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The Options Awaiting The Monster, Naoya Inoue

By: Kirk Jackson

After another successful defense of his WBA bantamweight world title this past weekend, Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs), improved his unblemished record and continues to forge his path towards greatness.

The pound-for-pound elite Inoue, swiftly and violently stopped Filipino challenger Michael “Hot and Spicy” Dasmarinas (30-3-1, 20 KOs), with a series of lethal body shots.

“The first round, I just wanted to see what he had. It depended on how he came out, and after a little while, yeah, I thought I could get him out,” Inoue said during his post-fight interview.

“Against the number one ranked fighter, Dasmarinas, I think I had a great win. I prepare myself to knock them out, whether with a head shot or a body shot. I came prepared and to get a win by knockout is good for me.”

An eye-pleasing performance for spectators, albeit brief. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who was in attendance, was also impressed by Inoue’s showing.

Arum added, “Naoya Inoue is a unique force of nature inside that ring. Another incredible performance from ‘The Monster.’ We are seeing a great fighter at work here, and he is only going to get better.”

With performances like this, it may be hard-pressed to entice a large pool of challengers to take a shot at the reigning WBA/IBF/Ring bantamweight champ, oddly enough.

Sometimes, a fighter may display a certain measure of violent tenacity, discouraging even to other top-level contemporaries. Fighters of that classification, who immediately come to mind, are guys such as Sonny Liston, Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran.

Additionally, there are fighters possessing great technical prowess; to the point, they utterly outclass and embarrass opponents, even discouraging potential suitors from taking the challenge.

Fighters who come to mind are Guillermo Rigondeaux, Floyd Mayweather (before he became the cash cow), Erislandy Lara and Gary Russell Jr.

In this modern era of alphabet title belts, it’s easier to avoid the pathway of particular champions, while still achieving great success. Yes, ducking still exists.

Which beckons the question, with this current incredible run from Inoue, will this enhance the notion, or actual reality, of fighters aiming to avoid “The Monster’s” wrath? There have been claims in the past from Inoue’s team, the difficulties of securing bouts – even as the reigning WBO junior-bantamweight champion.

Fortunately, for boxing fans, there are other fighters with the desire to not only challenge but defeat Inoue. Starting with one of those fighters who happened to be in attendance for Inoue’s fight, Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs).

Donaire, the recently crowned WBC bantamweight champion, continues to elude the ill effects of old age, defy the odds and already has history with Inoue.

Their first encounter was a battle for the ages. It was voted the Ring magazine Fight of the Year for 2019. The culmination of skill, grit and competitiveness at the highest level, with all of the stakes on the line, battling for IBF, WBA, Ring Magazine bantamweight world titles, the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy (World Series of Boxing) and bantamweight supremacy.

Inoue battled adversity, overcoming a cut suffered early in the bout and outdueled the savvy veteran in a fight deemed as an instant classic.

Another potential would-be challenger to Inoue, also in attendance to witness his most recent performance, was three division world champion, John Riel “Quadro Alas” Casimero (30-4, 21KOs).

“It was a great performance by Naoya Inoue,” Casimero told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after the fight. “Michael Dasmarinas fought scared and showed too much respect. But it was great seeing Naoya Inoue live.”

Casimero was previously scheduled to face Inoue last April, in a bantamweight title unification clash at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Those plans were canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the two ultimately going their separate ways.

“Quadro Alas” appeared last September, destroying previously unbeaten, Duke Micah inside of three rounds last September on Showtime Pay-Per-View. He will next face four-division world champion and current WBC bantamweight titlist Donaire, in a title unification clash scheduled for August 14 on Showtime.

Donaire, for his part, is stepping in for Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1, 13 KO), who was removed from the matchup.

The winner of Casimero-Donaire, in all likelihood, is the next option for Inoue, with all three parties expressing an interest in pursuing the undisputed championship for their weight class. But for fun, we’ll explore other suitors, seeking “The Monster.”

Speaking of Rigondeaux, he mentioned his desire to go “Monster Hunting” awhile back and deemed Inoue “an excellent fighter, a great fighter, a warrior.”

Even if he is plagued with another long spell of inactivity, the future Hall-of-Famer is still a dangerous fighter and his style could present problems for Inoue. Considering how Rigondeaux was removed from a title bout through his own promotional company, not sure what the chances are of an opposing promotional company reaching out and manifesting a fight between the two.

At least, there is somewhat of a clear path at bantamweight for Inoue. As mentioned earlier, he ravaged through junior-bantamweight, then experienced difficulty luring the other champions in an effort to unify. We missed opportunities to see Inoue against the likes of Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras, or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

After the dust settles with Inoue’s unification attempt at bantamweight, as there isn’t a clear timetable for its conclusion, greater challenges await Inoue in a deeper weight class at super bantamweight.

Arguably from top to bottom, super bantamweight is the deepest in boxing. One of the premier fighters of the division already has his eyes set on “The Monster.”

The WBO super bantamweight champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs), has a bout with WBC and WBA champion Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) on Sept. 11 in a 122-pound unification match on Showtime. The unified winner, whether it be Figueroa or Fulton, would at the very least have the world titles and acclaim to lure Inoue.

The 26-year-old Fulton has a strong conviction on the damage he’ll inflict on Inoue. The Philadelphia-bred product is one of the best young fighters in the sport and alluded to his skills and size as determining factors en route to his predicted victory. That is, if the fight were to ever materialize.

“I see me wiping him out clean! Inoue is too small for me, he’s too short, his reach isn’t there, I’m not going to sit there for those power shots all the time,” Fulton said of Inoue.

“He’s good, but he’s not better than me. I believe what happened to Nery (when Figueroa knocked him out last month) will happen to him.”

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