Naoya Inoue is vulnerable after all – but more dangerous than ever after knockout of Luis Nery

In round one, the pound-for-pound star was dramatically dropped for the first time in his career, but he fought back to brutally stop Nery and stay undisputed

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Monday 06 May 2024 14:09 BST
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Louise Thomas

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So, Naoya Inoue is vulnerable after all. He can be hurt. The problem is, as Luis Nery found out firsthand on Monday, a wounded Inoue might be the most dangerous “Monster” of all.

It was a startling sight: Inoue spinning around on his way down to the canvas, arms flailing and senses scattered, in the very first round of this title defence. This event, the first boxing card at the 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome in 34 years, was due to be a celebration of Inoue – the undisputed super-bantamweight champion, arguably the pound-for-pound No 1, and inarguably a hero in Japan.

But 34 years on from Buster Douglas’s historic upset of Mike Tyson at the Dome, it looked like another upset was on the cards when Nery floored Inoue with a spiteful left hook in round one. It looked like Nery was moments from a desecration of this celebration.

Unlike Douglas, Nery had the pedigree of a former two-weight world champion, meaning a finishing sequence was a very real prospect after that knockdown. Instead, Inoue – who had looked utterly bewildered while lying on the canvas – pulled off the most daring of escapes.

By round two, the 31-year-old had already paid back Nery, dropping the 29-year-old Mexican with a left hook of his own. Nery was quickly back on his feet, but not before Inoue had found a moment to celebrate and fire himself up.

By round four, Inoue had the audacity to mock Nery after landing clean shots, taunting the challenger and calling on him to throw some of his own. Inoue was even dancing in front of a man who had looked so dangerous just minutes earlier. And by round five, Nery looked a fraction of himself as he was floored for a second time, again punished by a left hook.

Inoue was floored for the first time of his career, hitting the canvas in round one
Inoue was floored for the first time of his career, hitting the canvas in round one (AP)
(AFP via Getty Images)

One round later, it was done, as Inoue backed up “Pantera” and pistoned a short right cross onto the Mexican’s jaw, sending him lolloping sickeningly into and half-through the ropes.

Nery’s eyes glazed over, as Inoue’s glistened. Against any odds you might have found with bookmakers after round one, Inoue was not just the victor but an emphatic one.

“A big surprise happened in the first round!” he said after his victory, which improved his record to 27-0 with 24 knockouts. “Actually, that happening gave me good motivation and attention.

Inoue dropped Nery three times en route to a sixth-round knockout win
Inoue dropped Nery three times en route to a sixth-round knockout win (AP)

“I don’t remember anything that my dad [Inoue’s coach] told me during the intermission, but that gave me motivation and focus until the end of the fight.”

Inoue, just the second man ever to hold undisputed gold in two divisions, looked at risk of losing his titles, his aura, and his unbeaten record. Instead, he produced the kind of comeback that only enhances an aura.

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