By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 16, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, Ryosuke Iwasa will defend the IBF Super Bantamweight World Championship against Irish-Australian contender TJ Doheny.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2 / 16 KOs) had a successful amateur career, amassing a record of 60 wins and 16 losses, while winning various national titles. He made his pro debut on August of 2008, at the age of 18, going undefeated for 2 years, 8-0, beating much more experienced foes like Marvin Tampus (21-10*) and Kinshiro Usui (19-2*).
Iwasa’s first big test came on March 5th, 2011 when he challenged Shinsuke Yamanaka (13-0*) for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Yamanaka was another accomplished amateur boxer (34-13), holding many notable victories, including one over future world champion Takahiro Ao. Neither of the 2 had lost a single fight since turning pro, nor were they ready to spoil their perfect record. In what it was undoubtedly one of the best Japanese title fights of all time, Iwasa and Yamanaka went to war that night, fighting for gold as well as to prove who was the best Bantamweight fighter in Japan. Iwasa dominated early, stunning the champion on numerous occasions, while Yamanaka started making a comeback in the later rounds. Both men were rocking each other hard, going back and forth, bringing the Japanese fans to their feet. Chants for Iwasa and Yamanaka were heard all over the arena as neither was planning on giving up. At the very last round, Yamanaka went on a rampage, almost knocking Iwasa out while still standing, forcing the referee to step in and put an end to this amazing bout. That fight put Yamanaka in world title contention and 8 months later, he became the WBC world champion. Iwasa, even in defeat, he displayed his Bushido spirit, making him a fan favorite amongst the Japanese faithful.
Only a couple of months later, he came back stronger and more determined than ever before, winning 11 fights in a row, against Kentaro Masuda (14-5*), 2 time world title contender David De La Mora (24-2*), Mark John Yap (18-8*), former WBC International champion Hiroki Shino (10-2*) and more, as well as earning both the Japanese and OPBF titles in the process.
In 2015, after a failed attempt at the interim IBF Bantamweight belt, Iwasa decided to move up a weight class and switch his focus at the Super Bantamweights. It didn’t take long for the Japanese star to reach the top of the division and challenge Yukinori Oguni (19-1*) for the IBF World Championship on September of 2017, at the EDION Arena in Osaka. Iwasa came out like a house on fire, knocking the champion down in the opening round once and twice in the next one. It was a very one-sided match, up until the forth round when Oguni began firing back at the challenger, finally turning this into a big world title bout. After 3 more action packed rounds, the fight was stopped, as Oguni was bleeding profusely, thus marking the beginning of Iwasa’s first ever world title reign.
Already with one title defense under his belt, over Philippino standout Ernesto Saulong (21-2*), Iwasa will look for V2 this August, against TJ Doheny (19-0 / 14 KOs).
Doheny has already made quite an impression in the division, winning the PABA Super Bantamweight title, just 15 months after his debut. A certified knock out artist, with the majority of his finishes coming within the first five rounds. His most impressive performance must be against former interim WBA Super Flyweight World Champion Sutep Wangmuk (63-5*) in 2015, which ended via 5th round KO.
This fight will mark Iwasa’s 10th Anniversary as a pro boxer and what better way to celebrate it but with another huge win over a hungry contender.
*Denotes record going in to the fight.
This coming Thursday we'll get the chance to see Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) make his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, which he won in impressive fashion last September. The hard hitting Japanese world champion will be defending the belt against the little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8).
Iwasa was a former amateur stand out before turning professional in 2008, with many in Japan expecting big things of the Southpaw from Chiba. The talent, and power, of Iwasa was clear from very early on, and in a little over 25 months he had raced out to an impressive 8-0 (6) record, and a shot at the Japanese Bantamweight title. Whilst he would go on to lose in his first title fight, coming up short to Shinsuke Yamanaka, he did show a lot of potential, and would subsequently go on to win both the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles whilst climbing up the world rankings. Sadly Iwasa would suffer his second stoppage loss in his first world title bout, losing to Lee Haskins, but would then move up in weight, and he has since looked a much better fighter whilst going 5-0 (4).
