I thought it was a little bit of a joke at first. I’ve waited all this time for a world title shot and then it just suddenly happens. When I was told we’d landed the fight with Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF interim world title, I questioned whether it was real or not. But then I realised it was real and I’m ecstatic. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
In all honesty, I was expecting to have to defend my European title at some point. That’s what I thought my next fight would be – a defence of that belt. I was fine with that as well. I’ve waited long enough for a world title shot. It didn’t bother me if I had to wait a bit longer.
Also, I definitely thought I’d have to go to Japan for the Iwasa fight. They’re big players out there and they’ve got the money to ensure all of his fights are at home. But, for some strange reason, they didn’t mind sending him over here and Mick Hennessy and Chris Sanigar were able to get it done. That was a massive bonus for me.
I’d never heard of Iwasa or looked him up in the past. It was only when I heard his name mentioned, and the fight was there in front of me, that I looked at a couple of clips of him in action. I didn’t look him up straight away, though. I just headed to the gym and got to work.
Jamie (Sanigar) was the one who eventually showed me a couple of clips of him and I just took a look and then went back to work. I leave all the watching of videos and research to my team because sometimes you can read too much into what you see and think your opponent is better than they actually are. You’re better off just worrying about yourself and making sure you are on form.
From what I did see, though, you could tell Iwasa’s going to be a very good fighter. He’s upright, he’s technically good and he does the basics very well. His one-two is good and he really likes his back-hand. That’s going to be a shot we’ll have to look out for on June 13.
All in all, Iwasa has to be the best guy I’ve boxed. That’s the way I’m approaching this fight. I’m training more than ever before, I’m more determined than I’ve ever been and I’m looking at this guy as the best opponent I’ve ever fought. I’m thinking he’s 100 times better than me, 100 times stronger than me and 100 times faster than me. So I’ve got to raise my game.
I’m a very different, awkward kind of fighter, though. I use lots of angles and lots of moves Iwasa probably won’t have seen before. I’ve got a style that’s hard to prepare for. I have a lot of sparring partners I’ve been sparring for a long time and they still can’t work me out.
I believe this unpredictability will hand me an advantage on the night, but we shall see. You never truly know how your style matches up with someone until you get in there and start the feeling-out process.
The thing is, at this level, you can’t expect an easy touch. You’re going to have to fight these top fighters. Also, this is a world title fight. You don’t get easy opponents in world title fights. Some people might have been lucky in my division in recent years, but good for them. We won’t mention any names.
*** Bristol’s Lee Haskins and Japanese star Ryosuke Iwasa contest the vacant IBF interim world bantamweight title on June 13 at the Action Indoor Sports Centre, Bristol, LIVE on Channel 5 ***