Monday, July 22, 2024  |



Naoya Inoue

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue
RANKING: No. 1 pound for pound
country: Japan
27-0-0 (24 KOs)


Inoue was born on April 10, 1993, in Zama, Japan. His amateur career was notable for its high knockout ratio but otherwise wasn’t mind-blowing in terms of awards. Once he turned pro in 2012, however, “The Monster” became unstoppable.

Inoue won the national junior flyweight championship in just his fourth professional bout, beating future Ring champion Ryoichi Taguchi, then seized the WBC world title two fights later by stopping Adrian Hernandez. After one defense, Inoue jumped up to junior bantamweight and knocked out longtime WBO titleholder Omar Narvaez. 

Inoue’s mystique grew quickly among hardcore fans but was dismissed by many in the mainstream as hype. A wider audience started to get it after HBO televised his U.S. debut as part of the “Super Fly” series in 2017. Putting his extraordinary blend of speed, boxing skills and crushing power on display for all to see – and notably his ruthless use of body punches – Inoue forced Antonio Nieves’ corner to throw in the towel after six rounds.

Inoue made seven defenses of his title, then rose to bantamweight and destroyed Jamie McDonnell in the first round. His next three fights were part of the World Boxing Super Series, in which he defeated Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and the legendary Nonito Donaire (a surprisingly competitive battle that was The Ring’s 2019 Fight of the Year) to emerge as the IBF/WBA and Ring champion. Another five stoppages later, including a devastating knockout of Donaire in their rematch, he was the undisputed champion of the division. He also became Japan’s first fighter to be ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring.

Having cleaned out the bantamweight division, Inoue moved up again and immediately challenged WBC/WBO junior featherweight titleholder Stephen Fulton, who succumbed in the eighth round. With a 10th-round knockout of Marlon Tapales in his next fight, Inoue became the undisputed champion in a second division, only the second male fighter to do so in the four-belt era, after Terence Crawford.

KNOWN FOR: Power. Inoue can knock opponents out with either hand and he can punch to the body like a fiend. He’s not just a slugger, though. He’s also fast, nimble and fundamentally brilliant, and his abilities to adjust on the fly and rise to the occasion when challenged are part of what makes him so compelling. His defense is by no means impenetrable, but that vulnerability plus his aggressive style adds even more excitement to his fights.

RING FACTS: Inoue was first on The Ring’s cover for the February 2019 “State of the Game” issue, in which he was named boxing’s best puncher. His next appearance would be on the September 2019 cover, which was illustrated by artist George Morikawa, creator of the famous boxing-themed manga Hajime no Ippo. He was also The Ring’s 2023 Fighter of the Year.



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