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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue is a Big Favorite in Title Bout with Luis Nery

Undisputed super bantamweight champ Naoya Inoue returns to the spotlight in his first-ever fight at Tokyo Dome after 21 straight wins in world title matches.



Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue holds his four super bantamweight title belts and stands next to challenger Luis Nery during a news conference in Yokohama on May 4, 2024. Their fight is set for May 6 at Tokyo Dome. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Naoya Inoue is a Big Favorite in Title Bout with Luis Nery

In his legendary boxing career, undisputed super bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue has fought only four times outside of Japan.

Without a doubt, this has helped increase his fame and broaden his appeal to boxing fans in his homeland.

Inoue's next bout, on Monday, May 6 against challenger Luis Nery, will be held at Tokyo Dome.

For the record, "Monster" Inoue's last three fights were held at Ariake Arena, which accommodates about 15,000 spectators. Home of NPB's Yomiuri Giants, Tokyo Dome seats 55,000. These numbers give a quick, accurate indication of Inoue's rising fame at this stage of his career.

Looking ahead to his showdown with Nery (35-1, 27 knockouts), Inoue said he's confident that he'll add another successful footnote to his illustrious career.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, May 4 in Yokohama, Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) also said having his next fight at Tokyo Dome is significant.

"It's rare that the timing of a fight can be aligned to take place in such a splendid environment," Inoue said, according to Kyodo News.

The momentous occasion marks boxing's return to the cavernous venue for the first time since February 11, 1990, when 42-1 underdog James "Buster" Douglas shocked the world and handed Mike Tyson his first professional loss.

Of Inoue's four overseas fights, the most recent two were back-to-back bantamweight bouts in Las Vegas, in October 2020 against Jason Moloney and in June 2021 versus Michael Dasmarinas. Now a four-division champion Inoue conquered both men via knockouts ― in the seventh and third rounds.

Naoya Inoue (left) spars with Jonathan Lopez on April 18 at Yokohama's Ohashi Boxing Gym. (Courtesy of Ohashi Boxing Gym/via SANKEI)

Naoya Inoue vs Luis Nery: All Eyes on Tokyo Dome

Meanwhile, Top Rank, Inc CEO Bob Arum, who remains a fixture in the sport at age 92, said the significance of Monday's event at Tokyo Dome cannot be overstated.

"This is, I think, the greatest, most important boxing event in the history of Japan," Arum was quoted as saying by Boxing Scene at a news conference two days before the fight in Yokohama.

"After so many years since Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas fought in the Tokyo Dome, boxing is back at that famous, huge stadium in Tokyo for this event," added Arum. "All eyes of the boxing world will be on Tokyo on Monday night when this event will be held."


Naoya Inoue: Famous in Japan, Lower Profile Elsewhere

Now 31 years old and an undisputed world champion in a second weight class (he previously held that distinction at bantamweight), Inoue is well-known to hard-core fight fans. But the fact that he hasn't stepped into the ring numerous times in the high-profile American and British media markets has probably contributed to his lesser profile in many locales.

Or as Sky Sports' Cameron Hogwood observed in an analysis published on May 3: "Limited sightings beyond the borders of his home country and obvious language barriers no doubt contribute to a profile denied the same spotlit clamor as his pound-for-pound counterparts, but that does not deter from the wonder, the marvel. The quiet demeanor and baby-faced appearance is a veil for venom, and the sleight frame a disguise for destructive knockout power, the kind of which no man can live with."

Naoya Inoue
A WBC promotional poster for the super bantamweight world title fight on May 6 at Tokyo Dome. (©SANKEI)

A Compilation of Fight Predictions

The Ring magazine, aka The Bible of Boxing, assembled a panel of 20 boxing pundits' predictions for the fight.

It's interesting to note that not one of the 20 picked Nery to win. And it should be noted, of course, that Inoue has fought in 21 consecutive world title fights without a solitary loss in any of them.

Ring writer Anson Wainwright made a convincing argument that Inoue will triumph, predicting an eighth-round TKO.

"Inoue looks to be in his absolute prime which doesn't bode well for anyone at 122 pounds," Wainwright opined in the predictions report. "He's beaten [Stephen] Fulton and [Marlon] Tapales with considerable ease." 

Added Wainwright, "Nery is a good fighter, but Inoue is on another level. I suspect he'll punish the Mexican before breaking him down in around eight rounds for a comprehensive and very satisfying stoppage win."

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue is 26-0 with 23 knockouts in his pro career. (©SANKEI)

Fellow panelist Norm Frauenheim predicted a sixth-round KO win for Inoue.

"It's the perfect storm ― perfect for Inoue," Frauenheim declared. "The storm is about to be unleashed on Luis Nery, who in the end might regret that the Japan Boxing Commission lifted a lifetime ban of the Mexican junior featherweight. Nery isn't exactly popular in Japan after missing weight following a positive drug test in bouts involving Shinsuke Yamanaka. But apparently a beating is better than a ban and that's what Inoue's army of fans can expect at the Tokyo Dome. Expect Inoue to overwhelm Nery in his ongoing bid to overtake Terence Crawford in the pound-for-pound debate."

WBA bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue trains on April 11 at Ohashi Boxing Gym in Yokohama. (©SANKEI)

Other Title Fights on May 6 at Tokyo Dome

The Inoue-Nery match is the big headliner, but there are three additional title bouts on Monday's fight card.

Takuma Inoue (19-1, five KOs), Monster's younger brother and the current WBA bantamweight champion, is set to defend his title against top-ranked challenger Sho Ishida (34-3, 17 KOs).

In his first title defense, WBA flyweight champ Seigo Yuri Akui (19-2-1, 11 KOs) takes on third-ranked Taku Kuwahara (13-1, eight KOs).

WBO bantamweight champ Moloney (27-2, 19 KOs), an Australian, awaits his encounter with ex-kickboxer Yoshiki Takei (8-0, eight KOs), who is ranked 10th by the WBO.

Continue reading the full story, which includes news items on baseball, soccer and more, on SportsLook.



Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven