Haskins crushes Iwasa in six – becomes IBF champ

13th June 2015

Bristol’s Lee Haskins confounded the doubters this evening (June 13) in his hometown as he lifted the IBF interim world bantamweight championship with a stunning sixth round stoppage of Japanese star Ryosuke Iwasa.

The 31-year-old Haskins, seemingly the perennial nearly man of the division, finally gatecrashed world-class at the Action Indoor Sports Arena and did so in one of the very best fights of 2015.

In truth, the home favourite couldn’t have dreamed of a better start to the contest, as he capitalised on Iwasa’s early nerves – it was his first fight outside his naïve Japan – by viciously counterpunching him every time he made even the slightest mistake; where Iwasa was basic, hesitant and cautious, albeit while coming forward as the aggressor, Haskins was unpredictable, experimental and wild. He launched explosive counters from his left and right hands, thrown in the southpaw stance, and instantly looked the more powerful of the two diminutive bantamweights.

What’s more, the Bristol crowd, sensing their man was on the brink of something big, began to rise as one, making more and more noise, which only added to Iwasa’s early discomfort.

If Haskins swept the first three rounds with heavier artillery and movement, Iwasa started creeping back into the bout in round four. His steady approach, one aided by great balance and technical skills, conspired to make Haskins lunge and appear a little reckless and disorganised. Not only that, his right jab, a constant presence in the fight, landed with regularity on Haskins, and his right hook and left cross to the body also now came into play.

This sense that Iwasa was slowly gaining a foothold in the contest continued into round five, as he began to time Haskins and looked to work him out, but still he couldn’t avoid the heavy-handed Bristolian’s sharp counters on the retreat. Each time the punches, often screw shots Naseem Hamed would have watched with fondness, came from seemingly out of nowhere and stopped the Japanese challenger in his tracks. Often he smiled in riposte, but it was only ever rueful.

Indeed, as the sixth round opened up, so too did Haskins, and Iwasa’s resistance, which had allowed him to walk through many of Haskins’ early pile-drivers, suddenly betrayed him. A heavy Haskins left hand, thrown again in total surprise, staggered Iwasa at centre ring and shortly after he was dumped on the canvas on wobbly legs. The fight, in an instant, looked done and dusted.

Iwasa, to his credit, smiled off the knockdown, cursed himself for getting caught, and rose unsteadily to his feet. But it was all meaningless bravado at this stage. He was hurt, his faculties had deserted him and, upon the restart, it took Haskins next to no time to mercilessly compound Iwasa’s misery in the form of a flurry of hurtful shots. The fight was over. Stopped at 2.10 of the sixth round, Iwasa’s world title dream was in tatters – at least for now.

Haskins, meanwhile, finally located the thing that had been eluding him for the entirety of his 12-year professional boxing career. Winner of British, Commonwealth and European honours, he now finally has the right to call himself a world champion.

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