Last time out we saw Iwasa really put everything together as he scored a career defining win and stopped Yukimori Oguni in 6 rounds to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. He dropped Iwasa numerous times before forcing Wayne Hedgpeth to take a bloodied Oguni to the ringside doctor, and eventually stop the bout.
Early in his career Iwasa looked like a relatively predictable, 1-paced slugger. He had some technical nous, but there was a real feeling that he was a bit too basic to test the best, though had the brutal power that would always make him dangerous, if he could land. Since moving up win weight however he has looked a bit smoother, a bit more relaxed, and just as dangerous when he lands. There is a still a feeling he could be out boxed by a smart mover, but he is very dangerous and if he lands clean he will do damage.
Whilst Iwasa has had his career followed closely by those who follow the Japanese domestic scene there wasn't ever the same following for Saulong in his homeland. Instead the 28 year old has had to develop with out much fan fare or expectation since his 2010 debut. Despite the lack of expectation Saulong has managed to prove himself as a solid competitor on the domestic scene, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Alie Laurel, twice, and Jestoni Austida. Sadly those wins aside there is little of real value on his record, other than losses to Rey Megrino and Lwandile Sityatha.
In the ring Saulong isn't a particularly big puncher, and he has scored only an single stoppage win in his last 5 bouts, with that coming against Arnel Baconaje, He is a solid fighter technically with a nice pressure style using a lot of head movement to slip shots. He's nice to watch but has an unfortunate knack of throwing shots that are quite wide and not having anything razor sharp in his arsenal. Defensively he makes for a very tough target, but offensively he doesn't appear too troublesome with his output.
Given the footage available of the the challenger it's possible he could give Iwasa some problems with his head movement. However it's hard to imagine Saulong avoiding everything Iwasa has to offer, especially the body shots. With that in mind we are expecting the champion to hurt, and later stop the Filipino. Saulong has the potential to be a stubborn opponent, but we really don't think he has the toughness to withstand Iwasa's power, or enough power of his own to hurt the champion, who we suspect will close the show in the middle rounds.
The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one globally, with the division lacking big money super fights and being a very fragmented division, with a lot of talent but no out-and-out stand out star and even the biggest name in the division looks set to abandon it in pursuit of big money bouts. Despite the lack of big names Japan is stacked with fantastic fighters in the division, and this coming Wednesday we see two of those clash, as IBF champion Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1, 7) [小國 以載] make his first defense of the belt and takes on mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-2, 15) [岩佐 亮佑].
For those who can't remember Oguni actually won the title in a major upset last December when he shocked big punching Dominican Johnthan Guzman, and actually dropped Guzman en route to his upset win. That victory showed how well Oguni can box to a game plan, how resilient he is and how smart he is in the ring, avoiding fighting Guzman's fight and instead controlling the contest with his movement and jab.
Prior to beating Guzman we had seen Oguni claim both the OPBF and Japanese titles and score a number of notable wins. They had included victories over the likes of Roli Gasca, Masaaki Serie, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Mike Tawatchai with his only loss coming way back in 2013 to Shingo Wake. Since the loss to Wake it's obvious that Oguni has developed and is now a much stronger, more powerful and confident fighter than he'd been previously.
In the ring Oguni is a light punching fighter, but his much harder than his record suggests, he's skilled, he's an intelligent mover and he's quick. Technically there are flaws with Oguni, but fight after fight he is tidying them up, developing his physical power and building on his ring IQ. He's no longer the fighter who lost to Wake, instead he's the guy who beat Guzman, he's the champion of the world and he's the man looking to make his first of the title.
Oguni's challenger will be the once highly touted, former amateur standout Iwasa, a hard hitting southpaw who will be getting his second world title fight, and his first at his more natural Super Bantamweight division. Iwasa debuted as a teenager following a 60-6 (42) amateur career that saw him becoming a triple crown High School winner and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Strongest Korakuen in 2010 thanks to a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui. A loss in a Japanese title fight to Shinsuke Yamanaka was a set back, but one that saw Iwasa get a lot of credit from as he rocked Yamanaka and was pushing him all the way.
