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.
World Title Results
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