Takuma Inoue Aims To Step Out From Naoya’s Shadow With First Title Defense
Naoya Inoue is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in all of boxing and is already one of the greatest champions Asia has ever produced.
The fighter appropriately nicknamed ‘The Monster’ has held world titles in four divisions and is only the second male boxer, after Terence Crawford, to be an undisputed champion in two weight classes. He ended 2023 by becoming the undisputed champion at super-bantamweight, while extending his perfect professional record to 26 wins (23 by knockout).
A superstar in Japan – and increasingly so elsewhere around the world – Naoya Inoue is ranked only second to Crawford in The Ring Magazine’s P4P rankings, ahead of Oleksandr Usyk, Canelo Alvarez, Artur Beterbiev, Dimitrii Bivol, and Devin Haney.
Naoya is not the only professional fighter in his family, though; younger brother Takuma has been making his way through the ranks, and since last April has been the WBA’s bantamweight world champion.
The younger Inoue will have another chance to step out from his brother’s shadow later this month when he makes the first defense of his belt against Jerwin Ancajas on February 24.
Career Comes Full Circle
Inoue’s world championship fight against Filipino Ancajas will take place at the famed Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo – the same place he made his debut more than 11 years ago when he had only just turned 18 years old.
While many young boxers are eased into the professional ranks, Inoue’s debut was against future minimumweight world champion Tatsuya Fukuhara – and despite being the underdog, he pulled off a shock victory. That set a trend for the teenager, whose first seven opponents boasted a combined record of 137 wins against just 23 losses.
After collecting the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation super-flyweight title in July 2015, Inoue contested his first world-level fight in December 2018 when he won the WBC Interim world bantamweight belt.
That opened the door for his first world title fight, but the Japanese fighter came up short against Nordine Oubaali in November 2019 for his first and only professional defeat. Inoue rebuilt his career with four straight wins, the last of which saw him become a world champion for the first time.
Inoue Vs Inoue – Similarities And Differences
Having an older brother who’s also a professional boxer is inevitably going to see comparisons made between the two, especially if that brother is a superstar undisputed champion.
What’s perhaps surprising is apart from operating in similar weight categories and fighting much of their careers in their native Japan, there aren’t that many similarities in styles.
Naoya is a rare breed in the lighter divisions of possessing ferocious knockout power, which he deploys to devastating effect. He’s still fast and nimble, too, which makes him close to the complete fighter.
Takuma, meanwhile, is what many fight fans might expect from a super-flyweight or bantamweight. What he lacks in power (he’s only stopped four of his 18 opponents) he makes up for in speed, technique, and endurance.
Takuma has fought on several of his brother’s undercards, but the chances of them fighting each other would seem unlikely – similar to how the Klitschko brothers never shared a ring.
Build-Up To Next Fight
In Ancajas, Inoue is facing an experienced challenger on February 24. The Filipino (34-3-2 23 KO) was a long-reigning champion at super-flyweight, holding the IBF title for 10 fights spanning almost five years. Ancajas will also be the slightly taller fighter with a slight reach advantage over the Japanese, while his knockout record is much more impressive.
Inoue is the marginal favorite ahead of the fight, but he insists he is taking the mentality of the underdog.
“I’m in a challenger state of mind,” Inoue told BoxingScene.com. “Ancajas has defended his title nine times when he was the IBF [115-pound] champion. “Jerwin is a well-rounded fighter that has good technique and power.”
While he may have some way to go to emulate older brother Naoya, a first successful world title defense against a tough contender will see Inoue continue to make his own name at world level.