Nordine Oubaali outpoints game Takuma Inoue, retains WBC bantamweight title
SAITAMA, Japan – The Inoue brothers are one down.
French southpaw Nordine Oubaali retained his WBC bantamweight title for the second time by posting a 12-round unanimous decision over Takuma Inoue at the Saitama Super Arena on Thursday. The official scores were 120-108, 117-110 and 115-112.
Oubaali, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at 118 pounds, dropped Inoue with a massive left hand in the fourth and coasted from there on out. The younger of the Inoue brothers boxed well in spots, but his lack of power – ironic given older brother Naoya’s deadly hitting – counted against him. Inoue did land a heavy combination in the final round, but it was too little too late and Oubaali recovered well.
“I’m the best,” said Oubaali (17-0, 12 knockouts). “Thanks to the Japanese fans and the WBC. This is my second championship defense and to me the WBC is the best.”
Initially tentative, Inoue warmed into the opening round and attacked the body with two well-place right hands. He also did a good job of staying out of harm’s way, which was vital in the early going. Oubaali, as expected, looked the more powerful fighter, but he was being made to miss and popped on the counter.
The fight turned perceptibly in the third, when Oubaali landed a brace of sharp left hands from his southpaw stance. Visibly shaken, Inoue traversed towards the ropes and was caught by a flush up-jab to the point of the chin. The Frenchman was now showing his class and the warning signs were out.
The knockdown in the fourth was a finisher and Inoue did very well to survive it. But the moment was decisive in terms of how the fight would play out.
After absorbing a few direct hits, Inoue’s counter punching became more sparse and less effective. The defending titleholder was guilty of switching off in spots, but he was still banking rounds as proven by the open scoring system that was in effect. At the end of eight, Oubaali was ahead 77-74, 79-72, 80-71.
Knowing he was behind, Inoue put forth a big drive, but his lack of power was crippling. The Japanese fighter could land a handful of punches, but one vicious shot back was the memorable part of the round. Oubaali was never at risk of being hurt and he retained tactical command as a result. The action took place when he wanted and where he wanted.
Oubaali now puts himself in the Naoya Inoue sweepstakes. The revenge motif is irresistible as a prefight theme, and such a bout would do massive business in Japan. But all of that depends on “The Monster” maintaining his unbeaten record at the expense of fellow bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire.
Inoue drops to 13-1 (3 KOs).
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing