April 2021 looks set to be an incredible month for fight fans, with a wonderful mix of high profile fights at the top level of the sport and bouts at the lower level, and featuring everything in between. It is a month that really should deliver great action week after week and it kicks off in great fashion this coming Saturday. That's in part due to a bout we've been looking forward to for a little over a year now. That's a match up between unified WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (23-7, 17), who also enters as the "interim" IBF champion.
The bout will see two of the best 122lb fighters clash in what is a genuine excellent match up, and it's one that should have fans from all over the globe tuning in. That's not just because of the match up it's self, which is genuinely brilliant, but because of what it means for the division in general. The winner will be in the mix for bouts against the likes of Luis Nery, Stephen Fulton, Ronnie Riose, Brandon Figueroa and Carlos Castro, among many, many others.
Of the two men the more impressive has been 26 year old Uzbek Akhmadaliev, known as "MJ". He is, after just 8 fights, a unified champion and was a former standout amateur who has set his sights high and raced away to the top, whilst becoming one of the main faces at the forefront of Uzbek boxing. He is a fighter who has looked to prove a point every step of the way during his boxing career and has already proven himself as a top level fighter. In just 8 bouts!
Before turning professional Akhmadaliev had reportedly had over 300 amateur bouts, winning the vast majority. He had won medals at the World Amateur Championships, Olympics, Asian Championships and World Youth Championships, and had been one of the standout fights on the amateur scene. He had, however, got a reputation for being the bridesmaid and not the bride, falling short in the business end of competitions. As a professional however he has used that amateur experience and the skills he learned in the unpaid ranks to challenge himself and make a name for himself.
In just 8 bouts Akhmadaliev has already beaten the likes of Isaaz Zarate, Carlos Carlson and most notably Daniel Roman, who he beat in January 2020 for the unified titles. He has proven he can box, punch, brawl, and fight at a high tempo for 12 rounds. He has proven more in just 8 bouts, adding up to a total of 40 professional rounds, than many fights do in a career. We'll admit we thought the step up to facing Roman was too soon, but he proved us wrong and it's going to be very hard to bet against him in the future given how he performed there.
Although he is hugely impressive there are still some questions to ask of Akhmadaliev. He has impressed with his ability to box or fight, and he has shown a good chin, great work rate and highly impressive stamina, though we do wonder what happens when he's forced to chase a bout, and it'll be interesting to see what happens when he's cut, or in genuine trouble. If we ever see him in real trouble. We also wonder what he's like against a big puncher, and Iwasa does have power, as well as what he's like against a dangerous south, with his previous southpaw opponents being relatively limited. So far however he has impressed fight after fight and shown the ambition and drive that has already made us huge fans of his.
Ryosuke Iwasa is a 31 year old veteran of the professional ranks, with 30 professional bouts to his name, and over 60 amateur bouts. He is already a former world champion and a man who was long tipped to be a star in Japan, though has failed to reach the heights expected of him when he turned professional. Despite not being the fighter many hoped he would be he has managed a very respectable career and is certainly not a fighter who has failed in the sport. He has, however, been inconsistent. When he's on point he looks fantastic, but there are a number of underwhelming performance during his career as well.
For Japanese fans Iwasa made his name, originally, on the amateur stage where he went 60-6 (42) and picked up the High School Triple crown. This saw him turning professional with high expectations on his shoulders. Under the guidance of former world champion Celes Kobayashi he was moved quickly and at the end of 2010 he had secured a Japanese title fight as part of the Champion Carnival, by winning the Strongest Korakuen and becoming the MVP. Sadly for him his Japanese title fight, in 2011, came against a then rising Shinsuke Yamanaka, with Iwasa losing a 10th round TKO to Yamanaka in a sensational bout. Aged 21 at the time that was a learning experience and he would reel off a string of wins, taking the Japanese and OPBF titles before getting his first world title fight, and losing in 6 rounds, in England, to Lee Haksins in 2016.
The loss to Haskins was Iwasa final bout at Bantamweight before moving up in weight, and finding his groove once again. Just over 2 years after the defeat to Haskins we saw Iwasa have his career defining win, as he battered Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title. It was a red hot performance from Iwasa who looked sensational. Sadly though he failed to build on that win, scoring an underwhelming decision to retain his title against Ernesto Saulong and failing to really get to grips with TJ Doheny, who dethroned him in 2018. Since his title loss Iwasa has looked good, beating Cesar Juarez by technical decision and then dismantling former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales in 2019, to win the IBF "interim" title.
