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
A year ago Japan's Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) was on the verge of the biggest fight of his career, a bout with WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. Although he lost to Munguia he impressed with his heart and determination and this coming Saturday he's back in the ring seeking the first defense of his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title, as he takes on China's Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8). The situation couldn't be much more different to the one he found himself in last January, but a win here keeps him in the mix for another world title fight, whilst a loss is unthinkable for the 30 year from Tokyo.
Inoue, for those who missed the Munguia bout, is a rugged, aggressive fighter who comes in pretty square on and looks to make a fight of things. Early in his career he did seem to be more of a boxer-fighter but as his career has progressed he has become more and more of a pressure fighter, often abandoning his jab to ply forward behind his guard and get things up close. This sort of change seemed to happen in 2016 or 2017, and was particularly notable when he beat Akinori Watanabe. That was a clear win for Inoue but seemed like he could have made it far easier for himself had he made the most of his jab. Whatever the reason for the change it's not been bad for his career and since beating Watanabe we've seen Inoue unify the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, fight for a world title and then recapture the WBO Asia Pacific belt.
Although the bull strong Inoue lost to Munguia his record is actually solid, at least in regards to the regional scene. Wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong, Yuji Nonaka and Patomsuk Pathompothong give him wins almost every notable fighter on the regional scene at 154lbs, barring current Japanese champion Hironobu Matsunaga. Though of course there is a gulf between the regional scene at the weight and the world level, which he'll be hoping to mix with once again later in the year.
As for Cheng Su the Chinese challenger, who is also 30, is much less well-known and well established. The southpaw from Shenyang stands at 5'11 and will be fighting outside of China for the first time in his career. Going through his record it's hard to pick out anything noteworthy, other than a win last May over Filipino Junjesie Ibgos, who used to be a Featherweight and is 0-4 outside of the Philippines. Footage of him however is more worrying than his competition.
Watching Su we see a rather slow, lumbering fighter who technically looks "alright" but lacks the tools needed to even make a legitimate mark on the regional scene. He seems to understand the basics doesn't always put them into practice. He's slow, lacks real snap on his punches, and when he throws his straight left hand his defenses completely fall apart. He follows opponents around the ring and looks like he's fortunate to be fighting at such a low level that his mistakes have rarely been punished, except in his 2017 loss to Nikolozi Gviniashvili.
On paper this might look like an interesting match up, but we weren't joking when we said Inoue can't afford to lose here. His entire career would be discredited with a loss to someone as limited as Su, who he really should be dealing with inside the distance. We expect to see Inoue closing the gap between the two men, working away on the inside and stopping Su relatively early on.
Anything but a stoppage for Inoue should be viewed as a disappointment.
Prediction - TKO5 Inoue
This coming Saturday we'll see former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) return to the ring for the first time since his January fight with Jaime Munguia. In the opposite corner to the once beaten Inoue will be Thai visitor Patomsuk Pathompothong (38-10-1-1, 24), with the two men battling for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title that Inoue had previously held.
Whilst it's great to see Inoue back in the ring, it is hard to imagine him really being tested here against a very limited Thai foe who has rarely managed to even put on a credible performance outside of his homeland.
As everyone who saw Inoue's fight against Munguia will be aware the Japanese fighter is a rugged, aggressive, tough come forward fighter. He's a bit of a stereotypical Japanese brawler, with a high out put, a big energy rate and a fairly basic come forward style, relying on his physical strength and toughness. Prior to facing Munguia we had seen Inoue unify the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles and he had clearly been the #1 in the region. The only real signs of doubt had come in his narrow win over Yuki Nonaka in April 2018. That bout showed Inoue had a huge will to win, but was able to be out boxed, out thought and was incredibly basic, with Nonaka tagging him at range with ease.
Stood at just 5'8" Inoue is a very short Light Middleweight, but he is built like a freak, with wide shoulders and a very powerful frame. His strength doesn't transfer to huge punching power, but he has been able to physically force opponents where he wants, including very good domestic fighters like Akinori Watanabe and Koshinmaru Saito.
The Thai on the other hand is a 35 year old who has gone from 26-1-1 (17) to 36-10-1-1 in the last 6 or so years, with losses coming in all 6 of his bouts away from home during that time. Whilst some of those were close, including a defeat to Takayuki Hosokawa in 2013 and Kuok Kun Ng in 2017, 4 were stoppages, including 2 to Akihiro Kondo and another to Ik Yang, not exactly killers row. He's also suffered losses at home to the likes of Japan's Hironobu Matsunaga and Uzbek prospect Dostonbek Turdiev.
At his best Patomsuk, also known as Komsan Polsan, was fighting at 140lbs and he wasn't a big guy at that weight. He's not a natural Light Middleweight and that is a major issue here, with Inoue being so strong and aggressive, Polsan won't have the power to back up the Japanese fighter or the technical ability to neutralise him. instead we're expecting him to be fighting in survival mode almost from the off.
This bout isn't really deserving of a title. It's a glorified home coming for Inoue and the only thing that takes it past a few rounds is his lack of 1-punch power. Despite that his constant mauling and aggression will mean that fans won't need to wait long for him break down the Thai, and secure a rather straight forward, and early, stoppage win.
Prediction- TKO4 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.