Less than a year after the loss to Yamanaka fans saw Iwasa claim the Japanese Bantamweight title and in 2013 claim the OPBF title. That run helped him climb up the IBF world rankings and getting a fight for the interim IBF Bantamweight title against Lee Haskins. Sadly for Iwasa the movement and trickery of Haskins was too much for him, and a slightly drained Iwasa was stopped in 6 by the Englishman. That was then followed by a move up to Super Bantamweight, where he has now gone 4-0 (3) and shown a more fluid style than he had had down at Bantamweight.
Blessed with heavy hands and an explosive style Iwasa is a nightmare if connects clean. Sadly though he likes to set his feet before throwing, it a bit predictable and even a little on the slow side. His limited movement could well play into the hands of any top mover-boxer and that maybe a huge problem here against Oguni.
Oguni sees himself as the under-dog coming into this bout, but we really think he has the style to beat Iwasa, much like Haskins did. If Oguni can box and move, avoid the heavy power of Iwasa, and strike whilst moving he could make life very easy for himself. He just needs to do all he can to stop Iwasa from setting his feet an unloading. If he can he should take a clear decision in his first defense of the title.
With 5 word title bouts taking place on December 31st in Japan we could have expected they would all be mismatches in favour of the local fighters. There is however one clear exception to that rule, in fact the bout in question is seen as a massive mismatch in favour of the visitor who is viewed by many as having the bout in the bag before the fighters have even stepped in the ring. That bout is the IBF Super Bantamweight title bout between explosive champion Jonathan Guzman (22-0-0-1, 22) and Japanese challenger Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7), a former Japanese and OPBF champion.
Of the two men it's Guzman who is more well known. He's the champion and he's proven his ability against a series of notable fighters. That's included stoppage wins over the likes of Christian Esquivel, Danny Aquino, Daniel Rosas and most notable Shingo Wake, who he beat in July to win the title in Japan. The only blotch on his other wise perfect record is a no contenst from 2013, in a fight with Luis Hinojosa and since then he has stopped 11 foes in 48 rounds.
Although not the smoothest boxer, or the most rounded of fighters Guzman is a a monster and every shot he lands is damaging. His shots all look concussive and his belief in his power is incredible. Not only does he appear to be a big puncher but, worryingly for opponents, he appears to take a good shot too and has solid stamina allowing him to work at a high rate through out the bout, a surprise for such a banger. Whilst he did dominate Wake there were times he looked like he was flagging, before coming back a round later looking rejuvenated and it's clear that he's going to be a nightmare to fight for anyone in the sport.
Whilst Guzman is a monstrous Super Bantamweight with frightening power and physical strength the same cannot be said of Oguni, who is more of a pure boxer with skills and counter punching, along with speed to burn. Early in his career Oguni looked like a world champion in the making, and one on the fast track to the top. In just his 11th bout he claimed the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, defeating Roli Gasca, and defended it 3 times. Sadly though his rise was ended in 2013 by Wake, who totally dominated him before scoring a 10th round retirement win against Oguni, who looked under-powered. Since that loss Oguni has won the Japanese title and scored notable wins over Yasutaka Ishimoto, Taiki Minamoto and Mike Tawatchai, stopping Tawatchai in 5 rounds earlier this year.
Although Oguni is a pure boxer he has shown an improvement in power recently stopping his last 3 foes, including Tawatchai, and appears to be a fighter who is maturing into a more rounded fighter. He is still a speed based fighter but one who appears to be growing more confident. That confidence could cost him here if he decides to stand his ground and instead he will have to stay on the move, keep Guzman of balance and try to frustrate and tire out the champion.
Although Oguni is a genuinely credible top 10 top of Super Bantamweight this is an incredible tough bout for the challenger and one that we don't see him coming out on top of. We think Oguni has the potential to reach the top, but this bout is one that his lack of fire power will cost him and Guzman will likely stop him in the middle rounds, if not earlier. Oguni has the ability to move for a few rounds but once he feels Guzman's power we suspect he'll look to survive before being broken down.
