One thing that is undeniably true in boxing, is that father time is unbeaten in the sport. No fighter can take on father time forever and win. Sooner or later old age will get to any fighter. It seemed, today, that Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39) found that out as he suffered a loss to unheralded Cuban Yordenis Ugas (27-4, 12), who retained the WBA Welterweight "Super" title.
From the off Pacquiao didn't quite look like the fighter he had been a few years ago. He looked good, but not even close to his best. He landed several big left hands early in the opening round, but also took some big right hands from Ugas, to both head and body as the round went on. The Cuban looked calm, relaxed and much bigger than the Filipino, and he used his size and reach well to land his jab, and regularly through the final 90 seconds of the opening round.
As the bout went on Ugas really managed to show exactly why he's been so well regarded by those who really follow the sport. He was defensively sound, neutralising Pacquiao really well, whilst finding room to land big right hands up top and crafty body shots, taking the legs away from the Filipino. He wasn't throwing a lot, but what Ugas was throwing he was landing with alarming regularity whilst Pacquiao was struggling to tie him down, and seemed to struggle to land either single shots or his trademark flurries.
What made things even worse for Pacquiao is that his shots, when they did land, seemed to bounce of Ugas whilst Ugas shots seemed to take a toll on Pacquiao, rocking him numerous times and leaving him marked around the eyes as early as round 2. As the bout went on Ugas's face also began to swell and bruise, but Pacquiao's was significantly more bruised and looked much more damaged than that of the Cuban.
To his credit Pacquiao did try, at numerous times, to up the tempo, turn things around and press Ugas, but the increased effort from the Filipino really were thwarted by the Cuban who used his jab to force Pacquiao to rest, or held Pacquiao when he needed to, stopping the rare toe to toe wars in their tracks.
After 12 rounds it felt very much like Pacquiao had given his all, but been beaten by a younger, hungrier, fresher fighter, who was too good on the night. He'd given Ugas a close one, with Pacquiao's work rate doing enough to keep things competitive in a number of rounds, but he was too inconsistent from the Filipino great. He didn't have the intensity he had once had, he lacked the energy, and speed that he once had, and instead looked like a fighter who was only 80% of the fighter he had once been.
When we went to the judges scorecards the judges turned in scores of 115-113, and 116-112, twice, to give Ugas the decision.
For Ugas this win really does put him in the mix for more big fights. Bouts against Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford are certainly going to be ones that fans are going to want, and Ugas has the tools to be a banana skin for both men. He took this fight on 2 weeks notice, and really showed what he could do.
As for Pacquiao it's surely, now, time to retire, and go into politics fulltime. He's 42, he hadn't fought in around 2 years, and this really should be a chance for him to bow out of the sport. He has served the sport as a true icon, a fan favourite and a great servant. He really doesn't need to take any more punishment, or give any more of himself to the sport.
After more than 20 months out of the ring, and with numerous fights falling through during that time, we were all curious as to what we'd see from exciting Chinese fighter Can Xu (18-3, 3) [徐灿] this evening as he looked to defend the WBA Featherweight title against Englishman Leigh Wood (25-2, 15).
Sadly what we saw was a shadow, of a shadow of a fighter. This was a man who looked completely unrecognisable to the man who announced himself to the world in January 2019, when he beat Jesus M Rojas. In fact what we saw was a man who looked not just out of sorts, but almost as if he was out of love with the sport all together and it looked like the stop start nature of the last 20 months had really taken everything away from him.
Xu, who is known for his high output, incredible work rate, and wildly entertaining fights, was subdued from the off. Part of that was ring rust though part of it, a very good part, was the tactics of Leigh Wood, and trainer Ben Davison, who used subtle movements to make Xu regularly reset. In the past Xu has had no problem resetting but here he seemed completely unable to get his feet into gear, whilst Wood picked him off with good single shots from mid-range. Wood really was just doing basic things, very well, and Xu couldn't do anything. In fact Xu looked like a man wanting to be the human heavy bag in the early rounds,
As the rounds went on the work rate from both increased, and Xu did manage to have some moments, notably landing some solid body shots and he had a solid round 5, but for the most part the action was dominated by the simple, clean, effective boxing from Wood, who appeared to be boxing against a man who had lost everything that had made him a world champion.
