Boxing wraps up 2022 with an under-the-radar unification bout. WBA Champion Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs) will square off with WBO Champion Kazuto Ioka (29-2, 15 KOs) on New Year’s Eve in Ioka’s hometown of Tokyo, Japan.
Ioka is a four-division world champion who has captured titles in the 105-, 108-, 112-and 115-pound weight divisions. Franco will be making his first defense of his WBA Super Flyweight “Super” Champion belt, which he won back in August 2021. Franco will be the road underdog after making the long journey overseas to fight in Ota-City General Gymnasium.
Let’s break down the fight and odds to find some betting value. Below is my Kazuto Ioka vss. Joshua Franco prediction and best bets.
Ioka vs. Franco prediction, expert pick & best bet
Let’s start by looking at the favorite, Kazuto Ioka.
This will be Ioka’s second fight of 2022, He took on fellow four-weight-division champion Donnie Nietes in July in a rematch of their first bout from 2018. While Ioka lost a very close split decision in the first bout, he won the rematch in decisive fashion. Ioka started well, bloodied up Nietes in the tenth round and left no doubt who the victor was this time around.
Franco has not fought at all in 2022. He was ordered to fight Juan Estrada earlier this year, but the fight never came to fruition. Instead, Estrada vacated his WBA “Super” title. After being elevated to full champion status, Franco has shifted his sights toward this unification bout.
The stage is now set for a New Year’s Eve showdown that will, in all likelihood, produce a unified champion.
Ioka comes into the fight as a slight favorite, likely due to his resume. He also has the home-field advantage, plus significantly more experience in both years as a professional (13 vs. 7) and pro fights (31 vs. 22). He is priced at -160.
Franco is the slight underdog at +125. He has six years of youth on his side compared to Ioka and certainly has a path to victory in this one.
Ioka is a pressure fighter and is very calculated with the way he attempts to break down his opponents. Franco does his best work in the mid-range and has a nice left hook to the body. I expect both guys to have their fair share of success.
The super flyweight division is one of the few divisions that continues to deliver compelling matchups, and this fight is no different. This is a legitimate 50-50 fight. The term “50-50 fight” tends to get overused, but this fight has the feeling of one that could really go either way.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any pick here. Ioka is a seasoned veteran and a good fighter with multiple paths to victory. On the other side of the ring, Franco is becoming a must-watch fighter with his own bag of various paths to victory.
I think these prices are right. Your personal pick might boil down to your own preferences – especially if you think the youthful pug will outlast the experienced vet.
Franco has lost once and received a questionable decision in the last fight of his trilogy with Andrew Maloney. Has he gotten better from that? I think he has. He also has been in the same camp as Jesse Rodriguez, which certainly has its benefits.
That said, Ioka is on a higher level. He is a pound-for-pound stalwart who I don’t think is going to slow down this year.
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