The light shines an iridescent blue inside the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. Dressed in blood red trunks and black gloves, a youthful looking challenger enters the ring. His thin but muscular frame betrays no hint of fear as he comes face-to-face with the champion.
Many believe Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11 KOs) may have taken on too much too soon, but the fight lasts just six rounds. Inoue delivers a vicious beating to the WBC light flyweight king, Adrian Hernandez. Bloody and bruised, the champion has no answer for the power that he faces, and both he and the city of Tokyo are left reeling from the onslaught.
“The Monster’s” overwhelming ferocity was a shock to those that witnessed it. Despite Inoue’s youth, he’d destroyed all who had dared to stand in his way, and Tokyo could do little to restrain his savage disposition. At just 20 years-of-age and in just his sixth professional fight, Inoue is a champion of the world. It’s an amazing feat but one that he would best just eight months later.
Dressed in a glistening black robe and white trunks, Inoue makes his way to the ring. He’s small in stature but he exudes confidence. He smiles as he makes his way through the crowd, but the moment he enters the ring you see a shift in his demeanour. The squared circle evokes a transformation from man to monster, and Omar Narvaez is about to experience the horror that Inoue brings.
Narvaez keeps his guard high as he walks forward; his compact body is left unprotected and Inoue strikes like a cobra with his straight right. The champion’s hands drop as he feels the power and one of boxing’s oldest adages comes to fruition: “kill the body and the head will die.” Inoue takes his attack upstairs and quickly stuns the champion. Down goes Narvaez; it took only 25 seconds for Inoue to gain the upper hand. Narvaez battles on but there’s little he can do to dissuade the “The Monster’s” aggression. At the end of the second round, Inoue lands the final blow and Narvaez, who has never been stopped before, is counted out. Inoue has his second world title, this time at super flyweight. The win secured The Fight City’s 2014 Fighter Of The Year Award for “The Monster.”
Naoya Inoue may well be his birth name, but his “Monster” moniker embodies his essence. It only took this prodigy eight fights to become a two-weight world champion, and at just 24 years-of-age, he has decided to take his show on the road and into the heart of mainstream boxing.
Across the Pacific Inoue now gazes. Like a scene from a Godzilla movie, he stares eastward, the remnants of Tokyo smouldering in the background, his eyes fixed on the city of Los Angeles. He’s not yet known to many on the other side of that vast blue expanse — but he soon will be. His being a monster of the flyweight variety may prohibit him from being fully appreciated by some, but it does not prevent his opponents from fearing his immense power. America will soon know the name Naoya Inoue.
The StubHub Centre in Carson, California, will be ground zero for Inoue’s American venture. To many of boxing’s hardcore fans, his status has reached cult proportions, a feat that few fighters achieve. And yet, to most he’s relatively unknown. He plans on changing that when he faces off with Antonio Nieves.
Norman Mailer once wrote, “How his hatred seethed in search of a justifiable excuse.” It’s a mantra that seemingly epitomises Inoue’s style in the ring, but despite such a lofty reputation, his opponent Nieves has spoken of his lack of fear of the impending bout.
“He’s a great fighter. He has fast hands, he’s strong and he’s a solid fighter overall, but I don’t see anything super spectacular about him,” states Nieves.
Nieves is a boxer. His bravery is not in question here. He’s been trained to ignore or shut out any fear of his opponents; it’s a coping mechanism used by fighters the world over. The reality of what he does or doesn’t see in Inoue will be on display when he shares the ring with him in a few short weeks.
Meanwhile, Inoue is hell-bent on carnage. He cares little for what his opponent has to say about him. He knows his style is fan-friendly and, unlike many of Japan’s great fighters, he wants recognition on a global scale. That starts and ends on American soil. Nieves may not fear Inoue, but perhaps he should. Perhaps he will. “The Monster” is coming.
— Daniel Attias