This was our first look at Takeshi Inoue.
You often don’t know what you’re getting when you invite an overseas athlete until they arrive. In the National Basketball League, there is a phenomenon known as ‘Pacific Shrink’, whereby American imports arrive in Australia substantially smaller than their records promise.
So it was with some curiosity that a media scrum gathered at Bondi Boxing Gym on Tuesday morning to get a first glimpse of Tim Tszyu’s next opponent. Tszyu had walked through his last adversary, Stevie Spark, who made what for him was a big step up to super-welterweight on just a week’s notice.
Would this be more of the same? Would Inoue, who only flew in from Japan the previous day, present a physically and figuratively bigger challenge?
Any concerns about the condition of the WBO’s seventh-ranked boxer were allayed the moment he took off his shirt. When he steps onto the scales at next week’s weigh-in, he will do so without an ounce of fat on him.
“My condition has gotten better and also my punch is now very, very powerful so I can beat Tim Tszyu,” Inoue said through an interpreter.
Takeshi Inoue shows off his chiselled physique at Bondi Boxing Gym on Tuesday.Credit:Kate Geraghty
“I respect his results because Tim Tszyu has not lost. I respect also his boxing technique and I basically respect everything about him. But towards the end of the fight, I’m thinking of knockout. That’s how I’m practising.”
There was little to glean from Inoue’s first interview, given he speaks no English and his initial impressions of Australia and Tszyu, for the most part, were lost in translation. But he made a statement by arriving in peak physical condition, thumping the gym’s heavy bag and trainer Tatsuya Saita’s gloves in an eye-catching first workout in Waterloo.
Little is known about Inoue outside of the ring. He hasn’t got a Wikipedia stub, he wasn’t Tszyu’s first-choice opponent, and it took several enquiries to determine that his age is 31.
The only morsel that could be gleaned from his first local press conference was that he has already developed a fondness for “Australian beefsteak.”
Inoue spars with trainer Tatsuya Saita.Credit:Kate Geraghty
The best lines came from Saita, who was bullish about Inoue’s chances against Tszyu at Qudos Bank Arena next Wednesday. Tszyu is already the mandatory challenger for a shot at Brian Castano and his WBO world title belt, an opportunity that will be blown should he lose to Inoue.
“It is a mistake. If I were Tim’s promoter, I wouldn’t let him challenge Takeshi,” Saita said. “He has chosen Takeshi and he may regret his chance.“
The only blemish on Inoue’s 18-fight professional record is a points loss to undefeated Mexican Jaime Munguia in a world-title fight.
“Tim Tszyu’s experience is limited to fighting in Australia,” Saita said. “I don’t think he has fought a boxer as heavy as Takeshi, most of his opponents were lighter.
“Although he has fought against Denis Hogan, when I watched the match I didn’t think Tszyu was that strong. Takeshi could possibly exceed Denis Hogan two or three times.”
Asked if Inoue was expecting to win via knockout, Saitu replied: “Yes. I would say in the seventh to ninth round.”
Next week’s fight continues a proud tradition between Australian and Japanese pugilists. Last year, Japan’s unified bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue – considered one of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxers – knocked out Jason Moloney in the sixth round.
Jeff Fenech took the IBF bantamweight title from Satoshi Shingaki in 1985 and also won the ensuing rematch the following year, while Lionel Rose became the first Indigenous Australian to win a world title when he defeated Fighting Harada for the world bantamweight title in Tokyo in 1968.
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