The first of two world title fights today at the Saitama Super Arena saw the WBC Bantamweight title up for grabs, as "interim" champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上 拓真] challenged "regular" champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12), in a mouth watering clash of unbeaten Bantamweights.
The fight started slowly, with both men trying to figure the other out, it was a lot of posturing, measuring and feinting, and not much quality from either seemed to land. It was one where the judges could have gone either way, with Oubaali throwing more, but not really connecting, and arguably the most eye catching single with an Inoue right hand. The pace from Oubaali slowly increased towards the end of round 2, when he seemed hurt Inoue, and Oubaali's power showed again in round 3, as he visibly rocked the Japanese fighter, who had to move away to regain his composure. The power of the French-Moroccan continued to be a different maker, and in round 4 Inoue was caught by a huge counter on the side of the face that sent him to the seat of his pants.
After 4 rounds it was clear that Oubaali was winning, with the open scoring favouring the champion 38-37, 39-36 and 40-36.
The middle rounds saw Inoue seemingly bouncing back with some success but that wasn't reflected in the eyes of the judges, who preferred the heavier shots of Oubaali over the more consistent of Inoue. It wasn't that it was wrong to score that way, but it did feel a touch hard that, after 8 rounds, one judge had it 80-71 whilst another had it 79-72, whilst the third had it 77-74. Really not reflecting the competitive nature of the fight, which had been hotly contested. Oubaali typically looked the boss, but he had missed a lot, and was clearly slowing down in the 7th and 8th round. Just unfortunately for Inoue his low output style, did little to impress the judges.
Knowing he was a long way behind Inoue finally put his foot on the gas in the final 4 rounds, amping up his work and trying to break down the champion. This was what he had needed to do earlier, rather than waiting so late, and it really did look like a different fight. Oubaali was still live, with enough energy in the tank to fight back, but it was a completely different game plan from Inoue.
With time ticking down Inoue put it all on the line in the final round and, for the first time, really hurt Oubaali, but the champion showed his heart and toughness to see out some really tough moments. It seemed like he had done enough, given the open scoring after round 8, but it felt like the late rally of Inoue had really done something to make the bout look as competitive as it felt.
In the end however the scores were read out as 120-107, 117-110 and 115-112. With only the final really being reflective of what happened. The 120-107 is one of the legitimate worst cards we've seen this year and Alejandro Rochin should never be allowed near a scorecard in his life. The guy simply hasn't got a clue. A win for Oubaali doesn't get an any disagreement from us, but a shut out? No Rochin needs shutting out off the sport.
Interestingly this goes down as the first loss by any of the fighting Inoue trio.
The Bantamweight division has been dominated over the last 12 months by the WBSS, and the destruction left by Naoya Inoue. Outside the WBSS however we've seen the WBC Bantamweight picture become a mess, with Takuma Inoue claiming the interim title, Luis Nery being in the mix and the crowning of Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) as the champion.
Today Oubaali made his first defense of the the title, and did so in easy and dominant fashion, stopping over-matched Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
From the opening seconds Oubaali looked in a different class to Villanueva, who looked like a man who wasn't sure he deserved to be in the ring with the champion. The opening round was all Oubaali, even though he was only fighting in first gear he looked in a class of his own. From there on Oubaali chipped away at the Filipino, breaking him down with clean, accurate shots in rounds 2 and 3. There was very, very little coming back from Villanueva, who did enough to look like he was trying, but not enough to get Oubaali's respect.
By the end of round 3 Oubaali was starting to beat up Villanueva who realised he had to fight back. Sadly for Villanueva fighting back lead to him being tagged cleaner, and in round 4 the Filipino was rocked again.The following round the challenger began to look scared once again whilst Oubaali changed tactics. The champion had gone from landing combinations to looking for more hurtful single shots, trying to actually hurt the challenger with every shot. Those shots were doing damage and by the end of the right the challenge's right eye was nearly closed.
In round 6 the continued beating resumes, with Oubaali scoring a knockdown after a combination. It wasn't a combination of hard shots, but they were clean and the Filipino took a knee. Following that Oubaali went for the kill, with Villanueva managing to do just enough to convince the referee not to step in, but he was now a beaten man.
Knowing that he was out classed, out boxed, out punched and being dominated Villanueva took the decision to retire to retire between rounds 6 and 7, making a wise choice.
Whilst this was an unexpected opportunity for Villanueva it was also an undeserved one, and it's hard to see him getting any more opportunities at world level. As for Oubaali he has an interesting future. His next defense if expected to come against Takuma Inoue, though he will also have eyes on the winner of the WBSS, which will be either Naoya Inoue or Nonito Donaire, and will also have the controversial Luis Nery as possible future foe. This was an easy first defense, but hopefully we'll find out how good Oubaali really is in the near future.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.