Last week we saw Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) claim the OPBF Bantamweight title by dethroning Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) at Korakuen Hall in what was a highly anticipated match up, getting interest not just in Japan, but internationally. The bout managed to get listed on betting websites in Europe, Russia, the UK and US and fans genuinely seemed to want to watch it on Thursday, with many complaining about the lack of a live stream or a live TV broadcast. Thankfully it was aired, albeit on tape delay, a few days later.
With the bout now aired, and with fight fans having had a few days to give it a watch we’re now going to look back on the bout and share some of the things we took from the contest.
1-The cut was a major problem for Kurihara
The first thing that needs to be mentioned was that the cut that Keita Kurihara suffered in the first round was a genuine problem for him. It was a nasty cut as soon as it happened, and it was one that really could have forced a much earlier conclusion to the bout than we had. The bout went to the scorecards after round 9, but in fairness there were worries that the contest could end up being stopped in the first 4 rounds, which would have resulted in a technical draw. It was a deep one, it was a big one, and it was one that certainly gave Kurihara some issues throughout the bout. Thankfully Kurihara didn’t make excuses or use the cut as an excuse, and in fairness we suspect even if he had avoided the cut it wouldn’t have changed the winner of the bout.
2-Kurihara failed to set things up
One thing that surprised us here was how little Kurihara tried to use his reach and jab, and how he trudged forward whilst paying with the jab, rather than really letting it go. It was a good weapon in the first round, and should have been used throughout the contest to set up his power shots. He has a genuinely good jab, and we saw it in the first minute or two of the bout. Sadly though the jab almost vanished as he began looking more and more for a hail Mary shot. We suspect this is likely due to the cut, which came across his left eye, but it really showed as the bout went on. He came out looking for big right hands and heavy hooks and was caught time and time again. If he’d used his jab he could well have gauged range better and landed his harder shots. It’s a shame his jab really did vanish after he had early success with it.
3-Inoue’s footwork was fantastic
Whilst we can easily talk about how Kurihara failed to create openings and work on them it needs to also be said that Inoue did brilliantly at making Kurihara reset. We constantly saw Inoue on his toes, moving, changing directions, keeping Kurihara from having a range where he could have success. It wasn’t the eye catching, sparkling footwork of someone like Vasyl Lomachenko, but instead it was very, very effective footwork. Inoue was almost always in control of the range and the tempo of the bout, despite mostly fighting on the back foot. He used half-steps, forwards and backwards, small pivots, he created angles, made Kurihara fall short and really neutralised the reach advantage of Kurihara. He knew was the quicker man and made full use of that by using really smart footwork right throughout the bout.
4-Inoue KO backers - What were you thinking?
One of the strange things before the bout was the amount of money that went on an Inoue T/KO win, taking the result to almost events on the betting market. We’re not sure why so much money poured on a stoppage for the challenger here, and we suspect even he’s not sure. Before the bout he stated that he was going to box his bout, and that was a style that had only seen him pick up 3 low key stoppage stoppage wins. Kurihara has been stopped before, but his last stoppage came to Hiroaki Teshigawara, and we really don’t understand why money poured on an Inoue stoppage. Given the way Inoue fought there was no plan to go for the finish early on, and although he caught Kurihara with some very clean shots in the second half he never really hurt the champion.
5-Despite a year out Inoue was razor sharp
Prior to this bout Inoue had been out of the ring since November 2019, when he lost to Nordine Oubaali. That was his first loss and we had expected him to look, at the very least, a bit rusty. Instead he looked razor sharp from the opening moments to the eventual conclusion of the bout. His defense was on point, his footwork - as already mentioned, was fantastic, his offense was clean and crisp, and he boxed fantastically. Everything he did was pretty much on point, and we dare say that was, in part, due to the danger that Kurihara posed. We’ve seen Inoue turn off in bouts, get lazy in others, and give rounds away. Here however he was focused throughout, he was fighting like a man who knew if he was tagged he could be hurt and didn’t want to be dropped again. It was only for around 30 seconds in round 5 that we saw him in any trouble at all, and he quickly regained his composure and went on to land some of his best shots afterwards. Given this is the same Takuma Inoue that was run incredibly close by Kentaro Masuda and Mark John Yap, and was dropped by Rene Dacquel, Froilan Saludar and Mark Anthony Geraldo, this was the performance he needed. In fact we would go as far as to say this is the best we’ve seen from Inoue.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).