Tim Tszyu has destroyed Takeshi Inoue to keep his world championship hopes on track — but it is a result that has raised some uncomfortable questions.
Tszyu was frustrated at his inability to land a knockout punch with Inoue earning respect from boxing fans around the world for still being able to stand at the end of the 12th round of their blockbuster showdown at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena.
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The judges handed the fight to Tszyu via a unanimous decision (120-107, 119-108, 120-107) — but even with the staggeringly one-sided scores, Tszyu never really looked like stopping the fight or extending his streak of six-straight wins via TKO.
Instead Inoue proved to be a pillar of granite that made a mockery of Tszyu’s pre-fight prediction of ending the fight inside the sixth round.
Tszyu said after the fight he was stunned at Inoue’s toughness and believed he had done enough to end the fight — if Inoue had have been any regular fighter.
“He feels like a brick wall, I don’t think a heavyweight could drop him,” he said.
“Hats off to him, he’s a warrior. I heard him squeal, his face is battered and look at his body. He’s so tough.”
Inoue proved to be made of different fibres than the rest of us as he ate a barrage of shots with relative ease despite his face being beaten into a bloody pulp and his mid-section tenderised by an unrelenting storm of body shots.
Inoue’s toughness, in the eyes of some, exposed Tszyu’s one weakness — having the power in his arsenal to stop a fight with a single punch.
It was the show fans wanted to see — and there was some disappointment when Tszyu changed his tactics in the later rounds, almost appearing to have accepted that he could not put Inoue down for good.
Despite improving to a 20-0 record, the focus quickly shifted to Tszyu’s lack of aggression in the later rounds.
“The crowd not happy for this to go to the cards,” Main Event’s Ben Damon said ringside as the crowd went silent in the final rounds.
“They want to see something emphatic.”
Aussie boxing legend Jeff Fenech also noted Tszyu “eased off a lot”, but later praised the Aussie for a clever tactical shift.
Boxing commentator Paul Kent said the one-punch kill shot remains the one blemish on Tszyu’s otherwise flawless victory.
“That’s the one little mark where you say, ‘Hang on, we need to be better here’. It is something he has to be mindful of,” Kent said on Main Event.
“You could see the change … he was basically just protecting himself and working his way through and winning the rounds and getting through to the end of the fight.
“That shows real maturity what he did. He didn’t get frustrated. He knew he couldn’t put him down so he just kept putting the rounds away.”
Tszyu now turns his attention to his first world title fight against Brian Castano, who holds the WBO’s super welterweight belt.
Castano has repeatedly belittled Tszyu and criticised his record of never fighting overseas.
It emerged in the hours leading into the Inoue fight that Tszyu is potentially on his way to a career-high payday of $2 million if the fight with Castano eventuates.
It remains unclear if Tszyu’s camp can come up with the money needed to tempt Castano to come to Australia — however Tszyu said after the fight he wants to go to Las Vegas to fight the Argentine in February or March.
“Honestly I think that was the best thing that could have happened, getting a good 12 rounds in before I hit the big time,” Tszyu said when asked if he had a message for Castano.
“I’ll be back in the gym, I gotta be more prepared than that because I need to take these guys out and I need to keep taking them all out one by one. The grind continues.
“You boys finish your little honeymoons and get back in the gym and start training. I’m coming for all of you. Every single one of you.”
Here’s how the fight unfolded.
Round by round recap
Round 1 — Tszyu landed a heavy left uppercut that had his opponent briefly stumbling backwards. It had been a slow start from Inoue. Tszyu continually threw the uppercut.
Round 2 — A slow round. Inoue started to throw some shots.
Round 3 — Tszyu landed a big right hand jab that gets through. It forced Inoue onto the ropes. Inoue was seen with some swelling around his eyes.
Round 4 — Tszyu kept landing solid body shots but Inoue didn’t dropped his guard. Inoue landed a couple uppercuts, but Tszyu’s jabs started to get through and Inoue’s face was looking bloody.
Round 5 — Tszyu had his best round after landing some heavy shots in close. Inoue was tagged while trying to retreat and then wore some heavy body shots when forced onto the ropes.
“He’s really made him pay,” Aussie legend Jeff Fenech said.
Round 6 — Tszyu took to Inoue’s body with a series of shots. A left hand jab opened Inoue’s body up and Tszyu proceeded to tenderise his opponent’s mid-section.
Round 7 — Tszyu continued to pick his opponent apart. Jeff Fenech said the Aussie was one punch away from ending the fight but the killer blow remained out of reach.
Round 8 — Tszyu was demolishing Inoue. Aussie boxing great Billy Dib called it “the beginning of the end”.
Round 9 — It was a miracle Inoue was still standing. He had not looked anywhere near winning a round. Tszyu was comfortable just setting up his uppercut shots, but wasn’t able to knock his opponent down. Tape came loose from Tszyu’s gloves, forcing a brief break. Inoue was seen with a nasty cut opening on his left cheek.
Round 10 — Tszyu appeared to have taken the foot off the pedal, but was still in control. His lack of aggression was noted by Fenech in commentary for Main Event.
Round 11 — An even round. Inoue traded blows evenly in the later rounds of the fight and the crowd went quiet.
Round 12 — Tszyu scored his first knockdown of the fight when he caught Inoue retreating. Inoue appeared to slip from the force of Tszyu’s right hand hook. Inoue had landed a good left hand that briefly rocked Tszyu off-balance, but the moment was followed by some classy shots from Tszyu. The judges announce Tszyu wins via a unanimous decision.
‘Big argument’: Inoue playing mind games with official complaint
Takeshi Inoue’s camp backflipped after his team made an official complaint about the gloves selected by Tim Tszyu.
The two fighters were testing their gloves early on Wednesday night when news emerged that Inoue’s camp was not happy about the gloves Tszyu presented to officials — and the differences to his own gloves.
Main Event’s ringside commentator Ben Damon wrote on Twitter: “Big dramas in the dressing rooms.
“There is a big argument taking place behind the scenes.”
Inoue had agreed to wear Tszyu’s Everlast brand gloves that had Tszyu’s personal branding on them after noting there were differences between his own pair of Winning brand gloves and those Tszyu used.
He had reportedly agreed to use Tszyu’s second pair but just minutes before he was scheduled to walk to the ring, Inoue confirmed he would be sticking with his original Winning brand gloves because they felt more comfortable and familiar.
He said he was moved to complain about Tszyu’s gloves after claiming his own gloves were thinner than some of the padding found on the Aussie’s.
Main fight card results
Tim Tszyu defeated Takeshi Inoue via unanimous decision
Wade Ryan defeated Nath Nwachukwu via unanimous decision (99-90, 100-89, 98-91)
Dennis Hogan defeated Tommy Browne via unanimous decision (60-54 x3)
Koen Mazoudier defeated Joel Camilleri via split decision
Jackson Murray defeated Shant Nercessian via TKO, Round 1