Over the last few year's fans around the world of boxing have been talking about Naoya Inoue, the Monster, the destroyer of the lower weights. Today fans around the globe were introduced to another Inoue, the tough and gutsy Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) [井上 岳志] who challenged WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (32-0, 26), and gave the Mexican a much, much tougher bout than expected.
Before the fight Munguia was widely available as a 1/50 favourite. He was 1/8 to win by stoppage. It was seen by many as a foregone conclusion, that the new Mexican star would destroy the little known Japanese fighter. Most of that was down to the fact fans didn't know of Inoue, the man who had unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles in a huge 2017, and the fact that Munguia had impressed in recent bouts.
Inoue had been confident all week, he hadn't travelled to be a showcase for Munguia, but instead to become the next champion from the Land of the Rising Sun. That showed through fight week. He was there to win.
From the opening bell we learned that Inoue wasn't just talk, as he quickly took the fight to Munguia, pressing the much bigger Mexican fighter, getting in his face and fighting to his gameplan. The plan, as Inoue had told the Japanese media, was to press his head on Munguia's chest and work on the inside. And that's what he did, swarming over Munguia from the opening moments. The Mexican seemed surprised and although he landed some big shots of his own it was clear that we weren't seeing the marauding, destructive Munguia.
The first few rounds were really interesting. Inoue refused to let Munguia have much room to work. When the champion did get room he looked good, landing good shots, but he rarely maintained a gap, with Inoue cleverly rushing in, pushing Munguia back and seemingly exposing how bad Munguia is on the back foot. The problem however was that Inoue lacked the power to ever hurt Munguia, and even lacked in terms of accuracy, but he was certainly giving thew champion a lot to think about.
In round 3 a "Mehico" chant emerged, it was clear that the fans were well behind the champion, though Inoue continued to press the fight, and it seemed like Munguia was more and more focused on boxing an American style. Using his feet, creating space, and working off the jab at range. It wasn't what anyone was really used to seeing from the champion, who typically had an aggressive style. The clean blows were starting to come more frequently from Munguia, though he was still finding himself backded up and handcuffed by the pressure through the rounds. To his credit, when he did create space he was working well, and when he was on the ropes he was mostly defending well, but it did seem like he was needing to work harder than anticipated for his success.
Round 5 was where Munguia began to have more success. He began to let more shots go, trying to get Inoue's respect. There was some good hooks from Munguia in this round and a fantastic right late on, though he still struggled to get Inoue to back off. It was clear that either, Inoue was insanely tough or Munguia's much vaunted power wasn't as potent as previous thought.
Through the middle rounds Munguia began to box smarter. He was moving, a lot, wasting movement at times, but blunting the pressure of Inoue, making room for shots and digging in good body shots. He was also picking up his work rate on the inside, as he began to tighten his grip a bit. He was still being pushed about, but boxed well off the back foot, and began to have big finishes to rounds. That was especially clear in rounds 8, 9 and 10, all of which seemed to see Munguia letting big shots go late, to leave a lasting memory in the eyes of the judges.
Despite essentially stealing round 10, which had been a strong Inoue round until the final 30 seconds, and hurting the challenger Munguia again found himself under pressure from Inoue in round 11 as the challenger showed himself to be fearless. The champion seemed to want to make a statement however, and landed some of his best shots in the final round, Inoue did take one incredibly cleanly, taking a rare moment to compose himself before coming forward as the two unloaded big shots to finish.
The bout seemed like a clear, but close, Munguia win. The champion had been the better boxer, the more accurate and the bigger puncher. He had clearly been out worked in some rounds, especially early on, and hadn't looked like the star in the making that he has looked in other recent recent fights. It was however surprising, and disappointing, to hear the score cards read out as 120-108, twice, and 119-109. Those didn't reflect the bout at all and looked pre-filled. The bout was competitive, there was clear rounds that Inoue won early on, so to get only 1 round, from 1 judge, is mystifying.
Thankfully, for Inoue and his career, his performance here will clearly have won him some new fans. He may have lost, but certainly improved his profile with a very gutsy and impressive performance. As fir Munguia, it seems like this performance may well see him and his team not rush into a fight with Jarrett Hurd, who would likely be an even bigger nightmare than Inoue was.
Hopefully the challenger gets another big fight in the near future following this performance.
Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
To end the a busy Saturday of boxing we saw WBA "regular" Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) easily defend the title for the first time, as he defeated American Adrien Broner (33-4-1-1, 24) in a lopsided decision.