In the ring Iwasa really does blow hot and cold, and he always has. He looked poor in his second fight, Edgar Allende, and again later in his career against Richard Pumicpic, Ernesto Saulong and TJ Doheny. When he's looked good however, he has looked sensational, and we saw that against Oguni and Tapales. In the ring he's a southpaws who fights as a boxer-puncher. His power is genuinely spiteful at this level, and technically he's very solid. Sadly though he often fights in a one paced fashion, struggles to go through the gears, and has struggled with southpaws through his career, with all 3 losses coming to lefties.
Of the two men we would suggest that Iwasa is the biggest puncher, at least a single punch basis, he's also the taller, longer man and if he can establish his jab he does have a chance of getting on top of the bout early on. His team have stated their game plan is to stop Akhamadliev from getting into his rhythm and we suspect that is the key to beating the Uzbek.
Sadly for Iwasa however he is the less versatile of the two fighters. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, but he's not the most creative fighter, he's not a great inside fighter and he's got slow feet. They are all things that Akhmadaliev will use against him. The Uzbek is a much, much more rounded in ring competitor. That is, we suspect, going to be the difference making.
We suspect Iwasa will come out sharp, looking to land clean straight shots and getting his range, but as the rounds go on Akhmadaliev will close the distance, get inside and begin to grind away at Iwasa. The difference in speed will be key and by the end of round 12 Akhmadaliev will have done more than enough to deserve the decision.
We expect the champion to retain, but he will have to work for it, and this will not be an easy day at the office for the talented Uzbek.
Prediction - Akhmadaliev UD12
December 7th is a huge day for boxing, one of the biggest and most significant days of the year so far. We have huge shows in Saudi Arabia and New York, and other shows of note in Tokyo and Quebec, in what will be a fantastic day for fight fans. One of the many bouts of note for us is an IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight world title fight which will pit two former Asian world champions against each other in a genuinely fantastic match up. In fact despite a lot of bigger bouts taking place through the day, this might be the best of the bouts taking place.
In one corner will be former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16) whilst his opponent will be former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16). On paper this has the hall marks of something very, very special. Not only are both fighters proven at world level, but stylistically they should make for an action packed fight with styles that should gel perfect.
The 27 year old Tapales, from the Philippines, is an aggressive, come forward fighter who fights out of the southpaw stance. Despite only being 5'4" he's proven to be a strong an awkward fighter to catch clean, and he also boasts a very misleading KO record. On paper he has a sub 50% stoppage rate, but that is due to the early part of his career. At one point he was 10-1 (2) at later on he was 26-2 (9). Since then he has gone 7-0 (7) and scored his 3 biggest wins, stopping Shohei Omori, twice, and Pungluang Sor Singyu.
Although Tapales isn't a huge name in the sport he is one the true dark horses, even in a division full of dark horses like the current Super Bantamweight division. He's a fighter who applies smart pressure, counters well and whilst he doesn't set an amazing work rate, he's certainly not late. As well being an under-rated puncher he is also incredibly tough, and the we he beat Pungluang, picking him self up after 2 knockdowns to win, shows his will to win. Technically he is flawed, rough around the edges, and sometimes a bit wild, but given his power and toughness he does make the wildness work for him.
Aged 29 Iwasa has been groomed for success since turning professional back in 2008, following a solid amateur career. In his 8th fight he secured himself a Japanese Bantamweight title fight at the following year's Champion Carnival, and although he lost in that title fight he impressed with an ultra-competitive bout against Shinsuke Yamanaka. By the end of 2011 he was the Japanese national champion and would become an OPBF Bantamweight champion in December 2013. Sadly Iwasa would come up short in a 2015 world title fight, to Lee Haskins, but a move up in weight rejuvenated his career.
In 2017 Iwasa finally won a big one, stopping Yukinori Oguni to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight in what was, by far, the best performance of his career so far. Sadly following was a great win over Oguni Iwasa would disappoint, winning with a clear but disappointing performance against Ernesto Saulong. The disappointing performance with Saulong was followed by Iwasa losing the IBF title to TJ Doheny. Thankfully Iwasa managed to bounce back with a win on his US debut against Cesar Juarez, in a bout that promised a lot but was overlooked by broadcasters who failed to show the fight.
At his best, Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw boxer-puncher. Sadly though he has never looked good against fellow southpaws, with 2 of his 3 losses coming to pure southpaws, and the other coming to a switch hitter who is predominantly a southpaw boxer. That is a huge issue here against a hard hitting southpaw like Tapales, and we think that will likely be the key here.
We've seen Tapales beat southpaws, and we've seen Iwasa lose to southpaws. We think that Iwasa's weakness to southpaws will be shown up again here, and Tapales will take out Iwasa in the second half of the fight.
Prediction - TKO11 Tapales
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.