Over the past few years the Super Bantamweight division has become one of the most interesting at elite level, with the likes of Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Stephen Fulton, Brandon Figueroa and Daniel Roman putting on some incredible performances in some great bouts. Outside of the elite level the division has also become a real hot bed of contenders all looking to break out and earn their shot at a world title. This has seen fighters like Marlon Tapales, Azat Hovhannisyan, Carlos Castro and Ra'eese Aleem all fight some of the other leading fighters in the division.
Two other fighters looking to move into title world title contention clash this coming Tuesday in Saitama as Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) and Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) face off, not just to move a step closer to a world title bout, but to also unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles at the weight, in what could be a genuinely thrilling 12 rounder.
Of the two fighters the more well known, especially internationally, is Takuma Inoue. The younger brother of Naoya Inoue who we have seen develop as a fighter since making his debut way back in 2013, aged 17. Although better known as the Monster's little brother, Takuma has had an impressive career of his own, winning the OPBF title at Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, as well as the WBC "interim" title, and holding notable wins against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Nestor Daniel Narvaes, Froilan Saludar, Hiroyuki Kudaka, Keita Kurihara and Shingo Wake. He might not be the Monster, but in regards to his own career, the 26 year old has had a genuinely very, very good one so far, and still has much of, if not all of, his prime years to come and we suspect he will become a fixture at world level as he continues to physically mature, and become a stronger, heavier handed fighter.
In the ring Takuma is very different to his brother, yet they both similarities. The key difference between them is that Takuma isn't blessed with Naoya's fighter changing power, he can't take opponents out with one shot and he rarely scores knockdowns. He is however, much like his brother, very technically schooled and an excellent boxer. He understands the sports, he gets the theory behind what he's supposed to do in the ring, and he fights to his own strengths. His timing is solid, his movement is impressive and his will to win is great. Despite lacking power he can take a shot, and he hits regularly enough and clean enough to get respect of fighters, with his recent wins over Kurihara and Wake both showing that his jab is heavy enough to keep fighters at bay, with his control of range and distance are excellent. His one loss, which came to Nordine Oubaali, showed he had grit, determination and real toughness, as he battered early on in that bout, but came close to stopping Oubaali in the later rounds, and that really showed his character and stamina, and that was despite the fact he was only 23 at the time. Despite losing that bout his reputation, in many ways, was actually enhanced.
Although Inoue is well known in the West the same can't be said for Gakuya Furuhashi, who has spent his entire career fighting on the Japanese domestic scene. In Japan however he is a popular fighter, with a sizable local following in Kanagawa and Tokyo. He began his career back in 2007, as a fresh faced 19 year old, and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2008 at Bantamweight. In the years that followed he had mixed success, sliding from 8-0 (1) to 13-5 (4), but kept improving and in 2015 got his first shot at a Japanese title, fighting to a draw with future world champion Yukinori Oguni. Sadly that set back was then followed by back to back losses as his career seemed to stumble before losing in a second title fight, this time to Yasutaka Ishimoto. Following that bout he was 28 and then had a 18-8-1 (8) record, had gone 1-3-1 in previous 5 and it seemed like his career was about over. Since then however he has put together the ring of his career, going 11-0-1, making his international debut in Vietnam and beating the likes of Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga whilst winning, and twice defending, the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Now, aged 34, he looks the best he has ever looked, and is fighting like a man who has promised himself that he'll retire when he loses again, and isn't in a rush to let that happen.
In the ring Furuhashi is very much a warrior type fighter, who wants to force the bout to be fought on the inside, setting a high tempo, and having a war. He's not the quickest, or the sharpest, or the most technically well schooled, but he's one of the most determined fighters out there and he sheer bloody minded a lot of the time. His work rate is amazing, his desire to come forward and have a fight is stunning and as we saw against Yusaku Kuga in their first bout, back in 2021 he can take some huge shots and shake them off to come forward. In a war he's a hard man to beat, and despite not being a massive puncher, his work rate and desire grinds opponents down. He is intense in the ring, and a nightmare to keep away from. Notably however he can also box, something he wanted to show last year when he faced Seigo Hanamori. Something that Hanamori didn't let Furuhashi show as he tried to out Furuhashi Furuhashi, and got stopped quickly for it in a thrilling 3 round war. Sadly at the age of 34, and with a lot of tough bouts on his ledger, it's hard to know what he has left in the tank, and whether winning the Japanese title last year is something that will mark the pinnacle of his career.
Style wise Furuhashi does have the tools to make life really tricky for Inoue, his aggression, work rate, desire and intense forward march is the style that can unsettle Inoue's ability to control range. Furuashi however doesn't have the quickest of feet, or the skills to cut the ring off against a mover. With that in mind we expect Inoue to use his feet a lot, box and move, make Furuhashi commit to coming forward and throwing, before sliding to the side, landing a counter and making Furuhashi reset his forward march. Style wise Furuhashi is a nightmare for Inoue, but sadly his own limitations in the style, are going to make Inoue shine. The only real question is whether Inoue can close the show on a tired, and likely bloodied, Furuhashi late on. We feel he could, but we're not sure he will.
Prediction - UD12 Inoue
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.