Japanese star Ryosuke Iwasa heads to Bristol this week ahead of his June 13 battle with Lee Haskins for the IBF interim world bantamweight championship and is determined to return to the Land of the Rising Sun with the belt around his waist.
The 25-year-old southpaw has long been considered one of Japan’s standout boxing talents and his fight with Haskins marks the first time he will have fought for a version of the world title. It is, therefore, a significant step-up in class – and one he’s more than ready for.
“There is no doubt this is the biggest fight of my career,” said Iwasa, 19-1 (12 KOs). “I have watched a few of Haskins’ videos – the fight with Stephane Jamoye and a few others – and my first impression was that his style reminded me of ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed. He’s a very difficult fighter to figure out. His awkward and tricky style is something that has made him who he is.
“(Shinsuke) Yamanaka is the best opponent I have faced so far in my career, but I’m expecting Haskins to be better, stronger and tougher than him. I have improved so much since then, though. The Yamanaka fight was four years ago for a domestic title. Now I’m fighting at the world-class level.
“Haskins gets careless at times, but I expect him to be fully focused on June 13. My speed and sense of distance will be the difference, though.”
Included on Iwasa’s 20-fight record are impressive wins over David De La Mora and Hiroki Shiino to lift the OPBF bantamweight title. He was formerly the Japanese bantamweight champion and is currently ranked at number three in the world according to the IBF.
Nevertheless, this trip to England represents the first time Iwasa will have fought outside his native Japan and that, combined with Haskins’ all-round awkwardness, figures to present a problem or two on June 13.
“It is an honour for me to be fighting in Bristol,” said Iwasa. “It doesn’t bother me that much that the fight is in his hometown. Once we’re both in the ring, it’s the same anywhere in the world. It’s our job to give the fans a good performance and put on an exciting show. I will show the fans in Bristol a beautiful style of boxing.
“I know that British people are big sports fans. I am expecting a big crowd cheering for Haskins, but hope for respect and fair support as well.
“I have great respect for Haskins. He is not my enemy and neither are his fans. This fight is about two world-class athletes both trying to win a prestigious title. I know he has been waiting a long time for this opportunity, but so have I. This will be the toughest and the most exciting fight for both of us, and the better man on the night will walk away with the belt around his waist.
“I trust the judges to come up with a fair decision if the fight goes twelve rounds, but I won’t be fighting for a decision. I don’t think Haskins will be, either.”
*** Lee Haskins and Ryosuke Iwasa fight for the vacant IBF Interim World Bantamweight Title and Bob Ajisafe and Daniel Wanyonyi fight for the vacant Commonwealth light-heavyweight title on June 13 at Bristol’s Action Indoor Sports Arena. For tickets, please contact the Ticketline Box Office on 0844 888 4402 or Sanigar Events on 0117 949 6699 ***