‘Fired-up’ Inoue stops Nery after early scare to defend titles

Japanís Naoya Inoue (L) fights against Mexicoís Luis Nery during their IBF-WBA-WBC-WBO super-bantamweight title boxing match at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on May 6, 2024. AFP

Japan’s undisputed super-bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue said an early scare got him “fired up” after he stopped Mexico’s Luis Nery in the sixth round to defend his titles at the Tokyo Dome on Monday.

Around 43,000 fans packed into the famous venue for the first boxing match there since 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas knocked out unbeaten heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in February 1990 in one of the sport’s biggest upsets.

Another seismic shock looked like it could be on the cards when Nery floored the unbeaten “Monster” Inoue in the first round with a huge left hand, with all four championship belts up for grabs.

But Inoue got up and knocked his opponent down in the following round, before sending him to the canvas again in the fifth and finishing him off with a right hook in the sixth.

“It was a great feeling to knock him down but how about that surprise in the first round?” said the 31-year-old Inoue.

“As a boxer, when that happens to you it fires you up. It gave me a lot of energy.”

Inoue chuckled incredulously to himself as he sat down at the end of a stunning first round.

But the Japanese fighter gave a yell as he left his stool for the start of the second and was soon on level terms after dropping Nery with a well-timed left.

“From the moment I went down, I was able to recover calmly,” said Inoue.

“I think it was precisely because I went down that I was able to fight the way I did.”

Inoue gave yet another demonstration of his ferocious punching power as he picked Nery apart in the following rounds.

He downed his opponent with a juddering left hook in the fifth, then landed the finishing blow in the sixth to win by technical knock-out.

Home pressure

Inoue took his record to 27-0 with 24 wins by KO, and said that his team would enter negotiations to fight Australian Sam Goodman in his next title defence, likely to be in September.

Inoue said the fight had been “a great experience”.

“Fighting at Tokyo Dome gave me a lot of power, but there was also pressure,” he said.

It was Inoue’s first title defence since becoming the undisputed super-bantamweight world champion in December.

He is just the second man to become undisputed world champion at two different weights since the four-belt era began in 2004. American Terence Crawford was the first.

Nery, a former two-division world champion, was fighting in Japan for the first time since he was stripped of his bantamweight world title in 2018 after failing to make weight for a bout there.

He was subsequently banned from fighting in Japan but the country’s boxing commission gave him the green light to compete against Inoue.

Nery was booed when he was introduced to the Tokyo Dome crowd.

The 29-year-old’s record fell to 35-2, with 27 KOs.

‘A real struggle’

Japan’s Yoshiki Takei beat Australian defending champion Jason Moloney by unanimous decision to win the WBO bantamweight world title on the undercard.

Takei, a former kickboxer who had won all eight of his previous boxing matches by knockout, started strongly before Moloney came back into the bout in his second title defence.

The 27-year-old Takei said the final round was “a real struggle”.

“I wanted to win by knock-out but Moloney was really tough,” he said.

Inoue’s younger brother Takuma defended his WBA bantamweight title with a unanimous decision win over fellow Japanese Sho Ishida.

Ishida floored Takuma Inoue in the first round with a left jab but the champion recovered to dominate the fight.

Japan’s Seigo Yuri Akui defended his WBA flyweight title with a unanimous decision win over countryman Taku Kuwahara.

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