IT CAN’T be easy living in the shadow of a talented sibling.

Then again not everyone has a brother like Naoya Inoue in their family.

Takuma Inoue, 18-1 (4), has been going about his own business quietly and effectively while Naoya has been beating up opponents in brutal fashion and staking a legitimate claim to be the best fighter in the world.

Now at 28 years old Takuma will take to the famed Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena in Tokyo on Saturday (February 24) to defend his WBA bantamweight belt against the Manny Pacquiao-promoted Jerwin Ancajas, 34-3-2 (23). The fight had been scheduled to take place last November but was postponed after Takuma suffered a fractured rib in sparring.

“Though my opponent this time is the strongest boxer in my career, I am confident of throwing more punches in the upcoming fight,” Takuma said during a public workout at the Ohashi Boxing Gym earlier this month.

The same strap was the property of Naoya in 2018 before the 30-year-old captured the other three baubles to become the recognised bantamweight world champion. He then vacated them so he could venture north to super-bantam leaving his brother and other top contenders at 118lbs to compete for the four belts.

Takuma claimed one of them when beating Liborio Solis 10 months ago in his only fight of 2023. The Japanese boxer made good use of his left hook and combinations to force the Venezuelan into retreat and into the losing column after going the distance.

Ancajas hasn’t seen 12-round competition since dropping a points verdict to Fernando Martinez  in their October 2022 rematch. Both were relatively one-sided wins for the Argentinian. Ancajas got back in the winner’s circle with a fifth-round stoppage in an eight-round contest against Colombian Wilner Soto in Minneapolis. This too was the only action Ancajas saw last year.

Inoue’s sole defeat to date came against southpaw Nordine Oubaali when the Frenchman put his opponent down in the fourth round before deservedly winning a unanimous decision. On the same November 2019 show big brother Naoya was given an almighty scare by Nonito Donaire during a night of drama in Saitama while their father Shingo watched on.

Ancajas, also a lefty, is moving up from super-flyweight having held the IBF belt for six years before running into Martinez. The 32-year-old is unlikely to put Inoue under the same type of pressure Oubaali managed by forcing mistakes and making him uncomfortable. Ancajas’ best work comes from the jab, which he frequently throws to the body, but as fights progress his work can get ragged as wild looping blows often initiate a shootout.

The Filipino flew out last Sunday morning for his first fight in Japan. “I want to convince [judges] every round that I am ahead especially when I am the visiting opponent,” he said. “I have to be dominant every round and as a boxer I know when I am ahead or not.”

It seems likely that Inoue-Ancajas will go the distance with each man having periods of success and momentum swings. But Inoue’s home advantage, workrate and temperament should see him over the line after 12 rounds. Ancajas, however, shouldn’t be written off.

More bantamweight business will be handled on the same card when Mexico’s Alexandro Santiago puts his WBC belt on the line against southpaw Junto Nakatani.

Boxing fans will remember Nakatani, 26-0 (19), for his astonishing final round knockout of Andrew Moloney nine months ago. That win gave Nakatani the vacant WBO super-flyweight belt which he successfully defended once against Argi Cortes. But the 26-year-old soon moved on and is now at 118lbs and a legitimate threat to the division.

Santiago, who has five draws on his 28-3-5 (14) record, broke sentimental hearts last summer when he outpointed Filipino great Nonito Donaire to deny the veteran another strap.

The Mexican will be conceding five inches in height to Nakatani but only two in reach. Santiago’s greatest concern should be that his challenger carries power from round one to round 12. Since his first 10-round bout in 2018 the 26-year-old has stopped nine of his last dozen opponents. And heavy-handed fighters in smaller weight classes – where the jump from one division to another is contextually slight – tend to carry their power up with them.

“I can now fight both at short and long distances,” Nakatani said. “I need to throw more punches if I were to attain a knockout victory. I think I have my Sunday punch. I hope you will be looking forward to waiting for my fight on February 24.”

Nakatani’s long arms and ability to hurt opponents both from distance and up close could prove to be a nightmare for Santiago who won’t win this at arm’s length. The pick is for him to get stopped somewhere around the eighth round. The 28-year-old’s only hope is that he can rapidly get in and get out, while taking the required risks to actually make a dent in Nakatani.

Another Japan v Mexico battle rounds things off but this time at super-flyweight. Kosei Tanaka, 19-1 (1), will look to win a world belt in a fourth weight class against Christian “Rocky” Bacasegua, 22-4-2 (9).

A pro since he was 18, Tanaka has risen through the divisions winning belts at strawweight, light-flyweight and flyweight. But it was at super-flyweight that the 28-year-old suffered his first loss on New Year’s Eve in 2020 to Kazuto Ioka. The modern day great dropped his compatriot twice before stopping Tanaka in the eighth round.

This time Tanaka has a less challenging assignment on his hands, on paper at least. Bacasuega will be fighting outside of his homeland for the first time in his nine-year career. And only the WBO would be able to justify how Bacasuega should be their number two contender at super-fly one place below Tanaka.

At world level the 26-year-old could be described as limited. In truth, it’s a mismatch that the WBO should be questioned about. Once Tanaka’s jab begins to fire, uppercuts or hooks to the body will surely follow and Bacasuega will do well to last three rounds.

“It would be best if I could get a KO,” Tanaka said at his gym in Nagoya. “I don’t want to win in an anticlimactic showing.”