Can ANYONE stop Naoya Inoue?


As Japan's terrifying bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue provides but every other sufferer to his listing of KO wins, Elliot Worsell takes a have a look at 5 possible warring parties for the ‘Monster’

EARLIER this week in Saitama, Japan we noticed the adaptation between a fighter 3 years higher and a fighter 3 years older. It resulted, this distinction, in Naoya Inoue, the fighter 3 years higher, knocking out Nonito Donaire, the fighter 3 years older, within two rounds.

That gave the impression an inevitable conclusion simplest as soon as it turned into a truth and it was once most likely all of the extra surprising for the reason that remaining time the 2 had met they'd been so completely matched. Again then, in November 2019, Inoue have been compelled via Donaire to move the overall 12 rounds for the second one time as a professional and had, within the strategy of being driven tougher via the Filipino than somebody prior to or since, misplaced each exchanges and rounds.

This time, alternatively, with Donaire 3 years older and Inoue 3 years higher, the rematch was once a markedly other proposition. This time, as early as spherical one, Inoue discovered his vary to devastating impact, shedding Donaire in opposition to the top of the spherical with what Donaire would later describe as the toughest shot he had ever won as a professional. At that time, the writing was once at the wall. Donaire, suffering to make it to the bell, (which, fortunately for him, was once simply across the nook), was once now combating purely on intuition and was once, in spherical two, sooner or later completed via Inoue in vicious taste.

That introduced a untimely finish to each the struggle and the contention. It additionally had Donaire questioning what he will have carried out another way and lots of others questioning, with Donaire now consigned to Inoue’s previous, who has the facility to come back alongside and tame Inoue at a time when he seems to be amassing increasingly more momentum and generating extra in the best way of concern.

Certainly, as instances is going on, and as Inoue’s identify defences rack up, it's changing into tougher and tougher to look somebody fit Donaire’s efficiency towards Inoue in 2019, by no means thoughts in truth get the simpler of him and blemish the Jap famous person’s unbeaten document. He seems, for now, too sturdy, too speedy, and too robust for the boys in and round him. Scarier than that, he additionally seems to be bettering, rising, and maturing. He seems, on the age of 29, to be coming into his athletic high, a chief his opponents pray can be brief.

There'll, in fact, most probably come a time when Inoue meets his fit, each bodily and stylistically, and we can know then that he's human. However till that day arrives we should wait with persistence and we should watch with awe as he tiptoes the road between combating warring parties able to bettering his legacy and averting those who may do irreparable harm to it.

Admittedly, there's a sense that the ones varieties of warring parties are few and some distance between. Then again, there are 5 males available in the market – starting from super-flyweight to super-bantamweight – who may no less than be offering Inoue, 23-0 (20), one thing he hasn’t observed prior to, be it a recent taste, a dimension factor, and even only a belt he hasn’t but received. And those 5 are as follows:

Juan Francisco Estrada, 42-3 (28)

Mexico’s Estrada was once remaining observed outpointing Román González in March 2021 to win the second one of the pair’s two encounters (the primary, which came about in 2012, was once received via González). A lovely fighter, blessed with each aggression and acumen, Estrada has misplaced to just González and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, in 2014, and has reigned as light-flyweight champion, flyweight champion and super-flyweight champion.

At 32, and with quite a lot of miles at the clock, it could be an excessive amount of of an ask to be expecting Estrada to confront Inoue at a fourth weight – bantamweight – however he indubitably has the standard to do it and, additionally, has in recent times registered a few of his very best wins, together with one towards Carlos Cuadras (TKO 11) in 2020.

Juan Francisco Estrada
Juan Estrada in motion

Stephen Fulton, 21-0 (8)

In relation to chance, there's most likely no higher one for Inoue presently than transferring to super-bantamweight to struggle American Stephen Fulton, an not going rival who simplest just lately emerged on the best of his personal weight magnificence. It might be a chance for Inoue as a result of it might require him stepping up in weight to struggle a person of five’7 (to Inoue’s 5’5) and likewise as a result of Fulton, nonetheless a relative unknown, lacks one of the attract of alternative potential Inoue warring parties. To overcome him could be a tremendous success, definitely, and would truly raise Inoue’s legacy, but Fulton, for all his skill, simplest turned into WBO super-bantamweight champion in 2020 (when outpointing Angelo Leo). He has since added Brandon Figueroa’s WBC identify to that, in addition to outboxed Daniel Roman, every other former international champion, however one may argue Fulton’s chance isn't well worth the eventual praise for Inoue. Irrespective of that, must Inoue see his long run at super-bantamweight, Fulton, for now, may be very a lot the person to overcome.