Right now boxing has a number of genuinely intriguing divisions. The Heavyweight division has started to once again create some positives headlines, the Cruiserweight division is brilliantly matches, the Light Welterweight division has some compelling match ups coming up, the Super Featherweight division keeps delivering brilliant fights, the Light Flyweight division is mouth watering and Flyweight has the potential for so many fantastic bouts. Possibly the most over looked division however is the Super Bantamweight division.
The 122lb weight class has been a frustrating one at times. The way the boxing world has treat Guillermo Rigondeaux has been a big blotch on the division, and the “super fight” between Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton failed to live up to the expectation. The division has also acted as a stop gap for many, with fighters like Leo Santa Cruz, quickly moving up to the more financially rewarding Featherweight division.
Despite the frustration it has delivering some thrilling match ups in recent times and looks like a division bristling with talent, all looking to prove it's self. This coming Wednesday we thankfully get to see some of the more talented fighters facing off, with both men looking to prove a point. One of those is Japan's tricky southpaw sharp shooter Shingo Wake (20-4-2, 12) while the other is big punching Dominican Jonathan Guzman (21-0-0-1, 21). Despite their difference they share the same desires, to be a world champion and to be recognised as a major player on the world scene.
On paper the more impressive of the two men is the big punching visitor. His near perfect record, only marred by a no contest from back 2013 due to a headclash, is imposing to say the least and shows that the “Salomon King” is a genuine destroyer in the ring. That was shown recently when he stopped Daniel Rosas on US, and has been shown through his career with his string of stoppage wins.
Of his 21 wins Guzman has scored 15 in his homeland. Those 15 all came against questionable opposition, as did his win over Emerson Santos Carvalho in Argentina back in late 2012. In recent years however Guzman has been making a name for himself in the US,where he has had his last 5 bouts. Those bouts have seen him beating some familiar fighters, namely Christian Esquivel and Daniel Rosas, though it's fair to say that none of them have been world class, or fringe world class, Super Bantamweights.
In the ring Guzman isn't the quickest of fighters and can actually be walked back, but he's a big Super Bantamweight with genuine power in his right hand. His jab can, at times, be pushed and when he comes forward he does sometimes look a bit clumsy, but when a fighter has the power he has those technical flaws can be over-come by sheer force. One major question that hasn't really been answered is what happens a fighter moves around him, and makes him pay for being crude. Likewise he hasn't really been chin checked by a decent Super Bantamweight with his most notable opponents all being naturally smaller men.
With 4 losses and 2 draws against his name Wake doesn't have an impressive record, however like many Japanese fighters he has over-come a troublesome start to his career to become a genuine contender in the Super Bantamweight division. After 6 fights he was 3-2-1 (2) and after 6 fights he was 10-4-2 (5). Since then however he has gone 10-0 (7) scoring wins over the likes of Jonathan Baat, Yukinori Oguni, Jaesung Lee and Mike Tawatchai. That winning run also saw Wake claim the OPBF title and record 5 defenses of the title, all by stoppage.
Although not a big name in the west Wake has been building a growing fans base since his win over Oguni. That has been helped with having bouts shown on Fuji TV and later TBS who have bother helped to raise Wake's profile. His profile has also been helped by his personality which has helped win over Japanese fans.
In the ring the Japanese fighter is a nightmare to fight. At his best he's a sharp shooter, with intelligent foot work, impressive hand speed, great movement and under-rated power. He may not be the most slippery, or the biggest puncher, but he's certainly a nightmare to tag clean and landing successive shots against him is incredibly difficult. Against a crude fighter Wake has the ability to make them look very silly and is a very rangy fighter which means fighting on the move is made easier by him.
