This coming Tuesday we'll see Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) return to a Japanese ring for the first time in more than two years as he defends his IBF and WBA "super" Bantamweight titles against unheralded Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11). On paper the bout is a mismatch, with one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet essentially fighting in a tick over defense, and giving local Japanese fans something to look forward as the year comes to an end. Something that became a lot more meaningful when Japan closed it's borders, and ended up having two massive world title unification bouts being scrapped due to the on going pandemic. As a result of those bouts being scrapped, this bout will be the final would title bout to take place in Japan in 2021.
Aged 30 Aran Dipaen is a relative unknown for many. Unlike many Thai's he has travelled for fighters, and has previously fought not just in Thailand but also Russia, Japan and the UK, but his bouts on the road haven't been particularly high profile. In fact from the three he's travelled outside of Thailand for, the most notable was in the UK where he lost a controversial split decision to Tommy Frank in a bout for the WBC International Silver Super Flyweight title. Despite not being well known that doesn't mean he's not a capable fighter, he made an impact last time he was in Japan, stopping Ryohei Arakawa, and has also notched stoppages over tricky Filipino Jomar Fajardo, and the experienced Sukkasem Kietyongyuth, who typically fights at Super Bantamweight.
In the ring Dipaen, like many Thai's, can look a bit raw at times, and like a man who didn't have a long and storied amateur career. Like many Thai's his styles comes from his days as a Muay Thai fighter, and shows he has a lot more experience in the ring that his 14 professional boxing bouts. It's due to that style that he has a quite an unusual guard, and why he tends to ignore his jab to instead throw heavy right hands. His boxing skills are limited, and that's being polite, but he is naturally heavy handed, he knows his way around the ring and he's tough, rugged and refuses to just lie down. Even when he's coming off second best. He's raw as a boxer but is still dangerous and like many former Muay Thai fighters he can take real punishment and has a surprising gas tank and will to win. Sadly though he isn't particularly quick and his flat footed style, along with his lack of an educated jab, his high guard, are just asking for trouble against someone as accurate, explosive and intelligent as Inoue.
Talking about Inoue it's hard to think of things haven't already been said about the biggest name in Japanese boxing. The "Monster" is a real star, and is an incredibly rare talent who has everything a fighter can need. He has brutal power, scary physical strength, incredible speed and timing, every punch in the book, and a fantastic boxing brain. His body shots are among the very best in the sport, his jab is crisp and sharp, his left hook is scary accurate, and worryingly for his opponents he is both defensively solid and frighteningly tough. So far in his career he has fought through bad damage to his right hand, including against Omar Andres Narvaez and Yuki Sano who he out boxed whilst fighting one handed, he has also battled through bad facial damage, which he suffered against Nonito Donaire, and has shown an impressive chin when he's been tagged. Interestingly the one worry about him earlier in his career was his hands, which were damaged in a number of early career fights, but since moving to Bantamweight the hands have held up, and appears cutting down to Light Flyweight and Flyweight earlier in his career may have played a part in those injuries. He has also been working with a specialist wraps guy in recent years, which will also have helped protect his hands.
Earlier in his career the one chink in his armour was the aforementioned hands. That seemed to be the one way a fighter was going to beat him. With stand his power, then fight a one handed Inoue and take advantage. Now however there doesn't appear to be a single chink in his armour. And worryingly he seems capable of being a chameleon in the ring. We've seen him fight as a boxer, a counter puncher, a pure puncher, a boxer-mover, and a pressure fighter. He and his team, including his father Shingo and promoter Hideyuki Ohashi, know what he can do, and also know how to work gameplans to beat opponents, take advantage of their flaws, rather than just relying on Inoue's fantastic all round destructive abilities.
Sadly for Dipaen there is a lot of flaws for Inoue to take advantage of, including his slow feet, high guard and lack of a jab. Given how brutal Inoue is with his body shots, we can't help but think that Dipean's flat foot and high guard will allow the Monster space and timing to land a brutal shot to the mid-section whenever he feels like. Dipaen is tough, and one knockdown is unlikely to be the end of him, but a knockdown from a body shot will likely start his downfall, and a knockdown or two later the referee will step in and save him from himself.
We don't expect Inoue to try and blow out Dipaen too early, especially given how long fans in Japan have had to wait to see him fight at home, but we do know that once he had his man hurt he will finish him off.
Prediction - TKO4 Inoue
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.