By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Unbeaten brother of “the Monster” Naoya, Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3 KOs), 118, successfully followed his footstep as he acquired the vacant WBC interim bantamweight belt by winning a unanimous decision over Petch CP Freshmart (AKA Tasana Salapat; 48-1, 33 KOs), 118, over twelve heats on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan.
All the judges—Steve Morrow, Perla Rodriguez (both US) and Jun-Bae Lim (Korea) —agreed with a 117-111 tally in favor of Takuma. But it wasn’t an easy fight at all since Petch, a taller southpaw, was an aggressor stalking the fast-handed Takuma, who often countered him with precision. After the eighth, the open scoring system showed Takuma leading on points—77-75, 78-74, 79-73. Petch, in round twelve, had Takuma at bay with a flurry of punches, pinning him to the ropes, but Takuma desperately fought back hard to survive the final crisis. The third man was Frank Garza (US).
Takuma, two years younger than Naoya, celebrated his twenty-third birthday only four days before his first world title bout on December 26. His hand fracture just before his unrealized title shot against Marlon Tapales unfortunately put off his year-end title go in 2016, and Takuma had to accept a bitter inactivity for a year until his recovery. Since his return to the ring warfare Takuma won four bouts against tough opposition such as ex-national champs Hiroyuki Kudaka and Kentaro Masuda, plus OPBF titlist Mark John Yap in the WBC eliminator this September. Takauma impressively displayed his superior speed in defeating Yap on points, and confirmed his participation in this interim title bout.
What’s the difference of Naoya and Takuma, both coached by his father Shingo since childhood? Naoya is more precise and powerful, while Takuma is as fast as his brother. Takuma’s hand speed is so remarkable in beating such more experienced Asian strong boys as future world champ Tatsuya Fukuhara in his pro debut and world challenger Phalan Sakkreerin Jr. in his second bout. In his fifth Takuma acquired the vacant OPBF super-fly belt by defeating tough Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo, and then defeated game and gallant Rene Duckel in his next contest.
His manager/promoter Hideyuki Ohashi explained why Takuma’s knockout ratio isn’t so high by the fact that all his previous opponents were tough and competitive fighters, not easy victims.
When they were amateur boxers, Takuma won over current WBO flyweight titleholder Kosei Tanaka twice, while he lost three times to him. They were good rivals at that time, though both of them are now professional world champs.
Takuma, after his coronation, coolly said, “I’m not yet the legitimate champion but only the interim titleholder. I wish to eliminate the title of ‘0interim’ soon.” WBC #1 Nordine Oubaali of France and #3 Rau’shee Warren of US are scheduled to fight for the WBC full championship on the undercard of the Pacquiao-Broner showdown on January 19. Takuma will be forced by the WBC to face the winner and new champ thereof.
Reviewing the contest, it looked closer than the 117-111 tallies, but Takuma was in command by a close margin in some rounds thanks to their difference of hand speed. Takuma scored with quicker counterpunches that often brought him to the standstill, but it was Petch that absorbed Takuma’s fast shots, withstood his whiplash shots and kept stalking Takuma though losing on points. Petch’s fighting spirit was admired by the Japanese audience, and with more hand speed Petch would have it closer or Petch might have changed the result of this bout.
Takuma showed his best in the ninth, when Petch took solid counterpunches from Takuma to be badly staggered midway in the round. The Japanese youngster dominated the next session and whipped the Thailander with fast leathers, but Takuma couldn’t bring home the bacon then.
Petch’s last surge was furious enough to hurt Takuma, who gamely fought back hard so that two judges gave it to Takuma, while another to Petch. The Thailander’s durability and fighting spirit were very remarkable.
In Japanese boxing history, this is the first time that brothers acquired world belts in the same division as Naoya is WBA champ and Takuma WBC interim titlist in the same bantamweight category. Kameda brothers won world belts, but not in any same divisions.
Since Naoya Inoue has become an international star, people might forget the existence of his brother Takuma, but Takuma is also a vastly talented speedster even if he cannot hit as hard as Naoya.
Promoter: Ohashi Promotions.
WBC supervisor: Tito Gonzalez (Mexico).