In recent years the Japanese boxing scene has been on fire, and in part that is due to the rise of a number of sensational prospects who have been moved incredibly quickly through the ranks. Today's closet classic features one of those men in a bout that helped put him on the map and saw him take on a fellow future world champion. Although not a war, as such, the bout was still something very special, with a high pace, a lot of action, and incredible skills on show.
Naoya Inoue (3-0, 3) v Ryoichi Taguchi (18-1-1, 8)
Coming in to the bout Naoya Inoue wasn't the boxing star he is today. He was a 20 year old prospect with a 3-0 record moving into his first title bout. Although tipped as a future world champion he was still a novice at this point, and his only win of note was his TKO victory over Yuki Sano, in what was essentially a Japanese title eliminator. Although he had schooled Sano, fighting much of the bout one-handed as he seemed to suffer a minor injury to his right hand, he still had questions to answer. Could he do the same against a world ranked Japanese champion? Was he being moved too quickly? Was he really as good as he and manager Hideyuki Ohashi believed?
Against Inoue was future unified Light Flyweight world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. Taguchi was a tough and hungry fighter with freakish height and reach for a Light Flyweight. Taguchi was the reigning Japanese Light Flyweight champion, he had 20 bouts of professional experience, he had never been stopped and at 26 years old he was a fully grown man. Having debuted in 2006 Taguchi's only loss up to this point had come to Masayoshi Segawa, in a razor thin decision, and the only other mark on his record was a split decision draw with Masayuki Kuroda, in a Japanese title fight. By this point he was a 7 year pro and looked to be heading towards a world title fight. Yes he was up against the hottest youngster in Japanese boxing, but he wasn't there to lose, he was there to beat the upstart, push his own career forward and retain the Japanese title.
From the opening round it was clear we were watching something a little bit special with both men looking incredibly fluid. This wasn't a typical domestic title bout between domestic level guys but instead it was a bout between two very talented fighters who were willing to come forward with technical aggression. It was high level, and aggressive chess from the first round. It was clear that although Taguchi was wary of Inoue's power he wasn't afraid of it, and was forced to take some solid shots before backing up the talented youngster.
The belief of Taguchi, and his willingness to take a shot to come forward saw him putting Inoue under pressure.
As the bout went on we continued to see a brilliantly high level of action. It seemed like Inoue was always a step ahead of Taguchi, but Taguchi was never looking like a man who was intimidated by the young upstart and continued to try and box his way into the bout. When that failed Taguchi then tried to rely on his experience to and physical maturity to try and tame the Monster. Inoue seemed determined to rip the liver out of Taguchi who's toughness shone through as the bout became a little one sided, but remained captivating. Could the youngster keep it up? Would the veteran find something to neutralise his sensational looking foe.
Whilst we know Inoue has been in bigger bouts than this, and even one or two better bouts than this, this is a genuine must watch and a great chance to see Inoue in with someone who could take his power, who came to win, and who wasn't overly fearful of the Monster. This is also a chance to see what a young, Light Flyweight Inoue looked like before he moved through the weights and became a star, and a chance to see the performance that arguably made Ryoichi Taguchi the fighter he later became.
Yes this isn't a global fight of the year contender, but this is still something every fan needs to see!
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features