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.
After years of being in Naoya Inoue's shadows today we saw his younger brother get his long awaited chance to announce himself on the world stage, as he took on Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) [井上 拓真] unbeaten Thai Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) [เพชร ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท], also known as Petch CP Freshmart and Tasana Salapat, in a bout for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
On paper this looked a good bout, two unbeaten men, each looking to cement themselves among the best in the Bantamweight division, and each looking to impress internationally, with the bout being aired in Japan, Thailand, Russia and the US.
Sadly the paper didn't really tell the full story, and didn't show the quality of oppositions, the skills of the two fighters themselves or the styles of the two men. Within seconds Inoue showed the difference between two fighters, shaking Petch with one of the first punches thrown, and then doing the same only moments later. It looked like Inoue was totally in a different league to the Thai, though to his credit Petch recovered well and was aggressive when the fight got into the second round, when he was again punished by the sharp punching of Inoue. It was in the second round where we had the only notable accidental foul, a nasty head clash that left both cut, but not too badly.
The Japanese youngster had spent a lot of time preparing for this bout by sparring top Japanese southpaws, and that showed as he repeatedly landed straight right hands onto the face of the Thai, and wonderfully timed left hooks. Petch kept marching forward, letting his hands go in volume, but kept falling short, missing wildly and and catching Inoue's guard. Through 2 rounds he looked a sensation, with brilliant timing, control and movement. In round 3 however he began to slow down and Petch began to have more success, that success was short lived however with Inoue shining again in round 4 with some more solid right hands.
The open scoring all had Inoue up, 39-37, after 4 rounds. He however did appear to be tiring, and slowed more in the middle rounds as Petch applied more and more pressure. It wasn't effective pressure from the Thai, but was making Inoue work hard and he tried to respond by going to war with the Thai, it was a short lived tactic that Inoue ditched when he went back to boxing and moving. It was was clear that Petch wasn't going to go away, he wasn't going to stop firing shots and he wasn't going to give up, but he was going to continue eating clean shots if Inoue moved around. Despite changing tactics a few times from the Japanese fighter was up 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75 when the scores were announced again at the end of round 8.
It seemed like Inoue was tiring through the middle rounds and like Petch felt their could be an opening late on. That opening however was slammed shut in round 9 when he was rocked hard towards the end of the round. Prior to hurting his man Inoue had looked back to his best, finding the space to land right hands, the occasional combination and showing the genius that he had shown early in the fight. He would go on to hurt Petch again in round 10, and it appeared that a stoppage could be on the cards, but Petch's toughness showed and he continued to grit his teeth and take the fight to Inoue, who was showing nasty bruising under his right eye.
With the bout essentially in the bag going into the final 2 round Inoue seemed to know he didn't need to take too many risks, and he didn't take them, instead doing as he had done through much of the fight. Boxing off the back foot, using lateral movement and make Petch look 1-dimensional and wild. He did invite Petch in for a fight towards the final moments, but it wasn't to be as the bell rang.
Going to the score-cards there was no doubting the winner with Inoue taking the decision 117-111, and with it the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title, to go along with his brother's WBA "regular" title.
For Petch this was evidence that he could fight, but stylistically Inoue was all wrong for him, and it showed round after round. For Inoue the bout showed he can hit hard than his record suggests, but there is something missing that he needs to work on to score KO's. It's also unfortunate, that Inoue didn't manage to really impress the US fans like he'd have wanted, he showed a lot of skill, but there was little drama during the middle of the fight.
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.