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Naoya Inoue – The complete prizefighter with plutonium in his fists

Naoya Inoue
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Naoya Inoue might be the greatest Japanese boxer since Fighting Harada

JAPANESE athletes are having a moment. Shohei Ohtani may be the best switch-hitter in all of baseball; Naomi Osaka is the current face of women’s tennis and the world’s highest paid female athlete; Rui Hachimura figures to be a future NBA all-star; and Hideki Matsuyama just won a golf major and millions in subsequent endorsements deals; which brings use to Naoya Inoue, the relatively diminutive but nonetheless dangerous boxing dynamo, who, despite the stiff competition from his Japanese peers, is probably the most entertaining athletic export the Land of the Rising Sun currently has to offer.

Elite quickness, technical knowhow, and, of course, unambiguous punching power make Inoue the complete prizefighter. What he might be said to lack, however, is the broad mainstream recognition that his countrypersons, in one form or another, all enjoy. Of course, bolstering his marketing profile is one of the reasons why Inoue signed with Las Vegas-based promoter Top Rank last year. But superstardom, the kind that currently graces wunderkind Osaka, is a fickle animal with no set formulas. Which is another way of saying that perhaps all Inoue, who speaks little English, can hope to do is to continue delivering one glitzy, highlight-reel knockout after another.

In his latest outing in the ring, the three-division titlist and reigning WBA/IBF bantamweight titleholder did just that, scoring three bruising knockdowns – all via the body – en route to halting woebegone Filipino challenger Michael Dasmarinas inside three rounds at the The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The official time of stoppage was 2-45.

Some day, way in the future, scientists are going to discover that Naoya Inoue had plutonium running in the veins of his fists.

Widely acknowledged as the greatest Japanese boxer since flyweight legend Fighting Harada laid waste to the competition in the 1960s, the 28-year-old Inoue wasted no time in dispatching his overmatched foe.

He recorded his first knockdown with nearly a minute left in the second round: a right uppercut followed by a raking left hand that cut through the right ribcage of Dasmarinas, who responded by wincing in pain but would take a knee a few seconds later – a delayed reaction. Dasmarinas would beat the count and survive the round, but not before eating no less than five scorching left hands to his already traumatised right flank.

The end arrived with 40 seconds left in the third round. Inoue caught Dasmarinas on the ropes and, once again, pelted him with a left hand to the body that went off like a stick of TNT. Instantly, the Filipino crumbled to the canvas, his mouth agape, as he flailed momentarily on his backside. Somehow, Dasmarinas managed to gather himself and beat the count administered by referee Russell Mora. But his resolve only delayed the inevitable. Inoue immediately jumped on his maimed prey and delivered another lightning quick dig to the selfsame spot on the torso. Dasmarinas went down again, only this time, Mora simply waved off the bout.

Post-fight, Inoue expressed his hope to face the winner of the upcoming (August 14) partial unification, all-Filipino title bout between John Riel Casimero (WBO) and Nonito Donaire (WBC), whom Inoue faced in a barnburner in 2019.

Mikaela Mayer treated her first defence of her WBO junior lightweight title no different from her 14 previous romps in the ring: she made it a convincing rout.

Working behind a dedicated jab, while mixing in stiff right hand leads and hard body shots, the Colorado Springs-based Mayer earned a unanimous decision over Argentina’s Erica Farias, a former two-division titleholder, on the Top Rank promotions undercard.

Judges Max De Luca (98-92), Eric Cheek (97-93), and Lisa Giampa (98-92) all scored the bout in the American’s favor.

Save for few moments, Farias had no answer for the taller, longer, and, well, simply better Mayer, who had the Argentine bleeding from the nose by the fifth round. By the end of the fight, Farias was sporting a shiner near her right eye. Mike Ortega refereed.

London-born Ghanaian Isaac Dogboe squeezed past a determined Adam Lopez with a majority decision in a heated 10-round featherweight affair that could have gone either way.

Judge Dave Moretti saw the bout a draw, turning in a 95-95 scorecard, but his peers Chris Migliore and Don Trella scored it 97-93 and 96-94, respectively, for Dogboe.

Considered to be something like damaged goods after this two brutal defeats at the hands of former junior featherweight titleholder Emmanuel Navarrete, Dogboe may have some wind in his sails with this latest feat, his second straight win. It seems that changing trainers, from his father, Paul, to veteran Barry Hunter, seems to have been the right move.

Still, despite the improvements he has made to his craft, Dogboe looked shaky at times, especially towards the end of the fight. In rounds eight and nine, the Glendale, California based Lopez walked down Dogboe and landed vigorous combinations.

After starting out strong in the early going, barnstorming the Glendale, California based Lopez with hard right hands, Dogboe ceded control midway through the bout. Indeed, Lopez, who made a name for himself by nearly upsetting current featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez in 2019, was more than willing to exchange punches on the inside. His right uppercut continually rocked Dogboe back on his heels. The confident Lopez even mouthed off at Dogboe in between their exchanges.

But Dogboe would not fold like he did in the Navarrete bouts. He found opportunities to land hard right hands and left hooks, in part because Lopez kept leaving himself open for easy counters. The bout was officiated by Celestino Ruiz.

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