By Terence Dooley
Bristol’s Lee “Playboy” Haskins (118lbs) and Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa (117.25lbs) both vied for a world title for the first time when going for the vacant interim IBF World bantamweight title in an all-southpaw clash.
Haskins won the British and EBU titles en route to his world title challenge; his co-challenger’s only loss came against current WBC World titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka, a 10th-round TKO reverse in March 2011.
Channel 5 televised the contest; they warned viewers to watch out for scenes of “violence”—a bemusing disclaimer and something of a sleight on the sport of boxing from TV’s version of The Daily Mail.
Haskins cut a confident figure during his ring walk, the adulation of his townsfolk rolling over him in waves as he walked towards his title destiny. Yamanaka, 25, was in new territory, literally, in this his first foreign-soil engagement.
Always an awkward customer, Haskins, 31, tried to weave a web of confusion during a solid opener, but Iwasa stuck to his stick—popping the jab in a bid to time his opponent for bigger shots later in the fight.
The late, great Vernon Forrest credited the jab as the key weapon for defusing speed and punch picking, using it to great effect when twice beating “Sugar” Shane Mosley, but, despite some early promise, Iwasa failed to wield his right lead effectively and consistently.
It became a battle between Haskins’s unorthodox, mercurial raids and Iwasa’s solid, textbook and almost factory line technique—with the British boxer benefitting from the eye-catching nature of his shots.
Iwasa looked like he’d dug in for the night—bloodying the nose of Haskins—only to walk on to a huge left hand. Despite beating the count, Iwasa failed to respond when under pressure and referee Phil Edwards jumped in at 2:10 of the sixth round.
“It sounds good to me,” said Haskins, basking in the glow of being announced as a world champion. “I’ve really put the work in. I wasn’t going to let it slip out of my hands. I’ve been ready for this. That guy was a very good fighter, who has only been beaten by the best guy on the planet in the division—I’m ready to fight the best in the world.”
He added: “When I saw him go, I thought: 'I'm not letting him slip, I'm not letting up'.”
It was another big night for Chris Sanigar, Haskins’s manager, who recently watched his charge Lee Selby ascend to the world title ranks. He thanked Mick Hennessey, the show’s promoter, and said: “You have to have that belief, even though you’re in the provinces, but we’ve got two world champions and we’re flying. The Ingles have got the top gym in the country, and we’re close behind.”
“That was an incredible performance,” said Hennessy. “The world’s his oyster. (Jamie McDonnell) would be fantastic (next).”
“I’ve beaten him once before,” stated Haskins, referring to his eight-round decision win in Marxh 2008. “He’s a great fighter who has come on leaps and bounds—I’d box him, I’d box anybody.”
The new champion is now 32-3 (14). Iwasa goes home, and back to the drawing board, with a 19-2 (12) slate.
Leeds-based southpaw Bob "Lionheart" Ajisafe had won seven on the bounce going into tonight’s vacant Commonwealth light-heavyweight title fight with Daniel Wanyonyi, picking up the English and British titles en route. The 30-year-old’s last defeat came against Tony Bellew in 2010; he dropped the Liverpudlian in the fourth before losing a lopsided decision for the British belt.
Daniel Wanyonyi, his 26-year-old co-challenger, notched up a trio of wins following his six-round KO reverse to Willbeforce Shihepo in December 2013: Francis Bogere (TKO 6), Matamba Debatch Postolo and Maisha Samson (KO 2).
The Kenyan, though, was dropped and stopped in four by the newly minted Commonwealth champion, who motors to 16-2 (7). Wanyonyi is now 21-7-2 (17 early) and will be on the hunt for more titles as the year progresses.
Bristol’s Darren Hamilton once came to the ring wearing a top hat, but life’s been anything but the Ritz since the 36-year-old lost his British light-welterweight title to former footballer Curtis Woodhouse in February of last year.
The former titlist took part in an eight-threes against Georgia’s Mikheil Avakyan, only his second fight since the loss to Woodhouse—he returned with a six-threes win over Steven Bloyer in September.
Going in, the visitor was in a mini vein of form, winning his last two (TKO six over Alika Saatashvili and David Kereselidze respectively), but was taken out by Ghana’s lightweight prospect Richard Commey in four in February.
Times must be lean for the former British champion, who looked like he was boxing under a pay-if-you-punch contract throughout the early going. Despite his low output, Hamilton eased to a six-threes decision win to move to 16-3 (3). Avakyan, 23, drops to 29-20-4 (14).
Fledgling heavyweight Young Fury kicked off the Lee Haskins-Ryosuke Iwasa bill with a routine victory over Czech journeyman Jindrich Velecky at Bristol’s Whitchurch Sports Centre.
The 19-year-old, 6’ 3’’ Mancunian marched to 4-1 two early) with the win four-round decision win (40-37), which was shown live on Spike TV here in the U.K. Fury, the younger brother of heavyweight contender Tyson, registering a third successive victory since his sole loss against Henry Smith (L4) in September.
Velecky returns home with a 19-34 (18) record. The 40-year-old is winless since September 2012, a third-round retirement win over Miroslav Kvocka in Prague, and is unlikely to notch up a W before turning 41 next month.