On July 6th we'll see the 19 year old Takuma take part in his first title bout as he takes on the very experienced Filipino fighter Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-5-3, 14), who despite his experience is only a youngster himself at 23 years old. The bout is potentially a break out contest for both men and the winner will almost certainly move towards a bigger bout later this year, whilst the loser will be forced to rebuild but will almost certainly come back stronger given their age.
For those who haven't seen him Takuma is very very different from his brother. Naoya, as we all know, is a Monster. Naoya trades not only on his speed and skills but also his incredible physical strength and his frightening power. As for Takuma his calling card is his speed, movement and accuracy. You won't see Takuma Inoue battering people with forceful shots thrown with the intention of breaking somebodies internal organs, instead you'll see Takuma circle his foe, punch on the move and accept winning bouts with wide decisions.
Unlike many novices Takuma hasn't been protected by his team. His father and trainer, Shingo Inoue, and manager, former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi, know they have a very talented fighter on their hands and they have already matched him with fighters like Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who he took on in his second bout, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, who he fought in his fourth bout. They have matched him hard and seen him pass his tests with flying colours, scarcely dropping a round so far.
Despite not being a big puncher Takuma is physically very strong and when forced to fight in the pocket he can do so with no real issue. He looks more natural boxing and moving, luring opponents onto his shots but he can take the fight to his foes where needed. What is really impressive however is his understanding of range, both offensively and defensively and his his footwork really is incredible for such a novice with lots of clever half half steps.
It's easy to wax lyrical about Takuma but of course he's not the only fighter in action here. Of course the half of the bout is Filipino fighter Geraldo who has both impressed us and disappointed up, sometimes in the same fight.
For many fans the only time they've seen the Filipino is his 2014 bout with Efrain Perez. Early on in that bout Geraldo looked like a potential star in the making. He was fast, sharp, accurate, elusive and threw some beautiful combinations whilst thoroughly out classing Perez. For 3 rounds Geraldo looked genuinely amazing and like a nailed on future world champion. But then things changed and for the subsequent 3 rounds he struggled, spoiled, looked tired, and looked like a different fighter who struggled to actually win the 6 round bout. Incidentally that bout was originally scheduled for 8 rounds and seemed to be changed on the fly, had it not been Geraldo may well have come undone as he looked like he was really struggling.
Geraldo has only fought once since the bout with Perez, losing a very wide decision to McJoe Arroyo in an IBF world title eliminator. That bout was in Puerto Rico last December and was a very wide defeat for the Filipino who seemingly got out boxed, out fought and totally controlled by the talented Puerto Rican prospect. Unfortunately for Geraldo that bout seemed to show that he was a long way removed from being “world class”
Whilst his last two bouts were his most high profile they aren't Geraldo's only bouts of note. He has suffered notable losses to Arthur Villanueva, who beat him via a close technical decision and Oleydong Sithsamerchai, losing a unanimous decision whilst noting wins over Jerwin Ancajas, a close decision, and Hirofumi Mukai, who he surprisingly stopped in 2 rounds in Japan. Interestingly he's well travelled with fights in Thailand, Japan, Macau and Puerto Rico, and holds a 2-2 record on the road.
On song and in form Geraldo is a very classy boxer-puncher. He's accurate, effective and can look sensational despite only really doing the basics. There's nothing overtly flashy about him and he's not awesomely heavy handed, but he does do a lot of things very well. The question marks about him though are his stamina, how he reacts when things are going against him and how he'll fair with a guy who really fights well on the move. Geraldo is certainly experienced but there are a lot of things that we aren't convinced of.
Although we know not to rule out a Geraldo win, especially considering what he did to Mukai, we're not sure he can derail the rise of Takuma Inoue who looks like a nailed on future world champion. Geraldo will be a fantastic test for the Japanese teenager but we really don't imagine he'll run Takuma close.
We're expecting a competitive start before Takuma runs away with the bout in the middle and later rounds to take a comfortable decision win. If he manages to look impressive en route to a win there is every chance Ohashi will put a lot of money on the table for Takuma to get a world title fighter later in the year, possibly even on the same show as Naoya's comeback bout. Interestingly if Geraldo wins he would almost certainly become a target for Naoya to face either later this year, or early next year.