Stephen Fulton
Stephen Fulton beats Brandon Figueroa, Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

Román González, 51-3 (41)

Essentially the most embellished of all of the combatants within the neighborhood of Inoue, Nicaraguan legend Román González is at this level so liked it might be nearly a disgrace to look him percentage a hoop with a monster in his athletic high like Inoue. That’s to not say González would to find himself overpowered or outmatched, in fact (we’ve all made that mistake prior to), however it might indubitably be a struggle through which the chances could be stacked towards him; a struggle requiring a superhuman effort most likely even past González at this level of his good occupation.

Nonetheless, because it stands, González, in spite of the reality he's now 34, stays on the very best of his sport and previous this 12 months took Mexican upstart Julio Cesar Martinez to university for 12 rounds. He's, if no longer relatively at his height, shut sufficient to it to nonetheless be a threat and, moreover, has controlled to care for the type of talents, poise and composure unrivaled via somebody within the decrease weight divisions.

Roman Gonzalez vs Juan Francisco Estrada
Roman Gonzalez lands on Juan Francisco Estrada, Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Paul Butler, 34-2 (15)

If the struggle is in truth made between Butler and Inoue, few can be selecting the Liverpudlian to win, of that there's no doubt, but that doesn’t imply he's not worthy, nor does it imply the struggle received’t occur. Actually, with a WBO bantamweight identify to his identify, and with John Riel Casimero now in his rear-view replicate, Butler hasn't ever been higher situated than he's presently to land a shot towards Inoue, the most important famous person he might be able to struggle. He has, in the end, the only belt Inoue lately lacks and he additionally has recognition in the UK, a territory one can also be positive Inoue continues to be prepared to overcome, in particular in mild of his shocking British debut in 2019, when he knocked out Emmanuel Rodríguez in two rounds.

“If I struggle Inoue subsequent, I’m stepping in with an absolute legend,” Butler advised me remaining month. “He’s somebody who's going to move on and win many, many extra international titles at a large number of weights. He’s magnificent.

“I watched him are living at The Hydro (Glasgow) towards (Emmanuel) Rodríguez and idea Rodríguez had a truly excellent first spherical. I used to be anticipating it to be a aggressive struggle, however then Inoue got here out for the second one and once he stuck Rodríguez blank that was once just about it. He’s in order that harmful. He’s a highly intelligent fighter, too. He’s somebody I experience looking at as a fan despite the fact that he’s in my weight class.”

Paul Butler
Paul Butler lands a hook, Mark Runnacles/Getty Pictures

John Riel Casimero, 31-4 (21)

Although spoken about for a while now, the considered Casimero getting the risk to percentage a hoop with Inoue in 2022 hasn't ever gave the impression much less interesting than it's nowadays. Unfortunately, while it was once as soon as an enchanting combat between bantamweight belt-holders, the Inoue vs Casimero struggle now carries with it one much less identify and significantly extra luggage, albeit thru no fault of Inoue. Actually, blame must be positioned only on the ft of Casimero, whose incapacity to shield his WBO bantamweight identify towards Paul Butler in both 2021 or 2022 ended in the Filipino sooner or later being stripped of the identify in Might of this 12 months. This left Casimero and not using a belt and subsequently with out his price tag to a long run struggle with Inoue. It additionally left many believing Casimero, whose problems it sounds as if stem from an incapacity to make bantamweight, would inevitably minimize his losses and to find himself campaigning as a super-bantamweight. That is still observed however, as of now, some distance much more likely is a transfer up in weight for Casimero than a struggle at bantamweight towards Naoya Inoue.

John Riel Casimero
John Riel Casimero in happier instances, Morgan Harlow/Getty Pictures