After round 5 Xu really didn't build on his success, instead Wood had one of his best rounds in round 6, taking the play away from Xu almost immediately. Xu tried to get back some momentum in round 7, but failed, despite landing some solid right hands late in the round. He was pressuring, but it was ineffective, and really just made life easy for Wood, who had an opponent coming to him, and chances to land some eye catching uppercuts, which had been his best shots in the early part of the fight.
In round 8, for the first time, it seemed like Wood felt he could stop Xu, and he seemed to buzz the champion for the first time, though seemed to gas himself as he went for a finish. One again a bad round for one man, in round 8's case Xu, was followed by him bouncing back and round 9 was a genuinely fatastic round to watch, with both men hhacing some great back and forth before we finally, saw glimpses of the real Xu. Round 10, or at least the first 2 minutes of it, was pretty much the only time we saw anything resembling the Xu of 2019. He was busy, he was aggressive, he was letting shots go and looking like the perpetual punching machine that had won us all over against Rojas. Sadly though it was just a 2 minute burst from him and following that Wood picked up his tempo later in the round, landing good body shots began to take the fight out of Xu.
In round 11 Wood began to play with his man, and there was nothing much landing from Xu, barring a late right hand that connected clean on Wood's chin. It was a brief success, that came too late for him to build on.
In round, as both looked to exchange, a big right hand from Wood dropped Xu. Xu got to his feet but was spent, a broken fighter, and Wood knew it, jumping on him until the referee stepped in.
For Wood this is a massive win. A career changing win. The win that puts him on the map and a win that opens the doors to some huge fights for him going forward.
As for Xu, it's hard to know where he goes from here. On the back of such a poor performance, we really need to wonder if he over-trained, lost focus, was too rusty and needed an easy win before a title defense or to needs move up in weight. This was not the Xu of the past.
On Saturday night in Brussels fans got the chance to see local hero Ryad Merhy (30-1, 25) successfully defend his WBA "regular" Cruiserweight title for the first time, as he defeated Chinese challenger Zhaoxin Zhang (10-2-1, 6), who some how entered the bout ranked #14 by the WBA despite not having a single win of note on his record.
Whilst the WBA are known as a farcical organisation in recent years, it very much felt, going in to this one, that Zhang had been parachuted a ranking to help Merhy get an easy defense and to create a bit of history, with Zhang being the first ever Chinese Cruiserweight to fight for a world title. Sadly though all it really did was further take away from the legitimacy of the WBA, who need to do better before the move to re-recognise the Association picks up any more steam with antics like this.
As for the bout everyone, and their dog, was picking a Merhy stoppage, with the main question going in not being about who would win, but how long it would take him. And surprisingly it took until round 8 for the Belgian based fighter, originally from the Ivory Coast, to see off Zhang. That was despite Merhy being in total control and looking like he could have gone through the gears and really taken this any time he wanted.
To his credit Zhang showed some ambition, some skills and a busy jab, but there was very little on his shots and every time Merhy opened up the challenger looked worried and in trouble. It was clear Zhang had nothing to get Merhy's respect and midway through round 8 Merhy dropped his man with a sweeping left hook for the second knockdown of the fight. Zhang showed heart to get to his feet but the referee made the right call in stopping the bout and saving Zhang, who seemed unhappy at the stoppage but really was lucky that Merhy wasn't in an angry mood as this could have gotten very ugly, very quickly.
As for Merhy this really needs to be used to kick start his career in a division that is heavily dominated by European fighters. There are much, much, much better options out there for him than a fighter like Zhang.
As for Zhang however we wouldn't be that disappointed to see him mixing on the OPBF title scene in the newar future. The OPBF title picture in the region is poor, and he showed enough here to suggest he could play a role in the regional scene. Fingers crossed that is something he and his team consider, despite this set back.
