Aston Palicte, 28, isn’t fazed by the hype surrounding Kazuto Ioka’s quest and couldn’t care less where he fights.
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Aston Palicte unfazed by hype
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Aston Palicte knows he’s up against a hometown legend trying to become Japan’s first-ever world champion in four divisions but fighting a local hero on hostile territory is no issue with the long-limbed Bago City power puncher who takes on Kazuto Ioka for the vacant WBO superflyweight title at the 9,000-seat Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City, a 45-minute train ride from Tokyo, tomorrow night.

Ioka, 30, is one of five Japanese three-division world titlists. The others are Koki Kameda, Hozumi Hasegawa, Kosei Tanaka and Naoya Inoue. If he beats Palicte, Ioka will make history as the first four-division Japanese world champion.

Palicte, 28, isn’t fazed by the hype surrounding Ioka’s quest and couldn’t care less where he fights. In his career, Palicte has fought six bouts outside the Philippines, losing only once to Mexico’s Junior Granados on a split decision in Merida in 2016. This is his second attempt to win the WBO 115-pound title and if not for countryman Donnie Nietes relinquishing the throne, it wouldn’t have happened.

Nietes and Palicte fought to a split draw for the vacant crown last September. Instead of ordering a rematch, the WBO sanctioned another bout for the vacant throne between Nietes and Ioka. Nietes then defeated Ioka on a split verdict to claim the title which he later surrendered to give Palicte another crack at the crown.

“Binigay ni Donnie kay Aston ang pagkakataon na maging champion kaya kailangan manalo siya,” said Palicte’s head trainer, former WBC lightflyweight ruler Rodel Mayol. “Malaki ang chance na ma-knock out ni Aston si Ioka pero nag-train siya for 12 rounds so hindi siya magmamadali. Tamaan lang ng tamaan si Ioka hanggang tumumba. Pag hindi naman, manalo si Aston sa puntos.”

Because the fight is in Japan, Mayol said it’s 50-50. “Matibay si Ioka at magaling kaya 50-50 ang laban at nasa Japan kaya mahirap at kailangan sipagan sa suntok at jab,” he noted. “Dati si Ioka mahirap talunin pero noong umakyat ng timbang at tumanda, nag-slow down siya at hindi na gaanong kalakas ang suntok niya. Siguro ang 115-pound division ay malaki para sa kaniya.” Mayol said Palicte is in 100 percent condition and will be ready for whatever Ioka brings into the ring.

Palicte said he’s not worried about fighting in Japan. “Training camp determines the outcome of every fight performance,” said Palicte in Pilipino, quoted by “Ideally, we’d rather fight in the US but we also have nothing but the utmost respect for Japan and its culture. Ioka is definitely a top contender. He’s going to give it his all just as I will. We’ll stick with our game plan and everything else about his past is just background for us.”

Palicte said he owes Nietes for this opportunity. “Fighting Donnie for the world title helped a lot,” he said. “It taught me how to be composed and focused under pressure.”

Palicte and his team arrived in Tokyo a week ago. His manager Jason Soong is confident of victory and gave Palicte a 75 percent chance to beat Ioka. Palicte has a distinct three-inch height and 1 1/2 inch reach edge over the Japanese who retired abruptly at 28 after a spat with his father and trainer Kazunori over his marriage to pop singer Nana Tanimura in 2017. His father later closed his gym because of tax problems. After a 17-month layoff, Ioka returned to the ring and outpointed Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo in Inglewood, California, last September. Palicte’s record is 25-2-1, with 21 KOs while Ioka’s slate is 23-2, with 13 KOs.

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