It is a concept that has existed in Japan for the better part of 1000 years and comes from in some ways the growth of Zen Buddhism in The Land of the Rising Sun.
So, there is something beautiful.
Something elegant… and something devastating in the form of Naoya Inoue. Known in Japan by one name – Monster.
And finally – finally, the best prospect to come out of Japan in a generation is making his American debut on the massive stage of HBO and on their flag ship program dedicated to the sweet science Boxing After Dark.
The devastating simplicity of Monster can be best defined by this beautiful Japanese concept;
Kanketsu: the notion that true simplicity is often achieved through a complex process.
If ever there was a better way to define boxing itself then I can’t think of a better one.
To watch Monster is action at first blush is quite deceiving.
He lacks special effects. You won’t see explosive foot work.
You won’t see Uber athletic head or upper body movement like Sweat Pea.
You won’t see dynamism like The Ali Shuffle.
What you will see is every punch thrown perfectly.
Every. Single. One.
In Japan, there is no tension between the idea that simplicity & intricacy can exist in the same sphere – in fact it his highly prized & lustfully sought after…
The perfect punch originates from the feet as they take purchase of the canvas beneath.
The kinetic energy transfers through the balls of the feet, into the calves & large muscle groups of the thighs…
The boxer torques the hips – the apex of the force.
Delivering the pay load through the out stretch left arm – bent at 90* the arm is the extension of the hips.
Body weight has been shifted onto the left foot.
The muscle & sinews of the whole body tighten and the end of the lash is snapped when the left gloved fist penetrates with the force of a sledgehammer into the right lower quadrant crushing the floating ribs, the liver…the victim must feel like they are being internally eviscerated.
That is what it looks like when one of the best pound for pound body punchers in the world unleashes his crippling blows on his opponents.
Naoya Inoue was born on the 10th of April 1993 in Zama, in Kanagawa Prefecture. Mostly flat & featureless it has been inhabited since prehistory & sits along the Tokaido Road or East Sea Road an important network of roads dating from the Edo period when the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan.
There are many similarities between the red-hot domestic boxing scene in Great Britain & Japan. This is largely due to the successful, well-funded and well organized amateur system that has consistently turned out quality fighters for years now and appears to be at its zenith now with multiple world champions in multiple weight categories.
However, the main difference is the speed at which the elite boxer within of the GB amateur system fight better competition once they turn pro. I am not the first person to level the legitimate criticism that the Joshuas, the Fowlers, the Kellys and the like have been in with fighters so far below their station that it’s a bit of an eye roll inducing watch often – all right you can build the fighter’s confidence let them bank rounds but many of us feel that there ought to be a fast forward button for the first 15-20 fights of a high-level prospects pro career.
Well not in Japan.
It’s also an island country so elite prospects like Monster get thrown in the deep end immediately.
Sink or swim!
Monster compiled an outstanding amateur record of 75-6. Most stunningly he scored 48 knockouts! A knockout in amateur boxing is rare – fighters wear head gear, bigger gloves, box only three rounds. Moreover, we’re talking about a kid fighting in and around light flyweight!
Again, I believe we must return to his fundamentals. The precision with which he executes his technique is nearly unequaled. There are boxers who have excellent resumes. There are those that pass the eye test. Naoya Inoue possesses both qualities.
Monster turned pro at the tender age of 19 on the 2nd of October 2012. His opponent was tough Filipino Minimumweight champion Crison Omayao. Omayao had not been stopped in 21 pro bouts. Monster showed poise and control picking apart Omayao over several rounds until Monster folded his opponent with a left hook to the body in the 4th round.
Photo Credits: Hiroaki Yamaguchi
Just three months later Monster faced another national champion Ngaoprajan Chuwatana from Thailand. Again, the ring IQ of Monster was on display here. In the very first round, the back-foot Monster lured his prey into a flurry of punches, Monster executed a perfect catch-and-shoot left hook to the jaw of Chuwatana who went down like he’d been shot.