After close to 8 months out of the ring we saw "Monster" Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] return to the ring late on Saturday night as he took on mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas (30-3-1, 20) from the Philippines. And barely broke sweat whilst disposing of the Filipino like a second rate challenger who didn't belong in the ring with him, and retaining his IBF and WBA "super" Bantamweight titles.
The opening round saw Dasmarinas looking confident and calm, for about 20 seconds until he was caught by a left hook. After that his confidence seemed to instantly fade and he went from looking calm to looking jittery and apprehensive of the task in front of him. Things weren't helped when Inoue landed a good right hand, in what was, for the most part, a quiet round. As the round went on Inoue landed a right hand to the body and began to get his jab into play. It was a scouting mission for the champion and a "what have I sign up to" experience from Dasmarinas.
In round 2 we began to see Inoue go through the gears slightly and jittery Dasmarinas began to look more and more nervous as the calm, calculated and relaxed Inoue began to press with more intensity. To his credit Dasmarinas did throw some shots in round 2, but struggled to land much clean, hitting the guard with a handful of shots, and fallign short with numerous others. The real talking point from the round however was a combination from Inoue that featured a glancing left hook to the body. The shot didn't land clean, but moments later Dasmarinas hit the canvas as Inoue began to ramp up the pressure. Dasmarinas beat the count, but spent the rest of the round in survival mode as Inoue looked to take him out, landing several more good body shots before the round was over. To his credit Dasmarinas managed to survive, at least for the entirety of round 2.
Having been dropped in the second round Dasmarinas came out looking to get Inoue's respect early in round 3, and showed some ambition. It was misplaced, however, and an uppercut from Inoue instantly made Dasmarinas realise he was making a mistake. There was some hard jabs that followed as Inoue began to control the distance at will and made Dasmarinas flinch every time he looked at his body. It was clear Dasmarinas wanted to protect his body, but he couldn't and a left hook from Inoue to the midsection did the damage again again, sending Dasmarinas down for a count of 9. There was only around 25 seconds of the round remaining after when the bout resumed, but that was more than enough time Inoue to find the body of Dasmarinas again, sending him down for the third time. This time the referee quickly waved off the bout, rather than allowing Dasmarinas to try and get to his feet, again.
Whilst the bout was widely regarded as a mismatch going in, and proved to be so in the ring, it was still a commanding performance from Inoue. As for Dasmarinas, it's hard to know where he goes from this. He looked completely out of his depth
Talented, yet horribly frustrating seems to be the most perfectly apt description of Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11) and he showed that again tonight with a clear decision win over Englishman Craig Richards (16-2-1, 9). A clear decision that saw a lack of urgency from Bivol, though out, and saw Richards refuse to gamble until far too late, until the bout had already been lost.
The bout, like so many of Bivol's recent bouts, lacked drama, lacked excitement and lacked positive talking points. It resembled more of a friendly spar, than a world title bout. It looked less like Bivol was defending the WBA Light Heavyweight "super" title and more like he was going through the motions, waiting to get an opponent who can drag the best from him. It also, for the most part, looked like Richards had too much respect for Bivol, and wasn't willing to gamble in what was a huge opportunity for him to put himself on the boxing map.
The early rounds sawa lot of back and forth jabs, from both men. The saw Bivol pressing forward, applying very good front foot pressure, but neither man did much. The back key difference between the two seemed to be that Bivol's jab was landing much more consistently, and the pressure was forcing Richards backwards.
In right 3 we saw Richards land a really good right hand, leaving Bivol with a red mark on his head. It was, by far, his best shot up to this point, and yet it proved to be for nought, with Bivol putting his foot on the gas, taking the play away and landing better shots. It was a short lived moment of success for Richards, but one that seemed to come with an almost immediate lesson.
Through the middle rounds we began to see Bivol move up a gear. He looked to be in control, out working Richards, who still seemed timid, but sadly Bivol's best work was in bursts, and with little urgency. He was happy to catch the eye with one or two moments, then control with his jab, taking as few risks as possible. The typical Bivol way. Sadly for Richards every time he did land something good, the play got taken away, Bivol put together something nice, then resumed control the battle of jabs.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Bivol had done more than enough to take home the decision, and he seemed to feel that was the case to as he did very, very, very little in the final 3 rounds. He cruised over the line, and it seemed like his lengthy lay off, of well over a year, was taking it's toll on his gas tank. As a result Richards managed to have good success in the final 2 rounds, as it finally seemed the British fighter realised he was in a world title fight and began to show some urgency of his own. It was, of course, too little too late.
