I genuinely expected this series to be finished several weeks ago. The original plan was to begin covering 2020 fights by June or July. Given whats happened this year that's not been possible, but thankfully content providers are making things available from last year, and giving more and more content for me to share in this series. With that in mind we're bringing you a DAZN fight this week.
This was actually one of first notable bouts of 2019 and turned into an unexpectedly fan friendly contest, despite being viewed as a complete mismatch going in.
Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) vs Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26)
Fans who followed the Japanese scene knew who Takeshi Inoue was prior to the start of 2019, but those who didn't follow Japanese boxing had no idea. Some simply thought he was another relation of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, not realising how common the name is in Japan. Those who knew about Inoue knew he was a strong, but crude fighter who came forward, often neglected to set things up and instead tried to bully and hustle opponents with his physical strength.
On the domestic and regional scene Inoue had had great success. He had won the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles and scored notable wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong and Yuki Nonaka. Other than his debut, where he was held to a draw with Daishi Nagata, we had only seen Inoue struggle with Nonaka, who's smart footwork and boxing brain had caused Inoue fits. Inoue's willingness to go forward worked into the hands of Nonaka's comfortable and relaxed back foot boxing.
Although Inoue was an unknown in the West his opponent wasn't. Jaime Munguia was the WBO Light Middleweight champion and was been groomed as the next big Mexican star. He was a big, strong, powerful fighter who set a high work rate and tried to drown opponents out with volume. Technically he wasn't a very good boxer, but he was a very good fighter and had had a brilliant 2018. Although he was denied a chance to face Gennady Golovkin he had gone 5-0 (4) in 2018 with wins against Sadam Ali, Liam Smith and Brandon Cook. He had entered 2019 red hot and was expected to continue his form.
Coming in to bout it was assumed that Munguia would be too big, too strong, too powerful, too good, and too aggressive for Inoue. Just pretty too much of everything. Some fans were complaining about Inoue being the opponent for what was Munguia's 6th bout in a year, whilst others saw it as a chance for Munguia to be busy again and continue to build his moment.
What no one saw coming was what we actually got.
From the opening round it was Inoue pressing forward. Despite being much smaller he was the more physically imposing guy, pushing Munguia on to the back foot and making the Mexican swarmer turn to boxing and moving. Munguia, to his credit, boxed well at times, behind his jab, and quickly realised that Inoue was there to win, rather than just make up the numbers.
Whilst Inoue was pressing and fiery he was crude, often missing with some wild looking shots. It was a high energy effort from the challenger but one that took everyone by surprise as he pressed and pressed.
To his credit Munguia saw out the storm, tried to take the fight out of Inoue, and as the bout went on Inoue did slow down, giving Munguia the space he needed to work. When that happened we saw some huge bombs landing from the Mexican, with Inoue eating them clean but continuing his forward match in a typical gutsy fashion.
This bout, which was supposed to be a total mismatch, was being turned into a thrilling action bout thanks to a very hungry and determined challenger. The champion was being forced to work hard through out, and the new rising Mexican star was being given one of his first real tests.
Although not an instant classic, or a fight of the year contender, this quickly became a gem, and one that was much, much better than anyone had expected.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.