The Monster returns: Naoya Inoue eyes May title defense against Luis Nery

By Chris Williams - 12/26/2023 - Comments

Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue is in talks to make the first defense of his newly won undisputed super bantamweight championship against #1 WBC 122-lb contender Luis ‘Pantera’ Nery next, following Naoya’s tenth round knockout win over IBF & WBA champion Marlon Tapales tonight at the Ariake Arena, in Tokyo, Japan.

Naoya may live to regret the decision to fight the southpaw Nery, as he’s got the explosive power to stop the Japanese star in his tracks and show that he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

Inoue did NOT look good against Tapales tonight at all. His power did nothing to him, and did not look like the same fighter he’d been when he’d been fighting smaller guys. Nery will do a lot of damage to Inoue, and could finish his pound-for-pound dreams.

Reasons for Nery fight

It’s unclear why the 30-year-old Monster Inoue wants to fight Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) rather than moving up to featherweight, but it could be to avenge the loss of his fellow countryman former WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, who the Mexican slugger twice knocked out with ease in the early rounds in 2017 & 2018.

The southpaw Nery blasted through Yamanaka with ease, destroying him both times. It would be a risky fight for the 5’5″ Inoue to fight Nery because he didn’t look that great tonight against Tapales (37-4, 19 KOs).

Inoue was getting hit a lot by the glacially slow Tapales, and he was fortunate that the Filipino slugger wasn’t throwing a lot of shots because it could have ended badly.

Inoue choosing to fight the 29-year-old Nery, who was stopped in seven rounds in 2021 by Brandon Figueroa, suggests that the Japanese star doesn’t fancy the idea of moving up to featherweight to take on the dangerous punchers in that weight class.

Featherweight’s looming threats

  • Rafael Espinoza: The 6’1″ fighter coming off a victory over WBO featherweight champion Robeisy Ramirez. Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) throws 100+ punches per round with excellent power. He might be a step too far for the smallish Inoue and destroy him.
  • Luis Lopez
  • Otabek Kholmatov vs. Raymond Ford winner
  • Rey Vargas

If Inoue moves up to 126, he could live to regret it because those guys would be all over Naoya, giving him nightmares. Inoue gets hit too much now, and he’s going to be able to take the power of the likes of Luis Lopez, Otabek Kholmatov, or Vargas without crumbling.

Inoue’s ceiling reached?

I guess you could say that Inoue’s decision to remain at 122 rather than move up to 126 is a clear sign that he realizes he’s reached his ceiling and doesn’t dare continue moving up to face fighters with equal or greater power than him and with better size.

We knew Inoue would reach a point where he wouldn’t want to continue to climb the ranks, but surprisingly, 122 is as far as he goes. Granted, Inoue got hit a lot tonight by the heavy-handed Tapales, which might have made him change his mind.

If a painfully slow fighter like Tapales could walk through Inoue’s shots and put hands on him, what do you think the killers at featherweight [126] would do to him? What would happen to Monster Inoue when the hugely powerful Luis Lopez and Otabek Kholmatov start bouncing bombs on his chin?

The old past his prime 38-year-old Nonito Donaire had Inoue staggered. Lopez and Kholmatov would be a pure nightmare for him.

What we saw tonight from Inoue is that his power isn’t the same at 122 as it was at 118, 115, 112, and 108. Monster Inoue’s shots don’t have the same effect at super bantamweight as they had in the other weight classes, and it’ll be even less so if he moves up to 126 to take on the huge fighters in that division, who will have tremendous size advantage over him.