After 12 rounds we went to the score cards, and it seemed a fairy easy one to score. A 8-4 or 9-3 type of fight. That was shown by the first judge, who had it 118-110, but then we saw the other judges turn in cards of 115-113 and 115-114, which make the bout look a lot closer than it was. Despite those two very questionable scores, they all favour Bivol who got the win, shook some ring rust and got the chance to bore the audience once again.
To his credit Bivol had looked sharp early on, but as the bout went on he never managed to move through the gears and he seemed to feel the tempo late on. There was his typical lack of urgency, no real fire power and once again no belief that he had to impress. He just knew he had to win, and didn't care about entertaining fans. Not for the first time he showed he was willing to frustrate fans with a clear win, and without taking risks. Something that will not win over critics, despite the victory.
For Richards he looked less out of his depth than we'd expected, though he never really seemed to be close to winning. He won a few rounds, but they seemed to come more from Bivol easing his foot off the gas, than actually being a threat to the champion.
For Bivol this was a chance to impress. A chance to make a mark. A chance to get fans back onside after some dreary recent performances. Instead he gave us another dull performance and another clear win, at least in the eyes of the vast majority. Sadly it's not the type of performances needed to help make fans clamour for the big bouts.
It's also worth noting that stylistically, this bout wasn't pretty. It was compelling, and interesting, and it lacked clinches. But it wasn't exciting. The styles of the two men, for much of the bout, neutralised each other, they matched up similarly, and sadly in this case, that meant we had two men who simply waited for the other too much, and looked happy to have elongated jab battles, rather than mix it up. A poor match up from a styles point of view, and not one many will go back and rewatch.
As for the judging, the judges who pulled cards of 115-113 and 115-114 from their arses need to go and see an optician straight after the show, and should be made to explain their scorecards.
Just moments ago in the Humo Arena in Tashkent we saw unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) [Муроджон Ахмадалиев] retain his IBF and WBA "Super" Super Bantamweight titles as he stopped former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (27-4, 17) [岩佐 亮佑].
The defending champion started really well and was coming forward almost from the off. He looked sharp and crisp whilst coming forward, whilst Iwasa looked relaxed, and like a man who was looking to see what the champion had to offer. Through out the round the speed and dynamic offense of Akhmadaliev shone, and he took very little in return, with Iwasa having limited success with his jab and a single good body shot.
Round 2 was another good one from Akhmadaliev, who began to really control the bout with his sharp, accurate and spiteful jab. A jab that really was a massive difference maker. Iwasa again had moments, but they were few and far between with Akhmadaliev really controlling the action overall.
The success from Akhmadaliev was building round by round, and even when Iwasa tried to turn it around, he was having very limited success, with only flashes of action going his way. A rare body shot here, a clean jab there, a good flurry in response to a strong Akhmadaliev combination. But nothing sustained.
In round 5 Akhmadaliev seemed to come out with a point to prove, starting fast and wobbling Iwasa, who seemed off balance more than hurt. Iwasa seemed to regroup and Akhmadaliev backed off, at least for a few moments, before another flurry from Akhmadaliev, this time the referee jumped in.
If we're being honest the stoppage seemed early. Iwasa wasn't looking particularly hurt, despite being under pressure, and given the high profile of the bout it seemed like the referee jumped in far too soon for out liking. Especially for a world title bout. He robbed Iwasa of a chance to come back, and also robbed Akhmadaliev of a chance to score a really big KO, something that seemed very possible given the ease with which he was landing.
It's true we prefer stoppages to come too soon, rather than too late, but sadly it feels like the referee did this one far, far too soon. Regardless, it's a fantastic first defense for Akhmadaliev who has made it clear he wants to continue collecting titles. In a division as stacked and talent heavy as the Super Bantamweight division there are som amazing match ups that he could be involved in.