Coming in to this one we have a puncher against a boxer. If the bout is won on skills alone then Wake walks this, however Guzman has that nasty power and that incredible self belief that makes him incredibly dangerous, despite his flaws. If Guzman can make his power count then there is a good chance he can hurt or even stop Wake, however Wake's plan is to take away that strenth by being hit as little as possible, using his speed to land and get out of range before Guzman fires back. If Wake's plan works he wins with ease, getting a wide decision, if not then Guzman will likely break him down with heavy leather.
When we talk about modern day Japanese greats few really rival the legendary Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) a former WBC Bantamweight and Featherweight champion. This coming Wednesday sees Hasegawa, named the "Ace of Japan", trying to become just the second ever 3-weight world champion from Japan as he moves down to the Super Bantamweight division and challenger Spain's Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22), the current IBF champion.
For many fans, especially those who have seen Hasegawa's loss to Fernando Montiel and Jhonny Gonzalez, this is a suicide mission for the Japanese fighter. Martinez is vicious, hard hitting aggressive and the sort of opponent that no one really wants to fight, especially not if your durability is questioned like Hasegawa's is.
Martinez, known as La Sensación, is the sort of fighter who loves a small ring and loves feeling the like the top dog in in a fight. He's all about pressure, determined aggression, heavy hands and has no fear of travelling to get the bigger fights. This has been shown in his numerous fights outside of his native Spain, included his title winning effort against Jhonatan Romero.
At his best Martinez is truly a beast. Unfortunately for him he's an awful one dimensional beast. He has one mentality and that is to be the boss. He has no real counter boxing ability, doesn't really know how to fight on the back foot and can, as Carl Frampton showed, be out boxed and walk into shots with his basic flaws there to take advantage of. Unfortunately for Martinez's opponents he's basic but he's strong, durable, mentally tough and very destructive. Trying to out boxing him can look easy but it's mentally and physically draining and soon or later the pressure tends to take it's toll.
Whilst fans might be thinking this is a bout Hasegawa simply cannot win, the Japanese fighter is confident he can win, he's been a long and intense training camp, he's been sparring hard, spending time in camp with Shinsuke Yamanaka and doing all he can to prepare for the challenge of Martinez. It's been like Hasegawa knows this is his last chance to become a world champion again and this is his only chance toe become a 3-weight world champion. At 33 years old this really could actually be his final bout, not just his final world title bout.
As we all know Hasegawa made his name as an outstanding Bantamweight and held the WBC title at 118lbs between 2005 and 2010. He began the reign by beating Veeraphol Sahaprom who had himself beaten the insanely popular Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and it was hoped that Hasegawa would be the next "Joe", the next mega star of Japanese boxing. Unfortunately that failed to happen but he has still been a star and has still been in some great fights to watch as he's combined free flowing offence, fantastic speed, great combinations and very under-rated power. It's that power and speed that will always make Hasegawa dangerous and although he was viewed by many in the west as a "feather fisted" fighter he is still the only man to stop the teak tough Vusi Malinga, we he did inside a round!
Hasegawa in his pomp was sensational and a genuine joy to watch. Unfortunately for him he has slowed and his foot movement isn't what it once was. Fortunately for fans this has made his more aggressive, more willing to set his feet and happier to exchange. It's a dangerous tactic against a fighter with heavy hands like Kiko Martinez but will certainly lead to some fan friendly action, for as long as it lasts.
We're expecting Martinez to start fast and try to rough up Hasegawa. Within a round we expect to know whether or not Hasegawa can take the power of Martinez or whether the bout is going to finish earlier. We'd be shocked didn't start off aggressively though with Hasegawa's more refined boxing skills the challenger could very easily connect a bomb on to the chin of Martinez.
Going in many are under-rating Hasegawa's power though he could very easily land a counter to send Martinez to the canvas. For us that's Hasegawa's big chance because he won't survive the ferocious onslaught of the champion and instead will need to fight fire with fire.
Sadly for Hasegawa we're leaning towards Martinez to win with a mid-round stoppage, though we'd be shocked if this was anything less than explosive and exciting for as long as it lasts.
(Image courtesy of boxmob)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.