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.
It's amazing to think that during the history of boxing no Japanese fighter has ever won a world title in Europe. That may change however on June 13th as the once beaten Ryosuke "Eagle Eye" Iwasa (19-1, 12) travels to England to take on the talented and tricky Lee Haskins (31-3, 13) in a contest for the IBF “interim” title, a title that Iwasa's handler believes will be upgraded to the IBF regular title later in the year.
Firstly, as many will know, we are typically critical of the “interim” title fiasco that the WBA have on their hands. However the IBF rarely hold “interim” title fights and they are limited to when a champion is injured. In this case their “proper” champion, Randy Caballero, is indeed injured and isn't expected back in to the ring for several months. Rather than freezing up the title the IBF have elected for their two top ranked contenders to meet in what is a genuinely appealing match up.
Of the two fighters Haskins is, by far, the more experienced man. He has been a professional since 2003 and already holds a number of notable wins, including decision victories over Jamie McDonnell, Stuart Hall and Jason Booth. Sadly for Haskins however he has had a number of issues including a style that has helped keep him away from British TV for swathes of his career and issues with durability, with all 3 of his losses coming by stoppage.
Early in his career Haskins looked brilliant and quickly raced out to 15-0 (9). He showed off impressive speed, lovely countering ability and a style that saw him fighting with hands down and switching stances. That perfect record was ended in his 16th bout as he was stopped by the under-rated Tshifhiwa Munyai. Just 2 fights later Haskins suffered his second set back, courtesy of an injury against the talented but light hitting Ian Napa.
Since falling to 16-2 Haskins has gone on an excellent 16-1 run scoring notable wins against Jamie McDonnell, Stuart Hall and Jason Booth. His sole loss during that 17 fight run came against Stephane Jamoye, in what was a contender for 2012's FOTY. Of course we know Jamoye's limitations, given his loss to Shinsuke Yamanaka, but Jamoye managed to impose his style on the fight and Haskins had to fight fire with fire.
Aged 31 and stood at 5'5” Haskins typically fights as a southpaw though has shown the ability to switch hit. At his best he's an elusive and tricky type of fighter who controls distance well and uses a sharp jab to keep opponents at range. Up close Haskins can go to war and has fast hands though on the whole he is happy to fight on the outside and tie up on the upside. When he's forced to take the fight to an opponent he can struggle but most opponents are unable to really force Haskins out of his safety zone.
At 25 years old Iwasa is significantly younger than his foe though in many ways lacks the experience of Haskins. He has been a professional since 2008 and lacks a genuine stand out win. He does however have some notable wins over the likes of Kentaro Masuda and David De La Mora. His most notable bout to date however was a loss, to the tremendous Shinsuke Yamanaka back in 2011. The step up to fight Yamanaka was too much too soon for Yamanaka though he managed to acquit himself well before being stopped very late in the bout.
Although Iwasa isn't a hugely experienced fighter as a professional he was a very accomplished amateur with a record of 60-6 (42) in the unpaid ranks. Those amateur credentials have been part of the reason that Iwasa has been fast tracked and has already claimed the Japanese and OPBF titles in his short career.
As a Bantamweight Iwasa is a relatively large fighter stood at 5'7” and physically he matched up with Shinsuke Yamanaka very well. At the time of that bout Iwasa lacked the experience though showed that he had the power and ability to really trouble Yamanaka.
In the ring Iwasa is a talented southpaw boxer-puncher. He hits harder than his record suggests, as seen by the fact he troubled Yamanaka, though at times he's reckless and can be tagged himself. When boxing smartly Iwasa is very sharp though he can be put under pressure, as Richard Pumicpic showed. Whilst Iwasa put the performance against Pumicpic down to weight issues it's fair to suggest that those issues may rear their head again in the future.
Coming in to this fight it really seems like a case of the man who can enforce his style will come out on top. It's a question as to whether or not Haskins will be able to keep Iwasa at arm's length or whether the Japanese fight can get his range and land his heavy shots with the left hand. We know Haskins has scouted the left hand but there is a lot of difference between know it's a weapon and being able to prevent it from being used. If Haskins can keep his movement up and make the most of his jab the odds are that he takes a decision at home in Bristol. If Iwasa can make it a fire-fight however we see the Japanese fighter stopping the home favourite and bringing back the title, doing what others, such as Hidenori Otake and Akio Shibata, were unable to do.
It's a compelling match up of styles and a really good match up on paper, we just hope it doesn't end up having some sort of controversy hanging over the result.
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.