By Joe Koizumi
IBF junior featherweight champ, Japanese southpaw Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16 KOs), making his first defense since dethroning compatriot Yukinori Oguni last year, showed a fine form in his public workout before press people on Wednesday at Celes Gym in Kashiwa city, Japan.
Iwasa, 28, will put his belt on the line against #13 ranked Filipino Ernesto Saulong (21-2-1, 8 KOs) beneath the WBC 118-pound rematch of Luis Nery and Shinsuke Yamanaka at Ryogoku Sumo Arena on this coming March 1.
It may be ironic that Iwasa will appear beneath his grudge rival Yamanaka’s probably final appearance since they once encountered with the Japanese national bantam belt at stake with Yamanaka emerging victorious by a dramatic tenth and final round stoppage in 2011.
Since then their fate drastically differed with Yamanaka acquiring the WBC throne to keep it on twelve occasions to his credit, while Iwasa succumbing to Lee Haskins in an interim IBF 118-pound title go in UK in 2015 and eventually gaining the IBF 122-pound crown via sixth round stoppage of Oguni last September. Seven years have passed since their fateful first encounter, and Yamanaka is coming to an end of his brilliant career, while Iwasa is making his initial defense.
The elongated southpaw expressed his thanks to his manager Shoji “Celes” Kobayashi, former WBA 115-pound ruler, who has cultivated Ryosuke since his childhood and led him to the world championship, overcoming various hardships together. “I’ll faithfully respect my manager’s guidance and follow his footstep.” Iwasa is favored to retain his newly acquired belt against the less known Filipino challenger next week.