Inoue is among boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters / Credit: Getty Images

Buncey’s BOXXER Bulletin: The Monster, Naoya Inoue

In this week’s column, presented by RDX Sports, veteran columnist Steve Bunce looks at the career to date of Japan’s Naoya Inoue, a world champion at three weights and one of the most devastating punchers in world boxing today. Inoue defends his WBA and IBF bantamweight titles against the Philippines’ Michael Dasmarinas this Saturday in Las Vegas.

In modern boxing we keep making mad, monstrous, fearsome fighters who win world titles early and keep them.

Even men like Josh Taylor, the current holder of all four recognised belts at light-welterweight, won his first world title in his 15th fight; Teofimo Lopez, who was due to defend his three lightweight world titles this weekend in Florida before a positive Covid test, also won his first in his 15th fight. 

Taylor won all four belts, beating three unbeaten men for their belts by his 18th fight. This is just ridiculous. 

And then we have Vasyl Lomachenko. Well, where do you start?

Lomachenko won his first world title in his 3rd fight, his second in his 7th and his third in his 12th fight as a professional. He lost to Lopez last October and is currently on 16 fights with 14 wins and 15 world title fights spread over three weights and just eight years. This is a thoroughly modern career.

Lomachenko (right) ties the record with Thailand’s Saensak Muangsurin for winning a world title in just three professional fights / Credit: Getty Images

That’s impressive, make no mistake. Taylor and Lomachenko were Olympians in London in 2012 and Lopez represented Honduras in Rio in 2016.

And we also have Naoya Inoue. This man can fight, really fight and he loves it. Inoue lost in the Asian Olympic qualifier in 2012, but stopped 48 of the 75 men he beat as an amateur. 

Inoue’s professional statistics are legend. He is 28 now, unbeaten in 20 fights with 17 ending quickly and often nastily. He is the finisher, a ferocious puncher. He is called The Monster, and it fits.

Inoue defends two bantamweight world titles on Saturday against Michael Dasmarinas.

It will be Inoue’s 16th world title fight and so far, 13 have finished quickly. He won the WBC light-flyweight title in his 6th fight, the WBO super-fly version in his 8th fight and the first of his bantamweight titles in his 16th fight.

Inoue carries fearsome power for a bantamweight, boasting an 85% knockout percentage / Credit: Ring Magazine

In back-to-back fights in 2018 he won and defended the WBA bantamweight title with first-round stoppages; he ruined Jamie McDonnell in 1:52 to win the title and then knocked out Juan Carlos Payano in just 70 seconds. McDonnell was making his 7th defence.

In 2019, in Glasgow, Inoue let us all see his brutal side when he met unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF belt. 

Rodriguez was the champion, a danger, a player, but he was dropped three times and left in a bad way in round two. A few days before the first bell, a member of Rodriguez’s team had pushed Inoue’s father, Shingo, at a public workout. Inoue was angry and he made Rodriguez pay.

It is a quirk that Lomachenko, Lopez and Inoue are all trained by their fathers and that none of their fathers had anything remotely like a distinguished career. Shingo had two amateur fights. 

Perhaps there is a lesson there about dads and their sons, and their relationship as boxer and trainer; Enzo Calzaghe, arguably the most successful dad in a dad-and-son boxing relationship, never had a single amateur contest. Teofimo Sr, Anatoly and Shingo can just enjoy their sons and not have to compare success.

Naoya Inoue is trained by his father Shingo / Credit: WBSS

Incidentally, Lopez is now likely to meet his mandatory from Australia, George Kambosos, on August 14. Lopez is getting 3.9 million dollars for the fight, by the way. Lopez insists he wants Taylor next. So many belts, so much money and so few fights.

That would be a mad, crazy, fantasy fight at this stage in their careers – in any career. In 1981, when Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard set the agenda for the Four Kings, they had fought a total of 63 times. In 1971, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, both unbeaten, had fought a total of 57 times. Lomachenko and Lopez last year had fought a total of just 31 fights.

There are some magical fights that can be made in a permanently shifting boxing world.

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