On January 14th we get the first Japanese show of 2021 and it comes with the first notable fight of the year in regards to Japanese boxing as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) at Korakuen Hall. The bout, on an Ohashi promoted show, is a mouth watering one pitting a huge punching champion against a talented, but much lighter punching, challenger. It has the hallmarks of being something hugely entertaining and one that isn’t an easy call at all, especially given all the sub stories leading into the bout.
Before we get on to the bout we need to consider a few things including the fact that neither of the men involved in this one fought at all in 2020. In fact neither man has been in the ring since November 2019. How that plays a part in this bout will be interesting to see as it has certainly given one fighter a chance to reassess where his career is going whilst it has completely slowed down the momentum of the other. We also need to consider the style of the two men and whether a year out of the ring will have allowed them to improve or mature in a way that could prove vital to this fight. Also is there a chance that one fighter has overlooked the other, or lacks the hunger they may have once had.
Coming into this bout the more well known of the two fighters, especially internationally, will be the challenger. The 25 year old Takuma Inoue is the younger brother of Naoya Inoue and a man who seemed groomed for success. The Ohashi Gym hopeful began his professional career way back in 2013, following a solid amateur career, and seemed to be heading to big things after early career wins over Tatsuya Fukuhara, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Nestor Daniel Narvaez. Sadly though he never managed to really kick on after those good wins, and rather than racing through the ranks he spent a long time competing at the upper echelons of the regional title scene. It was there he notched solid wins against Mark Anthony Geraldo, Rene Dacquel, Froilan Saludar, Kentaro Masuda and Mark John Yap. Solid wins, but they certainly did seem to keep him busy, rather than preparing him for world level. Sadly he was also hit by some injuries that slowed his rise, and cost him a 2016 bout with Marlon Tapales.
Although less well known Keita Kurihara is a legit threat himself and the 28 year old slugger is a man who might have losses on his record but can’t be overlooked. He faltered early in his career, losing 4 of his first 7 bouts, against some relatively poor opposition, as he struggled to find his in ring identity and his ideal weight. Since then however he has gone 12-1 (10) with his loss coming to world ranked fighter Hiroaki Teshigawara, in what was a thrilling battle. Although his career started slowly he has notched recent wins against the likes of Ryan Lumacad, Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warliot Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth, smashing his way into the world rankings. His competition might not have been on the same level as Inoue’s but he has faced progressively better fighters in recent years, rather than essentially biding time at one level in the sport.
Of course the last time we saw Inoue was on the under-card of the WBSS Bantamweight final, between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire, where Takuma put in a solid effort but lost a decision to WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. For much of that fight Inoue looked out gunned, over-powered, and out-muscled. Late on however the Japanese fighter mounted an excellent comeback and had Oubaali in all sorts of trouble in the championship rounds. Sadly we’ve not seen him in action at all since then, and that bout took place way back on November 7th 2019. Whilst that lengthy break could be an issue for a fighter, especially after a loss, we dare say the break could serve Inoue well. When he lost to Oubaali he was 23 and still to really find his man strength. Now however he’s 25, he’s coming into his physical prime, and potentially he’ll have naturally bulked up, becoming strong, more naturally powerful and more physically imposing. Had he been 25 when facing Oubaali there’s a feeling he may have had the physical maturity to handle Oubaali’s man strength just a bit better than he did. Also the lengthy break from the ring has given him time to heal up all the niggles and injuries he’s had whilst also working on his flaws, something he likely did in 2020 when sparring with Kosei Tanaka.
Of course Inoue wasn’t the only fighter out of the ring last year and Kurihara’s most recent bout came around 1 week after Inoue’s last bout. That was a 6th straight win for the hard hitting Kurihara, who put away Sukkasem in 2 rounds, whilst fighting just above the Bantamweight limit. That was an impressive performance and had followed on from a 35 second destruction of Warlito Parrenas. Coming in to 2020 Kurihara had real momentum, he won 6 bouts in a row, including 3 in 2018 and 2 in 2019, he seemed to be chugging along, climbing up the world rankings and really finding his stride with some very impressive performances. We do however need to wonder if the break will have a negative effect on him, slowing his rise, killing off the snowball like momentum he had been building. By the time the fight comes along he’ll be 28, still in his prime years, but he’ll feel like he wasted a year of his prime. This was a chance for him to mature, but instead a missed opportunity to build on his success.
In terms of styles Inoue is a boxer. He has a nice jab, nice movement and nice skills, though he can often find himself getting involved in a tougher than expected bout. He lacks real power, or rather he seems to lack the belief in his power, and can often find opponents walking him down when he struggles to get their respect. Despite that he has a good boxing brain, smart defensive skills and a very good team behind him. Sadly though he isn’t his brother. He’s not got Naoya’s fight changing power, or insane quickness. He can fight and he can box, but often he looks rather unsure of himself, and at times it even seems like he lacks the self belief needed to be a star. He has a lot of tools to like. He’s tough, he’s brave and he’s got very impressive stamina, but can be found backing up too easily at times, and that can see him losing rounds that he could win.
As for Kurihara he’s a lot less technical than Inoue. He’s more like a bulldozer than a boxer. He comes forward, has real belief in his power and knows that what he hits he can hurt. He’s not just heavy handed but he’s also big at the weight, standing at around 5’7”, with long levers, a wiry frame and naturally heavy hands. At times he can look a bit wild, a bit open, and a bit crude, though he has certainly worked on this in recent years, and he’s not the quickest fighter out there. However a fighter looking to take advantage of his flaws will need to be aware that if Kurihara catches you he’s going to hurt you, and he really is a serious puncher. He’s not impossible to hit, but trying to hit him and make him pay is a risk. A real, genuine, risk. When he has his man hurt he is also a very good finisher.
Coming into this we suspect Inoue will be the favourite, and we suspect many of those who haven’t seen Kurihara won’t be giving him a chance. In reality however Kurihara is a very, very live underdog. He has the size and power to really give Inoue nightmares and if Inoue hasn’t built his confidence, and can’t get Kurihara’s respect here then there is a very, very real chance that Kurihara takes either a very clear decision or even stops Inoue in the later rounds. If Inoue can get Kurihara’s respect, and if the 14 months out of the ring has helped him physically mature as expected, he should be able to outspeed, out box, and move Kurihara to a decision win.
We see this as a very competitive match up and we really wouldn’t be surprised at all by either man winning.
Prediction - Kurihara TKO9
The Inoue family appear set to have a dynasty in boxing, lead by 2-weight world champion Naoya Inoue and his father Shingo Inoue. Along with that father and son combination is Naoya's cousin Koki Inoue, who looks to be a fast rising star at 140lbs, and Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue (6-0, 1).
Takuma, the youngest of the Inoue clan, will be returning to action on May 8th to hunt his second defense of the OPBF Super Flyweight title as he faces little known Indonesian Afrizal Tamboresi (12-4, 6)*.
Coming in to this one very little footage is available of the Indonesian who debuted way back in 2004, as a 19 year old. Despite the lack of footage we do know that he has shown particularly good form outside of Indonesia. At home he is 12-2, including a win over former world title challenger Jack Siahaya, whilst on his travels he is 0-2 with losses to Brad Hore and Rocky Fuentes both last year.
Looking at the other details available on Tamboresi don't make him seem very impressive with his wins coming against very limited opposition, including Siahaya who was a terrible world title challenger and his losses have come when he has stepped up. Notably the footage that is available is less than exciting with Tamboresi looking offensively wild and defensively flawed, with his chin often being up in the air when he's punching.
Whilst little footage of Tamboresi is available we have a lot to go on when it comes to Inoue, who has had fights filmed from ringside by fans as well as having had several fights aired on TV, with Fuji TV showing them. Not only has he had a lot of footage but, for a man with 6 fights, he has faced some very notable competition including current Japanese Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara, former world title challengers Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Nestor Daniel Narvaez, and highly regarded contender Mark Anthony Geraldo.
Although lacking in the power of his older brother we have been impressed through Takuma's career with his pure boxing, speed, work rate and skills. At his best he's an “outside fight” but has shown an ability to mix it on the inside when he feels he needs to and although not a puncher, like his brother, he does hit hard enough to earn the respect of his opponents.
