Why 'Monster' Inoue may be 'most complete fighter'

Naoya Inoue throws a punch at Marlon Tapales in Tokyo
Naoya Inoue stopped Marlon Tapales in the 10th round in December to become undisputed super-bantamweight champion [Getty Images]

As boxing aliases go, there are few better fitting than Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue.

The Japanese superstar boasts a record of 26 straight wins, with 23 stoppages.

It is a feat made all the more staggering considering Inoue fights in the lower weight divisions, where knockouts are generally much harder to come by.

“Inoue is as good as it gets. He is arguably the most complete fighter in the world right now,” says former WBO super-featherweight world champion Barry Jones.

“Every punch he hits you with can destroy you.”

Inoue became undisputed super-bantamweight champion in December, having also won all four world titles at bantamweight.

The 31-year-old will make a first defence of his crown against Mexican Luis Nery in Tokyo on Monday.

What makes Inoue so good?

Nery, a heavy underdog, has described Inoue as "overrated, over-confident and ordinary” - but the champion’s accolades say otherwise.

Inoue has lived up to the moniker ‘kaibutsu’ - translated to ‘the monster’ - bestowed upon him by gym owner and former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi after just one fight.

He is a four-weight world champion and the only male fighter - after Terence Crawford - to become undisputed in two weight classes.

“Inoue does pretty much everything very, very well. He has crazy power but his technique is flawless and his balance is sublime. These are hall of fame attributes,” Jones says.

“But that power - he carries it throughout. He can knock you out in round one or knock you out in round 12. He can even take a good shot.”

Southpaw Nery is himself a two-division champion and has just one blemish on his record - a stoppage loss to Brandon Figueroa in 2021.

“It’s a good and fun fight” Jones says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes late but with the power in his right hand, I think Inoue will win inside the distance.”

Jones expects Inoue to move up to featherweight and has identified the winner of WBC champion Ray Ford or Nick Ball - who fight in Riyadh on 1 June - as a potential next opponent.

“When you move up in weight, your reputation precedes you and I fancy Inoue against either of them,” he says.

“From there on, an undisputed title in a third division would undoubtedly put him as an all-time great.”

Should he be a bigger global star?

Naoya Inoue thows a left hook at Paul Butler in 2022
Inoue has won world titles at light-flyweight, super-flyweight, bantamweight and super-bantamweight [Getty Images]

A crowd of 50,000 will be in attendance on Monday at the Tokyo Dome cheering on their local star.

The last time a boxing event was held at the venue was when Buster Douglas famously shocked heavyweight world champion Mike Tyson in 1990.

According to reports, Inoue will earn a purse of 1bn yen (£5.2m) against Nery, alongside several lucrative sponsorship and endorsement deals.

But despite Inoue’s popularity in his home country - where he has fought 22 times - there are those who feel he has not yet reached the global superstar status deserving of his achievements.

Earlier this year boxer-turned-pundit Shawn Porter said Inoue had to “crack America” to enhance his stardom.

“How can you say he is not a big enough star?,” Jones asks. “Name me another guy at that weight who sells out a stadium?"

“It’s just the western world - we’re pretty much talking about the UK and US - where he may not be a household name, but every boxing fan knows who he is.

“The fact is he’s small and his fights are often on weekday daytimes, but this idea that he isn’t famous or isn’t a big enough star depends on what side of the street you’re walking on."

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