By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On September 11, Takuma Inoue squares off with Mark John Yap for an opportunity at the WBC Bantamweight World Championship.
Takuma Inoue (11-0 / 3 KOs) is the younger brother of 3 division world champion, Naoya Inoue. He started boxing from a very young age, after watching his brother competing, winning several high school championships. After showing much promise as an amateur, Takuma made his pro debut in 2013, when he was barely 18 years old. His first opponent was future WBO Minimumweight World Champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (12-3*). Even though he was outmatched, Inoue managed to pull off the upset and get the unanimous decision over the much more experienced boxer. That was his only fight in the light flyweight division.
He immediately jumped to flyweight, facing a worthy foe in Teeraphong Utaida (25-2*). Neither the fact that he moved up a weight class nor that he went from 6 to 8 rounds, scared the young Japanese prodigy. Once again, Takuma proved that he was a force to be reckoned with, going the distance and earning yet another victory. After knocking out a debuting Chalerm Kotala, Inoue outclassed world title contender Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2*) at super flyweight, despite that being only his fourth fight.
Takuma’s sound skills and technique, earned him his first championship when he fought Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-6*), for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title, in 2015. At the time, he was just 19 years old! Before the year was over, he successfully defended the belt against Rene Dacquel (15-5*). Inoue was named the “2015 Prospect of the Year” by the Ring magazine.
In 2016, Takuma beat Filipino stand out Froilan Saludar (23-1*) at the Sky Arena in Japan, before moving up to bantamweight. Saludar managed to drop him early in the opening round but Inoue returned the favor in the later rounds. The Japanese fighter was set to face Marlon Tapales (29-2*) for the WBO Bantamweight World Title on December of the same year. Unfortunately, bad luck stroke Inoue as he fractured his hand in training, thus withdrawing from his one and only world title fight to date.
Inoue made his return on August of 2017, in an epic war with 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-16*). Both men went back and forth for 10 rounds, exchanging shots and stealing the show. Takuma remained unbeaten and proved that he was back and stronger than ever. He went on to defeat former Japanese champion Kentaro Masuda (27-8*) and Indonesian journeyman Waldo Sabu (12-11*). Now back in the world title picture, his next fight could be the one he needs to finally compete for the big one. However, his opponent might have different plans.
Mark John Yap (29-12 / 14 KOs) is a veteran of the sport, who has been around for 11 years. Despite having lost 12 of his 41 fights, he has only been stopped twice, while his last recorded loss is back in 2014. He is currently on a 10 fight winning streak, with victories over the likes of Hiroyuki Kudaka as well as former interim world champion and 3-time world title contender, Juan Jose Landaeta.
His reign as OPBF Bantamweight champion has been a strong one. He dominated Takahiro Yamamoto (18-4*) back in 2016, showcasing tremendous power, as he had the then champion all bloodied up and on the run, before the referee had to step in and stop the match. Yap also knocked out Kentaro Masuda (27-7*) and Seizo Kono (19-8*) in 2017. His last fight was a unanimous decision win over Takafumi Nakajima (29-9*) this past April.
Both Takuma and Yap are great fighters but with completely different styles. Takuma is a technical boxer while Yap is a brawler with knockout power, something that his Japanese rival lacks. Inoue’s style though, has kept him undefeated in all of his 11 bouts thus far. On the other hand, the Filipino hasn’t been the same boxer he was 5 years ago. His game has vastly improved and he has tested himself against top level competition during his time in Japan, where his last 16 fights have taken place. It’s not easy to make a prediction here. Only one thing is for sure. It will be one hell of a fight !
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
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