Next came Monster’s toughest challenge – on paper at least. Former title contender Yuki Sano in April 2013. Monster battered Sano all over the ring, though Monster broke his right hand in the fight he remained composed and effectively beat a high caliber boxer in just his 3rd pro bout with one hand. The fight was scheduled for 10 rounds and nearly went the distance until Monster scored the last of three knockdowns ending the night for the bloodied but brave Sano.
Next Monster picked up his first domestic title winning the Japanese Light Flyweight title in August 2013 by unanimous decision. Monster went the distance with Ryoichi Taguchi a world ranked fighter with five times the professional bouts.
Monster vacated the title and next demolished Jerson Mancio in five one sided rounds to claim the Oriental & Pacific Boxing Federation light flyweight title.
Monster vacated that title as well and then opened his campaign in 2014 chasing his first world title taking on Adrian Hernandez a 30 plus fight veteran. In only his sixth professional bout Monster stopped Hernandez with a final vicious assault in the 6th round to claim the WBC Light Flyweight belt. Elated, Monster was joined in the ring to celebrate by his father and trainer Shingo and older brother Takuma. Monster defended the title successfully with a TKO over Thai veteran Wittawas Basapean five months later.
Monster closed 2014 on Japan’s annual mega year end boxing event taking on Omar Andres Narvaez for the Argentine’s WBO Super Lightweight title. Monster had vacated his Light Flyweight title and was now challenging for his second title in as many weight categories in only his eighth fight as a pro. Narvaez was as legit as they come – his lone loss in over 40 bouts coming to Nonito Donaire by unanimous decision. Monster demolished Narvaez, scoring four knockdowns before ending it in just the second round.
With that victory, Monster set a new world record for being the fastest boxer in history to claim world titles in two weight divisions in just eight fights. The record stood until none other than Vasyl Lomachenko broke it winning his second division title in seven fights. Easy to see then that the hype – if you want to call it that is very real around this Monster.
Monster’s one and only hiccup so far was an injury plagued 2015 which saw him sit on the sidelines for nearly a year. However, Monster once again featured on the Annual Mega Card in Japan, this time held on December 29th, 2015 dispatching Warlito Parrenas in only two rounds to make his first successful defense of the WBO Super Flyweight belt.
Monster made up for lost time fighting three times in 2016 going the distance only once against David Carmona, his first time seeing the 12th round – the first time one of his opponents did as well for that matter.
This Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA when Monster steps onto American shores for the first time on a stacked card that features Cuadras, Estrada and former pound for pound king Roman Gonzalez some worry that the moment may potentially get to the Japanese.
Like it or not America is still the place everyone knows you need to conquer to be recognized globally as an elite pro and more importantly America is where the real money is!
Monster’s 6th WBO 115-pound title defense is against Antonio Nieves. A tough kid from Cleveland, OH with only one loss – again nearly twice as many pro bouts as Monster. Nieves had a decent amateur run placing in the Golden Gloves. However, if we’re honest this is a showcase fight for Monster. He will steam roll this kid in less than six rounds most likely – sorry Antonio.
More importantly, Monster in just 11 fights will be positioned to take on one of the men north of his position on this card. For my money, I think Chocolatito sneaks by Sor Rungvisai in their rematch and would love to see a Super Flyweight unification match between Naoya Inoue and Roman Gonzalez in mid-2018, that fight sells itself.
Chocolatito is a come forward action fighter – a modern day Henry Armstrong with an 80% KO ratio. Naoya Inoue is the future of the Super Flyweight division and just turned 24 in April will continue to fill out, gain experience and grow in strength.
This underscores another beautiful Japanese concept that can be related to Naoya Inoue & the martial art of boxing:
Wabi-Sabi: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect and that is a good thing.
Monster will only get better! That is at once frightening for his opposition and exhilarating for his fans and the fans of boxing.
Naoya Monster Inoue is violent by design.