Naoya Inoue: The Monster of Japanese Boxing

Although it is not one of the most followed sports in the country, there has recently been a growing popularity of boxing in Japan thanks in part to the emergence of one of its first mega-star athletes, Naoya Inoue. Also known as “the Monster,” Naoya Inoue has rapidly ascended to become one of the world’s top active boxers, and his name is set to be even more prominently featured in the sport. 

Inoue Makes History

In August 2023, Inoue made history as he moved to the top of the pound-to-pound rankings by The Ring. That achievement made him the first Japanese boxer in history to achieve that feat. Meanwhile, he is ranked as the best active super bantamweight in the world by the same body, as well as holding the same ranking from ESPN, BoxRec, and TBRB. As well as being ranked as the world’s best super bantamweight, the Japanese superstar is also the favourite of recommended Japanese bookmakers, having won world championships across four different weight classifications. 

Amateur Career

Inoue’s career in boxing was kickstarted in 2009, as he won the Japanese Interscholastic Athletic Meeting and the Japanese Junior National Championships. He continued his progression in the sport 12 months later by winning the bronze medal at light flyweight at the Asian Youth Championships. His performances continued to impress throughout 2011, as he won the gold medal at the 21st President’s Cup. But, he would often come up short at the World Amateur Boxing Championships, being eliminated in the third round in his final attempt in 2011. However, he ended his amateur career with a dominant record, winning 75 of his 81 bouts.

Professional Debut

Inoue had high hopes when he turned professional in 2012, signing with the Ohashi Boxing Gym and signing an agreement that would only see him fight top-level rivals. His first fight came in October 2012, as he came up against Filipino champion Crison Omayao, winning by fourth-round knockout. Following that victory, he would continue to fight against top-ranked opponents, beating Thai champion Ngaoprajan Chuwatana and then Japan’s top-ranked light flyweight.

Inoue would win his first championship in August 2013, defeating future IBF and WBA light flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi. The Japanese star would win his first national championship in December 2013, defeating Jerson Mancio by fifth-round TKO to win the OPBF light flyweight gold. But, bigger tests would soon appear as Inoue set his sights on winning world championship gold.

World Championship Glory

His first opportunity for a world championship came in April 2014, as he bossed proceedings against Adrian Hernandez to win the WBC light flyweight crown. He would later defend the title on one occasion before moving into the super flyweight division in November 2014. He would stun the world against Omar Andres Narvaez to win the WBO junior bantamweight gold, flooring his rival in the opening round before scoring the stoppage victory in the second round.

The punch that did the damage would keep Inoue out with an injury for a year, but he returned to the ring to successfully defend the title with a TKO win over Warlito Parrenas. After successfully defending the gold on six occasions, he would challenge for the WBA bantamweight gold against Jamie McDonnell in May 2018, winning by TKO in the opening round.

His dominance in the division would continue into 2019, as he landed a second-round TKO against Emmanuel Rodriguez to add the IBF and The Ring Bantamweight titles to his collection. The WBA (super) belt was soon added to his collection in November 2019, as he scored a unanimous decision win over Ninito Donaire.

Final Thoughts

Inoue’s career has gone from strength to strength since that win in 2019, and he has looked even more dominant in recent years. Since retaining the titles on five occasions, he has progressed into the super bantamweight division. His bout against Stephen Fulton earlier this year was one of the biggest staged in Japan in recent memory. Still, Inoue rose to the occasion to score a sensational eighth-round stoppage win over the American at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.

The win saw him capture the WBC and WBO super bantamweight titles, and major fights are now being lined up for the star. The standout bout will likely be a showdown against Marlon Tapales, who currently holds the WBA and IBF titles.


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