Naoya Inoue Vs Luis Nery: ‘The Monster’ Set For His Biggest Test So Far

March 6, 2024
3 months
Inoue Nery

Naoya Inoue will make the first defense of his undisputed super-bantamweight world titles against Luis Nery on May 8 in Tokyo, it was announced on Wednesday.

With his 10th-round knockout victory over then IBF and WBA champion Marlon Tapales in December, Inoue became just the second male fighter, after Terence Crawford, to become an undisputed four-belt champion in two weight classes. The Japanese star had previously held all four titles at bantamweight.

Inoue now prepares for arguably the toughest test of his career to date when he faces former two-weight world champion Nery at the Tokyo Dome.

Inoue’s Flawless Career

Inoue (26-0-0 23 KO) will enter the bout with a perfect professional record and as one of the leading pound-for-pound stars in boxing. Appropriately nicknamed ‘The Monster’ for his ferocious power, the Japanese hero has stopped 23 of his 26 opponents inside the distance.

A world champion in four weight divisions, including at flyweight and super-flyweight, it was at bantamweight that Inoue started to attract the boxing world’s wider attention. He unified the division against Filipino great Nonito Donaire in November 2019 and became undisputed champion by stopping Paul Butler in the 11th round in December 2022.

Stepping up to super-bantamweight, Inoue fought for the WBC and WBA world titles in his first bout, claiming the titles with an eight-round TKO of Stephen Fulton in July 2023. Five months later, he became the division’s undisputed champion by knocking out Tapales in the 10th round.

Nery The Man To Tame The Monster?

Nery (35-1-0 27 KO) will arrive in Tokyo with a fine record of his own and with the belief that he can be the first fighter to defeat Inoue.

Like Inoue, the Mexican has been a world champion at both bantamweight and super-bantamweight. Incidentally, he first became world champion in Japan in August 2017 when he stopped Shinsuke Yamanaka in the fourth round. However, Nery failed a drug test following the bout and after being cleared by the WBC, was ordered to fight Yamanaka again.

For the rematch, Nery failed to make weight, tipping the scales three pounds over the limit, so the title was only on the line for Yamanaka. The Mexican stopped his opponent in the fourth round and was subsequently issued a lifetime ban from ever fighting professionally in Japan again.

Nery put the saga behind him with a move up to super-bantamweight, becoming the WBC world champion with a points win over Aaron Alameda in September 2020, but he lost his first defense to Brandon Figueroa eight months later.

Since then, Nery has reeled off four straight wins to install himself as the mandatory challenger to Inoue’s WBC belt.

Overturned Ban Opens Door For Fight

As mentioned, Nery was handed a lifetime ban from the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) following the two incidents against Yamanaka: the failed drug test and coming into the rematch overweight.

However, it was announced last week that the JBC had overturned the ban in order to allow Nery’s fight with Inoue to take place in Japan, where the champion has fought for most of his career.

It adds another layer of intrigue to this fight in a country where Nery had been boxing public enemy No 1. Inoue was always going to receive the vast majority of the support inside the Tokyo Dome, but the fact his opponent is Nery will surely only increase the atmosphere inside the venue.

Can Nery Actually Beat Inoue?

It’s a question 26 fighters have previously failed to answer and Nery is a massive underdog for the fight, according to the early odds from the bookmakers.

However, there are plenty of reasons why Nery should represent the toughest challenge of Inoue’s career so far. The Mexican southpaw is as tough as they come and carries tremendous power, particularly in his left hand. He punches with speed and likes to cut off the ring and trade from the inside. If he can back Inoue up onto the ropes and let his hands go, that will be his best chance of success.

That said, few fighters can control a ring quite like Inoue, who will have a two-inch reach advantage over Nery. The Japanese’s razor-sharp jab will be deployed to keep Nery at distance and he will likely aim to pick his shots to wear the Mexican down.

If the fight descends into a slugfest then it could potentially go either way, but Inoue’s superior power and boxing skills would still make him the clear favorite.