Naoya Inoue dominates Kono to first ever KO defeat
Naoya Inoue proved himself the indisputable king of Japan’s junior bantamweight division — and perhaps the best in the entire world — with a six-round demolition of compatriot Kohei Kono on Friday at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo to retain his WBO title for the fourth time.
The 23-year-old Inoue — already a champion in two divisions — moved his unbeaten record to 12-0 (10 knockouts) by battering the former two-time WBA 115-pound titleholder into submission at the 1:01 mark of the sixth round. Kono (32-10-1, 13 KOs) was dropped early in the round after his desperate aggression left him wide open for a left hook that flattened him. Kono rose at the count of nine but was sent back down by a flurry punctuated by a right uppercut.
The loss was the first by knockout for the 36-year-old Kono, who may be ready for retirement after losing a decision to Panama’s Luis Concepcion in his previous fight in August.
Inoue, of Yokohama, was sharp from the outset in his third fight of the year, using his jab to keep his Tokyo-based opponent at a distance before nailing him with his biggest shot of the first round, a right hand to the body which was followed up by a left hook up top.
Kono went into fight-or-flight mode in the second round, firing away with a volley of seven consecutive right hands to the body and guard of Inoue, who waited out the storm before digging a left hook to the body with 30 seconds left. The shot froze Kono momentarily and opened him up to several more body shots and left hooks upstairs. After the round, Kono took a walk to catch his breath and clutched his right side before going to the corner.
The body shots began to deteriorate Kono physically by the fourth round, as his form became sloppier, his punches became slower and his defense disappeared. Inoue started mixing in right uppercuts in the fifth round, splitting the guard and camouflaging the left hooks to the body which made Kono — and by this point the audience too — wince each time they landed.
Moments after landing three right hands, Inoue stepped in and landed another left hook which hurt Kono so seriously that he tried to claim they had clashed heads to buy time, even though they never did. Inoue took advantage to hammer in four right hands and a left hook.
The fight became difficult to watch by this point as Kono’s balance became unsteady in the minutes leading up to the stoppage.
Inoue’s win keeps him rated No. 1 by THE RING at 115 pounds, a spot ahead of the pound-for-pound champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, presenting an interesting rivalry to test just how great these two unbeaten fighters are.
Also that night, Akira Yaegashi retained his IBF junior flyweight title with a 12th-round technical knockout of Samartlek Kokietgym at the 2:13 mark to set up a showdown with interim IBF titleholder Milan Melindo of the Philippines in 2017.
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