Can Japanese Boxer Naoya Inoue Become Boxing’s Pound-for-Pound No1?

March 9, 2023

Japanese boxer Naoya Inoue ended 2022 by becoming the undisputed bantamweight champion in boxing. He defeated England's Paul Butler in the unification contest. Not only did he defend his WBA (super), WBC, and IBF titles in that bout, but he gained the WBO crown, the last belt needed to complete the major set in the division.

Naoya Inoue reacts after
        defeating Britain's Paul Butler at Tokyo's Ariake Arena on Dec. 13, 2022. (photo: Kyodo)

Naoya Inoue reacts after defeating Britain's Paul Butler at Tokyo's Ariake Arena on Dec. 13, 2022. (photo: Kyodo)

The Monster, as he is nicknamed, has a professional record of 24-0. Twenty-one of those victories have come inside the distance, as he has had far too much power for the majority of his opponents in the ring.

The pound-for-pound list in boxing is a prestigious standing that determines who are the leading fighters in the sport. Inoue has sat inside the top 10 for many years, but he is now up to number two on that list. He is ahead of the likes of Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr, Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, and Gennady Golovkin, men who are considered some of the best of their generation.

Although Inoue's latest success has come at bantamweight, he has also dominated other divisions. The three-weight world champion first won a world title at light flyweight. He then moved up in weight to land the WBO junior bantamweight crown.

Inoue has proved himself against many of the best boxers in his weight division. Two of his most impressive wins came over Nonito Donaire. The four-weight world champion has had a lot of success too in his career, but he proved no match for the Japanese boxer. In their first showdown in 2019, Inoue dominated the 12 rounds before being handed a unanimous decision. Then in their rematch in 2022, The Monster ended the fight with a second-round stoppage.

Oleksandr Usyk the Man to Catch

As well as retaining all four of his major belts, Inoue's goal in 2023 will be to jump to the top of the pound-for-pound list in the sport. He will need to dislodge heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

It was another excellent year in the ring for Usyk in 2022. He defeated Anthony Joshua for the second time to defend his WBA (Super), IBF, and WBO titles. It keeps him on course to face Tyson Fury in a "winner takes all" undisputed heavyweight championship contest.

Many bookmakers are already betting on that clash of champions despite a contract not being signed yet. Usyk is the +175 underdog in the betting, so this will be the toughest test of his career. Those based in Asia who are looking to place a bet on the fight should consider checking out Asia's best online betting reviews. Asiabet is the most trusted online gambling portal for the region, and bettors can also get expert guides and tips. Only select bookmakers offer a wide range of markets on boxing, so it is important to find the right sportsbook on their list that lets users bet on this mega clash.

Should Fury justify his favoritism following the bout, it will mean Usyk's unbeaten record will fall. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion could then drop below Inoue in the pound-for-pound list.

Claims for Greatest Japanese Athlete

Although Inoue remains in the peak stage of his career, there are some pundits in his country who now regard him as the greatest sportsperson Japan has ever produced.

Inoue's last three fights have come in Japan, which ensures his country gets the opportunity to host major boxing events. He has been named the Japanese Fighter of the Year six times, which is a record in the award.

With baseball being so popular in Japan, rivals to Inoue include current MLB star Ohtani Shohei and retired players Matsuzaka Daisuke and Suzuki Ichiro. Retired Japan soccer star Sawa Homare can also stake her claim to be in the conversation following an excellent career that spanned 25 years.

Another athlete Inoue can be compared with is figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu. He is one of the greatest to ever feature in his sport. He won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2014 and 2018.

Inoue has already cemented his legacy as the greatest Japanese boxer of all time. With many years ahead of him in his career, he could be set for much more success before he finally hangs up his gloves.

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