As for Iwasa this is probably the end of his dreams at world level. Though a return to the Oriental scene would certainly be an interesting one, with fights against the likes of Jhunriel Ramonal, Shingo Wake and Hiroaki Teshigawara all being very interesting match ups that could be made later in the year.
Just moments ago we saw WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (15-0, 10) [京口 紘人] make his US debut in a spectacular bout against diminutive Mexican challenger Axel Aragon Vega (14-4-1, 8). It was a fight that was thrilling, exciting, and yet sadly anti-climactic.
From the opening minute this was a great fight with the two men willingly engaging in close quarter combat. There was no real feeling out process here as they quickly got to work on the inside and let shots go with their heads against each other. The first round was great with both men having success up close. It seemed both men were happy to fight toe to toe and both tried to instill their will.
In round 2 they continued to fight in the trenches and it seemed like diminutive Vega got the better of things, though it was a hotly contested round with both landing uppercuts and hooks through out the round. The action and intensity that both fought at gave us one of the best rounds of 2021 so far and it seemed to set the stage for something special.
The pace started to slow down in round 3 though, as Kyoguchi began to use his jab more and create more space. It was still a very good round for Vega, but a round that seemed to show there was more to Kyoguchi's arsenal than just the inside fighting, which seemed to be Vega's only option. Sadly by this point the awful DAZN commentary had picked it's side and essentially ignored anything Kyoguchi did, though that was no surprise from a commentary team that have consistently been dire.
In round 4 the jab of Kyoguchi, which had been coming into effect in round 3, became a bigger weapon for him. Vega was still aggressive, but was being kept at range more often, and when he did get inside Kyoguchi was holding his own, landing some lovely clean uppercuts. Vega was very lively through the round, but seemed to be getting figured out, and slowing, and his face was also reddening from the headshots he was taking.
Through 4 rounds it was close. A score of 3-1 either way, or 2-2 was very reasonable, and it felt like they could end up trading blows on the inside at any moment. It seemed like one of those fights where both men were well matched, and where action could pick up at a moments notice. Sadly however in round 5 Vega ended up suffering a nasty injury when he tagged Kyoguchi. The injury instantly left him in pain and whilst he backed off in agony Kyoguchi rushed in looking to close the show, soon afterwards the referee jumped in, waving off the bout and stopping Vega.
It was horrible way for the bout to end, a truly anti-climactic ending to the bout, which had been thrilling. It wasn't the ending either man wanted. But it was a TKO win for Kyoguchi, who becomes one of the very, very few Japanese fighters to retain a world title on US soil.
It's expected that Kyoguchi's next defense will be about against unbeaten Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri, who he was supposed to fight late last year before needing to cancel the bout due to testing positive for Covid19, before a potential return Stateside later in the year.
A win here was important for Kyoguchi, and the performance will have left fans wanting more from him, though the way he got the win was certainly not the most compelling. Fingers crossed his next bout shown in the West will let fans really see what he's got in the locker.
Earlier today we got the latest "All-Filipino world title" fight as former WBO champion Vic Saludar (21-4, 11) clashed with the countryman Robert Paradero (18-1, 12) in a bout for the WBA "regular" Minimumweight title.
Although the bout was for a "secondary" title, and not for the main WBA belt, it was still a highly anticipated one with the contest being a chance to see what Saludar had left following a couple of disappointing recent performances and seeing what the completely untested Paradero had to offer the sport.
The early going saw an energetic but wild Paradero fighting aggressively but leaving himself open. He showed no fear of his more well established opponent, but also looked a bit like a man who had a lot of nervous energy to burn, and was firing off some very wild and crude shots. He was struggling to land clean, though at times Saludar failing to really punish him. The veteran managed to land some counters, but seemed to leave a lot of opportunities on the table in what was a conservative performance early on.
The main drama in the early rounds wasn't a shot from either man, but a headclash in round 2. It was, however, a minor drama with Paradero suffering a very small cut outside of his right eye. A cut that played absolutely no factor in the rest of the fight.
