By: Sean Crose
He beat Nonito Donaire in crushing fashion in their second battle. Then he went on to first school, then wipe out Paul Butler to earn the undisputed bantamweight championship of the world. Corny as it may sound, Naoya Inoue, known as “The Monster” had himself a monster of a 2022. That’s why he’s fighter of the year. And before you take points off the man’s accomplishments for fighting a past his prime Donaire or a less than stellar fellow titlist in Butler, ask yourself who else has had the year Inoue has?
Dmitry Bivol? Well, there’s no doubt he’s had himself one hell of a 2022 by beating Canelo Alvarez before making relatively easy work out of Zurdo Ramirez. Yet Bivol, fantastic as he is – and he is fantastic – has yet to unify and dominate an entire division as Inoue has. That achievement may be coming down the road for the light heavyweight master, but he hasn’t arrived there yet. Inoue, on the other hand, rules supreme at 118. And, as of this moment, there seems to be no sign of the 29 year old Inoue slowing down anytime soon.
In a career that’s lasted a bit over ten years, Japan’s Inoue has become a world titlist in three weight divisions and currently has a resume of twenty-four wins against zero losses. What’s more, all but three of those wins have come within the distance. Inoue, as is quite obvious, can hit. Hard. He also closes the show in wildly impressive fashion. Just ask Donaire and Butler. In the case of Donaire, Inoue knew he had a fight on his hands, as the future Hall of Famer gave Inoue a great run in their first match. Still, Inoue rose to the occasion quickly in the rematch, dropping Donaire in the first and finishing the esteemed veteran in the second with thudding power shots.
As for Butler, the Englishman no doubt entered the ring to face Inoue with enormous confidence. Upon tasting Inoue’s strength and skill, however, the man simply did what he could to stay in the fight. He almost made it to the final bell. Almost. A brutal combination of head and body shots sent Butler crumpling to the mat in the eleventh. Suffice to say, he couldn’t beat the count. Looking over both of Inoue’s 2022 fights, it’s clear he’s not only a great puncher, but is also a fighter willing to adapt to the moment.
For instance, Inoue let Donaire press the action in their rematch before taking the former pound for pound ranked star out in the second. With Butler, however, Inoue simply, patiently and menacingly pressed the action for round after round, cutting off the ring, making sure his feet were placed properly when the moment arrived for him to wrap things up. That’s why Inoue is the 2022 fighter of the year – because he not only wins the big fights, but does so in brilliant fashion.
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