Last year we saw the IBF Super Bantamweight end up in the hands of Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2, 16) [岩佐 亮佑], following his sensational performance against Yukinori Oguni. Today he made his first defense of the title, taking on little known Filipino challenger Ernesto Saulong (21-3-1, 8), and taking a wide decision over the gutsy visitor.
Sadly for Iwasa the performance was far from the quality that he showed against Oguni, and was more of a disappointing outing, despite retaining his title with relative ease.
The bout started with Iwasa seemingly fighting well within himself, he was controlling the distance and tempo of the bout at range, finding a home for his powerful left hand and looking very relaxed. A little bit too relaxed at times and it seemed like he really should have been looking to move through the gears, the fans something to remember and continue to show what he can do in the ring.
After 3 rounds Iwasa looked in total control, though Saulong did manage to have some moments in round 4, as he began to utilise a tactic that Richard Pumicpic had also used against Iwasa. That was to cut the distance, swarm Iwasa and force him to fight up close, something Iwasa doesn't ever look comfortable doing. It was however a tactic that Saulong didn't manage to have much consistency with an Iwasa resumed total control the following round.
It wasn't until round 9 that you could make any sort of a case for Saulong to have won another round, as he upped the pace, showed a real lack of respect to Iwasa at last and applied the pressure. The challenger built on that success in the following round and had his best round as he seemed to feel some new found confidence. That confidence was however crushed in round 11 as Saulong was staggered, hurt and rocked back into his shell with Iwasa coming close to scoring a knockdown. It was the only real time that Saulong was hurt and the only time that Iwasa ever looked like he was hunting a stoppage.
To his credit Saulong saw out the storm and came back at Iwasa in the final round, but took some big shots to end the bout with Iwasa never looking in trouble.
It was gutsy effort at times from the challenger, but he really wasn't competitive, and that was reflective on the score cards which read 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 for Iwasa. The champion retained his title, but lost some of his shine with was a very forgettable win for the hard hitting southpaw,
World Title Results
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