The conservative but smart approach from Saludar saw him having solid success in round 4 before hurting Paradero in round 5. To his credit Paradero got on his toes and saw out the round, despite being hurt. He then seemed to settle down well and through many of the middle rounds Paradero's crude, wild approach was tempered significantly, though this allowed the more slow, cerebral counter punching of Saludar to catch the eye more often. It was a stark change in tempo through the back end of the fight from Paradero who struggled to really show the same hunger.
Despite slowing down Paradero managed to have some really nice moments, particularly in the second half of round 9 where he boxed smartly, used his feet, and prevented Saludar from countering too much. Whilst he was having success we dare say that the change from Paradero told the judges that he was the one struggling, and needing to adapt, rather than making changes to suit himself. Potentially giving the impression that Saludar was having more success than he really was. It also allowed Saludar to come forward a lot, even if he wasn't really letting his hands go, again making it look like he was the one bossing the fight, even when he seemed to be following Paradero around the ring at times.
Going in to the final round it felt close, ad the commentary were suggesting that it was all to play for in round 12. Paradero started the round as if he knew it was close, landing a huge right hand, but then seemed to let things off the boil, show boating, looking over-confident, and really not doing a lot. He was caught in the round by a counter, that may well have stolen the round for Saludar.
After 12 rounds we went to the score cards and they were read out. 115-113, Saludar, 118-110, Paradero and then 116-112. The pause waiting for the winner saw Paradero yell in celebration, before the "Saludar" was read out, giving the veteran the split decision win.
The commentary had the bout even at 114-114.
If we're being honest we had this narrowly for Paradero. We preferred his energy and speed, though he was caught by a number of solid counter shots from Saludar and the difference in experience showed, a lot. He lacked a jab at times and his straight right hand wasn't accurate enough to get to the veteran.
For us Saludar simply didn't work enough at times, he was too conservative at times and as we said, he followed Paradero too much. In all honesty he looked old at times, and has certainly seen better days. He did however land the better single shots, his counters were good and he often sold the impression that he was the boss by pressing forward.
As for Paradero, there's a good fighter there, but someone who is clearly a work in progress and needs a lot of work if he's going to be a top, top divisional fighter.
For Saludar we suspect the plan is to move towards a bout with WBA "super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart. On this performance he wouldn't beat the undefeated Thai. As for Paradero the OPBF title or the WBO Asia Pacific title should be the focus for him over the next year or two as he looks to build on his experience. His inexperience was an issue and something that can be worked on over the coming years before he gets another bout at this level.
After close to a year out of the ring we saw the long awaited ring return of WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion "Monster" Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who was fighting for the first time since his WBSS triumph last November. Not only did we see Inoue, but we saw him in Las Vegas for the first time, and as a Top Rank fighter, for the first time.
In the opposite corner to the Monster was Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-2, 18), dubbed "Mayhem". A talented, brave, confident fighter who was looking to make a name for himself. The Australian had talked a good fight before hand, entered full of confidence and seemed to genuinely believe he could shock the boxing world.
Before we got to the opening bell the fighters came out to almost the music you'd expect them to. Moloney, the challenger, came out first to the classic "I come from a Land Down Under" by Men At Work, a song long that many Australian fighters come out to. Inoue on the other hand came out to "Departure" by Japanese composer Naoki Sato, a song that we have seen Inoue use in his ring walk numerous times, including a live performance a few years ago by Akira Jimbo.
The opening round saw both men fighting relatively evenly. It wasn't a typical feeling out round, but it wasn't a round where either man landed too much in terms of power shots. It was very much a round where both men used a lot of jabs, set a high tempo, but boxed within themselves. There was respect from both, and both men took their time to see what the other hand, whilst staying busy themselves.
In round 2 we again saw the jabs of both men being the most used punches, however we did begin to see Inoue going into his arsenal of weapons. By the end of the round we were seeing Inoue's right hand and a left hook, very late in the round. It was a competitive round, as was the first, but both were Inoue rounds, with out too much discussion.