Whilst it can be difficult to predict a bout when one of the fighters has very little footage available we do know enough about Takuma to know that he's the favourite and that he should extend his winning run here with out too many issues. The big question is whether or not he'll be able to stop the Indonesian or not. We suspect he will probably in the middle rounds, but of course Tamboresi may have real grit and survive the distance en route to a clear loss.
*Tamboresi's record has also been mentioned as being 7-9 and 10-3 in the past, though as wel know Indonesian records are rarely complete.
It's fair to say that Naoya Inoue has been a revelation in his short career, and has managed to increase interest in both Asian boxing and the lower weights. Whilst Naoya is clearly a phenom he's not the only champion in the family as his younger brother, Takuma Inoue (5-0, 1) is also champion, holding the OPBF Super Flyweight title. December 29th Takuma looks to make the first defense of that title as he takes on Filipino Rene Dacquel (15-5-1, 5).
The 20 year old Inoue is trained by his father, like his brother and cousin Koki Inoue, and whilst he has got the same name and trainer as Naoya he has a very different style and very different attributes. He doesn't have Naoya's insane strength or power but he does have a sharp boxing brain, great movement and really knows how to use his speed to fight on the outside and neutralise opponents on the inside.
It's been his outside boxing that has seen Inoue quickly rise through the ranks whilst being matched very aggressively. Already in his career he has beaten two fighters who have fought for world titles, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, and the then world ranked Mark Anthony Geraldo. Whilst he has stopped any of those good fighters he has also scarcely lost more than a round or two in those bouts combined. If anything his major “issue” has been an ability to stop his foes, though he has never really looked trouble by anything they've thrown at him, despite a “knockdown” call against him when he fought Geraldo.
Physically Inoue looks like a very solid and strong Super Flyweight. At the moment though he doesn't seem to be a puncher, at all. He seems to acknowledge that himself and seems happier to use his skills rather than go into a brawl. It's a tactic that may not make him fans but will get him success and will help him refrain from taking unnecessary shots at this stage of his career.
Whilst Takuma is a man expected to move up to world level the same cannot be said of Dacquel, a Filipino fighter who has had success of his own, but isn't viewed as a super prospect or anything similar. In fact in fairness to Dacquel he'll likely be a man expected to become a stable on the Oriental title scene over the coming years.
The Filipino has been a professional since 2011. Early on he fought some limited opponents but in 2013, in his first visit to Japan, he stopped Yuki Nasu in a genuinely notable victory. Sadly any momentum of that win was killed almost immediately as he went 1-2-1 in his following 4 bouts. Recently however he has rebuilt with some wins, it's true that he's 3-2 in his last 5 but wins against Melvin Gumban, for the GAB title, Thembelani Nxoshe, in South Africa for the IBO International title, are outstanding results.
Footage of Dacquel is somewhat difficult to find though he's certainly an under-rated puncher, as seen in his stoppage of Nasu, and he's also a man who travels with confidence, as seen in his wins on the rode. He's defensively solid and smart, though he has been dropped a number of times through his career including a knockdown 2 fights ago against Jonas Sultan, who has since incidentally lost to Inoue's stablemate Go Onaga. The fact he has scored good wins, by decision, shows that there is plenty of skill there.
Whilst Dacquel is certainly coming into this bout as an under-rated fighter, and he is a very live under-dog, we do suspect that he will be left chasing shadows by Inoue's movement and speed. Dacquel isn't slow himself but we suspect that Inoue will have a speed advantage and will go on to claim a clear, but well fought, decision. Dacquel might show some frustration late but we don't see him really getting punished for those mistakes. As a result we're going with a wide decision win to the defending champion.
Takuma Inoue looks to prove himself in first title bout, but will he over-come Mark Anthony Geraldo?
At the end of last year there was one Japanese name on the lips of every self respecting boxing fan. Naoya Inoue. The Japanese youngster had burst into the conciousness of fans around the world following a stellar 2014 that saw him being regarded by many as the Fighter of the Year. What many didn't realise however that Naoya isn't the family's only boxing sensation and that his younger brother, Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) was also being groomed for stardom.
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.
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.