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20 NOVEMBER 2018

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SecondsOut 2015 Prospect Of The Year: Takuma Inoue

By Derek Bonnett: The transition from Prospect to Contender can be as fine as fishing line. A prospect’s arrival to contender status may come after a step up in class or the through the good graces of the organizing bodies’ monthly rankings. Popularity, certainly, never hurts. In 2015, the world of boxing witnessed the development of copious newcomers, each progressing in his own manner. Errol Spence Jr., Felix Verdejo, and, last year’s SecondsOut Prospect of the year, Oscar Valdez have all arguably transitioned into contender status. Kosei Tanaka, the youngest of the lot, has already become a world champion. Rising stars such as Amir Imam and Dmitry Khudryashov started the year as top prospects in the sport, but both suffered emphatic losses to derail their rise. The voting was difficult for the SecondsOut team in 2015. Joshua Parker, Callum Smith, Oleksandr Usyk, and Marcus Browne all found their names on the docket. Yet, it was Japan’s Takuma Inoue, also on the ballot in 2014, who has been selected by the SecondsOut staff as the 2015 Prospect of the Year.


Takuma, the younger brother of two-division champion Naoya Inoue, turned twenty and notched his second year as a professional this month. However, Inoue has been knocking on the door of title contention since his second professional bout. In April of last year, Inoue proved himself to be on the same fast track to a world title shot that his brother took before him. Takuma, then eighteen, won a unanimous eight round decision over top-ten rated Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr., who was coming off his biggest victory as a pro. Inoue took home comfortable scores across the board through eight rounds. He ended the year 4-0-0 (1) with a December unanimous decision over seasoned former world title challenger Daniel Nestor Narvaes. Perhaps I was a bit hasty, but this was enough for me to cast my year-end vote Inoue’s way as Prospect of the Year 2014. I was justly overruled in favor of Oscar Valdez.


On July 6, 2015, Takuma Inoue returned to the ring for his fifth professional contest. He took on Mark Anthony Geraldo, his most experienced opponent to date, at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan. Geraldo sported a dossier of 31-5-3 (14) and had lost decisions to Arthur Villanueva, Oleydong Sithsamerchai, and McJoe Arroyo. The last came in an IBF title eliminator bout. Fighting in his first scheduled twelve round affair, Inoue’s eye was on capturing the vacant OPBF super flyweight title. Inoue’s jab was thrown with excellent snap to take an immediate lead over Geraldo. Inoue’s stick proved the perfect set-up for his right hand, which also landed frequently. Without the power of his brother, Takuma used more foot-speed to befuddle Geraldo while landing his one-twos. The bout was not without a test for Takuma though. The younger fighter slowed his pace in the mid-rounds, likely to conserve energy for what would surely be a distance fight, and Geraldo fought his way into the contest. To the credit of the top-prospect, his skill-set still prevailed to earn most of these rounds as well. Geraldo was not finished, however, and the veteran pressed on late to work for a KO, which it became apparent he needed after the open scores were revealed after round eight. Ever the boxer, Inoue continued to move and use his jab to pile up points. Yet, the young prodigy suffered a flash knockdown in round twelve, which surely will serve as a lesson learned against stepping off the gas until the final bell. Regardless, Inoue won by unanimous scores of 115-112, 116-11, and 117-110 and captured the regional title. At 5-0-0 (1), Inoue’s fast track to a world title had not been derailed, but his managerial team thought the best route would be to see the young phenom in a defense of the OPBF belt.


This initial defense came in the final days of 2015 at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo, Japan against Rene Dacquel, who had gone the twelve round distance in his last three outings for Filipino and IBO title affairs. Once again, Inoue boxed his way to a lopsided unanimous decision victory. Inoue used his greater speed to utilize his advanced boxing IQ. The wide decision was built upon superior work behind Inoue’s jab. The Japanese boxer mixed in right hands with a little more pop than has been evident in previous bodies of work from the twenty year old prospect. Reportedly, Inoue had strong rounds in the ninth in tenth after taking a short breather in preparation for the final frames. Further proof of this added snap came in the final round as Inoue dropped Dacquel to put the final icing on the cake. The final scores favored Inoue 118-109 twice and 117-110.


Perhaps under pressure from his older brother’s success, Takuma reported being unhappy with his performance. His lack of power will make him less of a draw than Naoya, but his tactical skill will not be lost for boxing purists. At the close of 2015, Takuma Inoue was rated #5 by the WBC at super flyweight. The WBO and IBF have him rated a tad lower at #13 and #15 respectively. The WBA also rates Inoue at number two, but as a light flyweight. Solid marks for SecondsOut’s 2015 Prospect of the Year.


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