Full Report: Iwasa-Saulong

By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda

IBF junior featherweight champ, Japanese southpaw Ryosuke Iwasa (25-2, 16 KOs), 121.75, successfully retained his belt when he pounded out a nearly shutout decision over #13 Filipino Ernesto Saulong (24-3-1, 8 KOs), 121.5, over twelve lopsided rounds on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan.

Katsuhiko Nakamura (Japan) tallied it 120-108, Ian Scott (New Zealand) and Greg Ortega (Philippines) had it 119-109 and 118-110, all in favor of the defending titlist. The referee was Kenny Chevalier (US).

The elongated southpaw Iwasa captured the belt by stopping compatriot Yukinori Oguni in the sixth session of a mandatory title bout in Osaka last September, and it was his first defense before many adherents in Tokyo. Iwasa kept jabbing all the way, steadily piling up points. The sixth saw Iwasa bounce off the face with his sharp southpaw left, but he couldn’t follow up to score a knockdown. Saulong, with his high guard, remained defensive until the seventh round.

Saulong, from Mindro, became positive in the eighth and tenth sessions, but his attacks weren’t enough to score points over the puzzling southpaw. The lefty champ accelerated his assault and hurt the challenger with southpaw lefts and right hooks in the eleventh and twelfth rounds.

Iwasa said, “Sorry not to be able to finish him, but I’ll improve next time.” The durable Filipino said, “Iwasa was difficult to hit, so I couldn’t catch up with him as planned.”

Iwasa’s next will be against unbeaten Aussie TJ Doheny (18-0, 13 KOs) in the IBF mandatory defense. He is also southpaw like Iwasa.

On the undercard, in a rematch of former world champs, Takahiro Ao (28-3-1-1ND, 12 KOs) defeated Gamaliel Diaz (40-19-3, 19 KOs), 136.75, by a unanimous nod (79-74, 77-74, 77-76) over eight. Ao sent the taller Mexican veteran sprawling to the deck with a southpaw left in the third. Ao lost his WBC 130-pound belt to Diaz on points back in 2015, and thus avenged his defeat in their revancha. It was his first appearance since he was stopped by Ray Beltran in the second round in quest of the vacant WBO 135-pound belt in Las Vegas in May 2015, but it was overturned to a No Decision since Beltran tested positive in a doping test. His hiatus was for two years and ten months, but Ao who made a successful comeback will go on fighting.

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