Just as it appeared that the momentum might be shifting against Lee Haskins on Saturday, he landed the biggest punch of his career, a hard left that dropped Ryosuke Iwasa to the canvas. Iwasa beat the count, but Haskins swarmed him, landing a brutal straight right and driving him into the ropes. The Japanese contender slumped defenselessly, forcing referee Phil Edwards to stop the action at 2:10 of Round 6.
As Dennis Hobson pointed out on Twitter, the big punch came just in time:
The win earned Haskins the interim IBF bantamweight championship.
Fighting in his home city of Bristol, England, Haskins got off to an outstanding start. For the first three rounds he looked sharp, consistently slipping the taller southpaw's jab and then countering with straight rights or left hooks.
In Round 2, Haskin buckled Iwasa's knees with a straight right at the two-minute mark. The Brit clearly carried each of the first three rounds.
But Iwasa appeared to make some adjustments prior to Round 4 and began to find the range for his straight left, landing several of them on Haskins throughout the frame. Round 5 was close and hard to score, with each man doing some decent work.
For the first two-thirds of Round 6, the momentum appeared to be shifting toward the Japanese fighter, as he landed a number of lead hooks and straight lefts.
But then, at just about the two-minute mark of the round, the unorthodox Haskins shifted momentarily into a southpaw stance and landed a sizzling left cross that sent Iwasa tumbling across the ring and to the canvas.
Iwasa gamely beat the count but was a vulnerable target back on his feet. An aggressive flurry from Haskins was enough to force the referee's hand and earn the belt.
It was an impressive signature win for a tough veteran who has had his share of ups and downs in his 12-year career. Haskins has been knocked out three times over the course of his career, although he is undefeated since 2012 and entered this fight as the European bantamweight champion.
Iwasa had previously lost only to undefeated WBA champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, the best 118-pound fighter on the planet right now.
As the IBF interim champion, Haskins' next opponent is likely to be IBF champion Randy Caballero, who has been out with an injury. Alberto Guevara, who was scheduled to face Caballero earlier this year, is another option.
It's the latest championship win in what is turning into an outstanding couple of years for British boxing. Boxing writer Terry Dooley's tweet reflected the domestic excitement in Great Britain:
Haskins joins super middleweight James DeGale, welterweight Kell Brook, featherweight Lee Selby and super bantamweight Carl Frampton as British fighters who have captured world titles within the past calendar year.