2020. He’s 3-0 against journeymen in his home country since that setback, the last two fights taking place at 115 pounds.


vergil ortiz JR. (19-0, 19 KOs)vs.  FREDRICK LAWSON (30-3, 22 KOs)

Date: Saturday, Jan. 6
Time: 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (main event later in show)
Where: The Theater at Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas
TV/Stream: DAZN
Division: Junior middleweight (154 pounds)
At stake: No major titles
Pound-for-pound: None
Odds: NA
Also on the card: Ohara Davies vs. Ismael Barroso, junior welterweights; Arnold Barboza Jr. vs. Xolisani Ndongeni, junior welterweights; Sergiy Derevyanchenko vs. Rowdy Montgomery, super middleweights; Raul Curiel vs. Elias Diaz, welterweights

Prediction: Ortiz KO 6
Background: Ortiz will be returning to the ring after a 17-month hiatus, the result of illness and fight cancelations. And he’ll be making his debut at 154 pounds. The 25-year-old native of Dallas was a top 140- and 147-pounder — who stopped all 19 of his opponents — but he never received a chance to fight for a major title in those divisions. He was scheduled to face fellow 147-pound contender Eimantas Stanionis in what would’ve been his biggest fight but the bout was postponed three times, the last time in July only days before the event because Ortiz couldn’t make weight. He last fought in August of last year, when he stopped Michael McKinson in nine rounds. Lawson is a 34-year-old from Ghana. He is only 3-2 in his last five fights but has won his last two, over fellow journeymen Collinson Korley and Estevan Villalobos in January and April. Oritz is a monumental step up in opposition for Lawson, although he once beat former contender Breidis Prescott.



Dusty Hernandez-Harrison vs. Norberto Gonzalez, light heavyweights, Richmond, Virginia (FITE+)


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