By: Scott Graveson
Earlier this week Japanese promotional outfit Celes Gym took to their blog to announce the US debut of their touted fighter Ryosuke Iwasa (22-2, 14). The release from Celes announced that their man would be returning to the ring on November 19th to face Luis Rosa (22-0-0-2, 10) in an IBF Super Bantamweight title eliminator. The bout, which was later confirmed by American sources, will take place in New York and see the winner take a huge step towards facing the fearsome Jonathan Guzman in 2017.
With that bout now confirmed it seems the ideal time to help make fight fans aware of “Eagle Eye” Iwasa, who he is, and what he’s going to bring to the US in November.
Iwasa was born on December 26th 1989 in Kashiwa, a city in Chiba. He took to boxing at a young age and was a star of the Japanese high school circuit as an amateur, becoming a rare triple crown winner for the Narashino City High School. As an amateur he claimed a 66-6 (42) record and was very highly touted when he made professional his debut at the prodigious age of 18.
Like many top Japanese amateur fighters he began his career as a “B License” fighter, allowing him to fight in 6 rounders straight away. On his debut he fought in such a bout, stopping the then 6-2-1 Shinya Takahashi in the 5th round on August 2nd 2008. He was taken the distance in his second bout, being pushed hard by Edgar Allende, but pulled out the decision win. The card also featured two world title bouts and a then 4-0 Carlos Cuadras in a supporting role.
Iwasa’s prodigious talent saw him race into 8 round bouts and in 2010 he entered the “Strongest Korakuen” tournament. The tournament, which has changed in recent years, was a tournament to decide the mandatory challengers for various Japanese national titles. In his semi-final bout Iwasa was supposed to face Yukinori Hisanaga in June 2010, though Hisanaga failed to make weight for the bout. As a result of Hisanaga’s weight issues Iwasa progressed straight onto the final where he faced Kinshiro Usui, a former Japanese Bantamweight title challenger. That bout saw Iwasa stop Usui in 4 rounds, giving Usui his only stoppage defeat to date with Usui now having 30 bouts to his name. The win over Usui saw Iwasa become the “Strongest Korakuen” and as a result the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Bantamweight title in 2011.
Unfortunately for him that resulted in a bout against the then relatively unknown Shinsuke Yamanaka. The bout saw Iwasa make a great start to the bout, rocking Yamanaka several times and almost forcing the champion down in the early rounds. Unfortunately, Iwasa would later come undone and suffer a pretty brutal stoppage in round 10, with Yamanaka teeing off until the referee saved Iwasa with about 90 seconds of the bout remaining.
Despite the loss to Yamanaka, who would subsequently become the man we know today and the star of the division, there wasn’t much damage done to Iwasa’s career with many feeling he came out of the bout with an improved standing, despite the loss.
Iwasa returned to the ring just 5 months after the Yamanaka bout and stopped Indonesian Rasmanudin, when a win over the “Lost Boy” actually meant something on the Oriental scene. That was followed with a bout against the then Japanese based Filipino Jerope Mercado for the vacant Japanese Bantamweight title. This time around Iwasa would claim the title, out boxing Mercado over 10 rounds to claim the belt. Iwasa’s amazing title win came only 8 months after the loss to Yamanaka.
Iwasa’s reign as champion was a short one, with him only defending the title twice, stopping the tough Yuki Murai in a single round and stopping future 2-time Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda in the 7th round. The reign ended when Iwasa vacated the title with the intent of moving up through the ranks.
Iwasa’s first bout after he gave up the Japanese title saw him beat former world title challenger David De La Mora with a 10 round shut out, before out pointing Mark John Yap and Jecker Buhawe as he moved towards an OPBF title fight. That OPBF title fight would later come in December 2013 and ended with Iwasa forcing a 5th round TKO against Hiroki Shiino. Incidentally the bout with Shiino came on the non-TV portion a card featuring Naoya Inoue, Ryota Murata and Akira Yaegashi.
Iwasa would defend the title once, putting in a rather poor performance against Richard Pumicpic, before scoring a couple of stay busy wins as he awaited another world title fight. That title fight eventually came in June 2015 when he travelled to England to face Lee Haskins for the IBF “interim” title, as champion in recess Randy Caballero recovered from an injury. Sadly for Iwasa he was out boxed, and then stopped by Haskins who had a style that made the Japanese fighter look very uncomfortable. Although Iwasa was game for whateve style Haskins brought him, he was wiped out by a left hand in round 6 and stopped on his feet soon afterwards.
Immediately after the loss to Haskins we saw Iwasa ditch the Bantamweight division and move up to Super Bantamweight. Since leaving the Bantamweight division Iwasa has gone 3-0 (2) scoring stoppage wins over Dennis Tubieron and Patomsith Pathompothong. It seems the move up in weight has helped Iwasa who looked a lot smoother against Tubieron than he had against Haskins, and showed a lot of focus on body shots.
Although a bit one paced, and relatively basic in much of what he does, Iwasa is heavy handed, tough and looks like a fighter who is still learning a lot of new things, despite being an 8 year veteran of the professional ring. He has developed under the guidance of former WBA Super Flyweight champion Celes Kobayashi, who beat Leo Gamez for the title in 2001.
Despite being touted as a future champion very early in his career, Iwasa’s profile has basically been limited to Tokyo, where he has fought all but one of his 24 bouts. Although many Japanese fighters do tend to make their name in Tokyo or Osaka, few fight almost entirely at the Korakuen Hall, where Iwasa has had 22 bouts so far.
Outside of the ring Iwasa hasn’t tried to hide his love of fast cars, often appearing at car shows in Japan. He’s also someone who frequently attends boxing events. In the boxing world he is known to be close with both Shingo Wake and Keita Obara, and the three were recently pictured together at the September 16th show in Osaka, with Mr Kobayashi as well. His friendship with Wake lead to the two taking part in a public spar at the Korakuen Hall in 2014 as part of a special fan event.
Whether he can beat Rosa in November is yet to be seen, however he will go there looking to take the unbeaten record of of the Puerto Rican and we could end up with a really fan friendly bout when the two get in the ring together.