This coming Wednesday fight fans will be in for something of a treat at 154lbs as teak tough Japanese fighter Takeshi Inoue (17-1-1, 10) takes on unbeaten Australian puncher Tim Tszyu (19-0, 15), in a bout with the potential to be an instant classic. The contest is mouth watering on paper, and a genuinely meaningful one in regards to the WBO, with Inoue looking to defend his WBO Asia Pacific title against WBO Global champion Tszyu. The winner will not just be a unified minor title holder, but will also be on the verge of a WBO world title fight as we head into 2022.
Of the two fighters it's fair to say all the buzz is around Tszyu, the son of former Light Welterweight great Kostya Tszyu. The second generation fighter has quickly been racking up wins against notable opponents, and impressing with his calculated style, heavy hands and brutal finishing mentality. The last few years have been huge for him, and he has essentially cleaned out the domestic scene with wins against the likes Wade Wyan, Dwight Ritchie, Jack Brubaker, Jeff Horn and Dennis Hogan. Early on he was promoted heavy on the fact that his father is a modern day great, but with his recent wins he has moved out of being the son of a legend, and became a legitimate contender in his own right, and someone who seems almost ready for a world title fight of his own.
In the ring Tszyu has real star potential. He's a very impressive boxer puncher, who applies intelligent pressure, lets his shots go when in range, counters well, and is incredibly heavy handed, seemingly inheriting the power of his father. He's not the quickest, and he's not the most active, but he's a very heavy handed fighter, who is very calculating, smart in the ring and physically incredibly strong. To date he has answered a lot of questions, though there is still some question marks hanging over him. He has proven his stamina, by going 10 rounds a number of times, but there is some question marks over his chin, and what happens when a fighter can take his power and keep coming forward. We've not seen a fighter really test him since Wade Ryan did, way back in October 2017, and since then Tszyu has racked up 12 straight wins and looked like a destructive force along the way.
Whilst Tszyu is waiting for a shot at the big time, Inoue has had a shot, which came in 2019 when he challenged the then WBO champion Jaime Munguia, and gave the unbeaten Mexican a legitimately tough nights work. The bout with Munguia showed how tough, rugged and strong Inoue was, but also showed his technical limitations as he pressured but had little overall success against Munguia. Since then Inoue has worked on technical things, and has been showing a much better jab in recent bouts, better defense and overall more to his boxing than just the pressure style that had made him a very fun fighter to watch in Japan. That slightly more rounded style has seen him scoring 4 wins since the loss to Munguia, though they have been at a regional to domestic level.
In the ring Inoue is a small, rugged fighter with incredible physical strength, fantastic power of recovery and a staggering will to win. He is slow, and like many Japanese fighters in the higher weights, he relies more on his physical tools rather than his skills to get by in the sport. He can be out boxed, as Munguia showed as Yuki Nonaka showed at times too, but over 12 rounds he will give fighters fits, and if a fighters tried to blow him out early on there's a real risk of them taking a lot out of themselves in the process. Here we expect to see him trying to rush and cramp Tszyu for space, and work up close, much like we saw Ricky Hatton do to Tszyu's father. Sadly for Inoue he doesn't have the foot speed and tenacity of Hatton, but we see that being the gameplan he'll be looking to apply here.
The reality is that Tszyu is the better boxer, the bigger puncher, the more natural athlete and the quicker man. Despite that we suspect Inoue will cause problems for Tszyu, just through he sheer bloody mindedness and determination. He will walk through some of Tszyu shots, the type of shots that have been taking out domestic competition, and smile. He will look to break Tszyu mentally, through his pressure. He will certainly have some moments, but in the end Tszyu will come out on top, either a late mercy stoppage from the referee or a clear, and wide decision victory.
Prediction - UD12 Tszyu
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