I don’t envy the task facing Ryosuke Iwasa next month. Not only does he have to fight me, he also has to fight me in Bristol of all places. For a man that has never fought outside his native Japan before, this could prove to be one hell of a hurdle to overcome.
My guess is that he won’t find it easy at all. I don’t know what sort of reception the Bristolians will give him, but I can’t imagine it will be too welcoming. I can’t see him getting too many cheers. That’s all part of boxing, though. I’ve had the same treatment when I’ve boxed away.
My last fight, for example, took place in Monte Carlo. And though it wasn’t in my opponent’s hometown, it was still yet another fight away from home, in France against a Frenchman. I’m used to it now.
My opponent in Monte Carlo, Omar Lamiri, was very awkward and difficult at times. I hurt him early on in the first round and then he didn’t want to know too much. He was trying to spoil after that. Whenever I came in, he’d throw some crazy punches and hope to catch me. I wanted him to come at me and put on my back foot a little bit – so I could open him up and counterpunch him – but he just wouldn’t play my game. He wouldn’t come forward or throw too many shots. So, in the end, it was me who initiated the action and came forward. It got messy at times, but I thought it was still a good fight. I felt in control.
The good news is we’re able to hang on to that European title I won against Lamiri, and we’ll see what happens to it after this fight on June 13. If I was to somehow lose on June 13, I’d be able to keep the European and defend it at some point. But I’m really not contemplating that at this stage. All my focus is on beating Iwasa and getting that IBF world bantamweight title.
I always dreamed about becoming a world champion, before I even started boxing, and I always thought I’d fight for a major title. But then I got to a point in my pro career where I started thinking, maybe I’ll just never get one. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. People kept asking me when I was going to get a world title shot and it started to get a bit annoying after a while. I had to tell them I wasn’t really worried about the world title and that I was just concentrating on winning fights.
What I used to do was get a fight and then look past it to the next one. I’d always be thinking one step ahead – but not in a good way. It meant I wouldn’t be as focused or train as hard as I should have done. That’s when slip-ups happen and you go downhill a little bit. I know that now.
I’m just delighted this fight has come around and I’ve now got the opportunity. That’s all I ever wanted – the opportunity. Win or lose, I can say I have fulfilled my dreams of fighting for a version of the world title. I’ve won every major belt and, on June 13, I can say I’ve also fought for a world title. I’ve done everything I could possibly do in this game and I’m a very happy guy.
What makes me even happier is that I know this opportunity has come along at the right time for me. While I’ve always been a good fighter, I lacked concentration and discipline in training and there were a lot of vital things I didn’t do back in the early days. But now I’m older and wiser and I train a lot harder than I did in my twenties. That, in turn, makes me a much better fighter.
I’ve also got kids and responsibilities now, which force you to grow up and mature as a person. That has definitely helped improve me as a boxer. It’s kept me grounded. It’s made me realise the importance of staying in the gym and winning fights. It took a little while.
Saying that, though, straight after this fight on June 13 I’m booked to go to Magaluf for a stag-do. I guess I’m still a big kid at heart.
*** 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 ***