From the opening round Pacquiao looked the sharper, quicker, more intense fighter. Despite that he did only look a shadow of the fighter he once was. There was very little output from Broner, who did his usual thing of throwing little and tried to look flashy with what he did throw. The difference in activity and output saw Pacquiao taking the first 3 rounds, with his jab being the key to his success.
Broner would show glimpses of what he can do in round 4, landing a number of good right hands, countering well and showing that he could time Pacquiao. It was a round that really showed what the American was capable of, though was a short lived and brief show of what he could do. In round 5 Pacquiao settled himself again, and by the end of the round Broner was looking like a clown as he missed with some wild shots at the bell.
Despite landing body shots through the first 5 round, the number of them picked up in round 6 as Pacquiao began to really bang the body of Broner. The American had done well in avoiding left hands up top, but struggled to avoid them to the body in what was the start of really clear Pacquiao dominance. The Filipino would hurt Broner in round 7, with a left hand, and show glimpses of his incredible combinations as he tried to take the American out soon afterwards. Broner, managed to hold, spoil and survive, but was clearly feeling the shots.
Body shots continued to land from Pacquiao in round 8, though it was in round 9, when Pacquiao landed a brilliant left hand. Once again Broner's toughness and defenses saw survive the storm, but it was clear he had been hurt, again.
As the fight went into the championship rounds it was clear Broner needed to find something else. In fairness to him he did have a good 10th round, making things more competitive as he began to box off his jab and landed one or two eye catching right hands. It was one of his most productive rounds, and arguably one of the few you could give to him.
Despite being competitive in round 10 Broner essentially did nothing in the final 2 rounds, once again going back into a defensive shell and trying to avoid a fight, rather than do what was needed to turn things around.
By the final bell there was no real question as to who won, despite Broner celebrating and being caught on camera stating that he had out boxed Pacquiao, and the judges cards were never in question. All 3 scored the bout to Pacquiao, with scores of 117-111 and 116-112, twice. The only thing surprising about the scores were how close they were, and it seemed like the judges gave Broner a sympathy round or 2.
After the bout Pacquiao stated he'd like to face Mayweather, if Mayweather is returning to boxing. That bout has been rumoured for a while and would be a smart decision for both men, as it would be a financially lucrative contest that would keep both men away from the young lions in the division. Talking about those young lions, none of them would be worried what either Pacquiao or Broner has to offer, and in fairness there is clearly bigger fish out there bigger fish to fry for the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
Just moments ago fight fans around the globe saw Irish-Australian TJ Doheny (21-0, 15) score his first defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, as he stopped over-matched Japanese challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-4-1, 6) in the 11th round.
Takahashi, a huge under-dog, looked outclassed from the opening moments as Doheny landed sharp shots, moved around the ring well, and found a home for his southpaw left hand, to both head and body. Takahashi was coming forward but his limitations were clear and he was always struggling to get close, never mind actually landing anything of note.
In round 2 the fighters clashed heads, with both being cut on the bridge of the nose, despite the cuts Doheny continued to control the action, dropping Takahashi the following round.
As the fight went on Doheny seemed to slow down a touch, picking his shots a little bit more whilst Takahashi began to ramp up his pressure. That pressure wasn't completely effective, due to Takahashi's technical flaws, inaccuracy, poor footwork and limited technique, but he did have moments and was forcing Doheny to fight at a higher pace than he would have wanted.
The second half of the fight saw Takahashi's pressure become more and more intense, and he arguably took a round or two as Doheny seemed to take his foot off the gas just a touch. It was never as if Takahashi was coming close to winning the fight, but just doing enough to perhaps sneak a round or two.
Sadly for Takahashi Doheny began to move back through the gears as we went into the late rounds, landing some sickening body shots. Those shots began to take a toll and although Takahashi continued to come forward he did look like he has visibly slowed a touch.
In round 11 Doheny managed to rock Takahashi and a follow up forced the referee to step in. It was a strange stoppage, but one that not many will really complain too much with given the noncompetitive nature of the fight. Doheny was in a huge lead going into the round, and there seemed to be no chance of Takahashi landing anything big enough to turn things around, so the stoppage certainly didn't feel like it was robbing the fans, or challenger of anything.
Following the win Doheny was joined in the ring by WBA champion Danny Roman, and they spoke about a unification bout. That's looking likely to take place later this year, though it's possible that both may have to fight a mandatory defense before a unification bout.
For Takahashi this was his biggest fight by far, and it's fair to say whilst he came up short he did put up a brave and gritty effort. He'll be unlikely to get another fight at this level, but he will fit well in the mix at Oriental level when he gets back in the ring.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.