By round 3 we had started to see Inoue changing his tactics. He was starting to get more aggressive, more confident, and was starting to walk down Moloney. To his credit the Australian was taking clean shots really well, including a series of big right hands at the end of round 3, but it did feel like Inoue was starting to feel alarmingly comfortable.
That comfort level for the champion rose again in rounds 4 and 5, as he went into seek and destroy mode, applying intense, and persistent pressure. It was a credit that Moloney was surviving, though he was trying to do more than just survive, and landed one or two shots of his own. Sadly for him those shots did next to nothing to discourage Inoue, who was quickly realising he could take whatever Moloney was going to land without issue. Moloney however, wasn't afford the same benefit and in round 5 he was wobbled for the first time, and was forced to hold on late in the round.
Inoue continued to fight on the front foot in round 6, but it was actually a counter that proved to be his best asset, as he dropped Moloeny for the first time in the bout, doing so with a counter left hook. Moloney was up quickly, but Inoue could smell blood, and spent much of the round piling on the punishment as Moloney began to have his body and confidence eroded.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time until we'd see the end, though how would it come was unclear. As we entered round 7 the referee was making it clear that he wouldn't allow the punishment to continue for too much longer, Moloney's corner were also aware their man was taking a lot of punishment.
They weren't needed however as Inoue closed the show with a massive counter right hand late in round 7. The shot was a beauty, landing clean as a whistle. It dropped Moloney, who then crouched before trying to get up, then stumbled as he tried to get to his feet. He knew where he was, but his body didn't want to do what he told it. The referee instantly waved it off.
Following the win Inoue mentioned that he wanted to face either WBO champion John Riel Casimero or WBC champion Nordine Oubaali, who defends his title in December against former Inoue foe Nonito Donaire.
Interestingly the big worry coming into this was whether Inoue's right eye would hold up, after it was injured against Donaire last November. It did. There was no notable swelling or damage after the fight. Whether it continues to hold up in the future is unclear, but the way it was after this fight was certainly a positive.
Amazingly Inoue's title defense here was only the third time a Japanese world champion has successfully defended a world title in Las Vegas. He follows in the footsteps of Toshiaki Nishioka and Tomoki Kameda. His win was also the first time a Japanese fighter has beaten an Australian in a world title fight away from Japan.
As for Moloney it is going to be hard to comeback from this. He didn't get smashed to bits, or take a career ending amount of punishment, but his confidence, which was sky high when he entered the bout, will take some real rebuilding after this loss. He did however show toughness, bravery, and survived longer than most would have expected.
For both men it's unclear what will be next. We suspect Inoue will want to fight back in Japan in early 2021, potentially the Casimero fight or a mandatory defense of one of his titles, whilst Moloney will need to rebuild his confidence, but hopefully will face a fringe level type of guy, rather than dropping to facing really low level opponents. He's better than that.
Just moments ago Thai fighter Downua Ruawaiking (16-1, 13) [ดาวเหนือ เรือไวกิ้ง], aka Apinun Khongsong, suffered his first loss as he was stopped in the first round by unified IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion Josh Taylor (17-0, 13).
The Thai came out confidently and looked to land a big right hand from the opening seconds. He looked calm and like he was there to make a statement.
Sadly though as the round was coming to an end a body shot from Taylor landed right on the liver and dropped the Thai in agony.
On first view it looked like there was a headclash, but on replay it was a clean, and nasty body with a left hand that would have put anyone down.
Downua was in pure agony afterwards and it seems likely he suffered a broken rib, given the pain he was in.
Sadly, given the short nature of the fight, which ended after 2:41 of the opening round, there was little to really learn from either man. It was such a sudden ending that it really didn't let us see much of how Josh Taylor looked under the guidance of Ben Davison.
The plan now for Taylor will be took seek a 4 title unification bout with Jose Carlos Ramirez. As for Downua, we expect to see him back in Thailand, picking up wins for a regional title an begin the climb back to a world title fight. Sadly today's experience, whilst painful, would have done little to help Downua's progress going forward, though it may have taught him just how painful body shots can be.
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.