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Luis Nery Eyeing a Stunning Upset of Naoya Inoue

Infamous in Japan, Luis Nery of Mexico had to have a Japan Boxing Commission lifetime ban overturned so that he can face Naoya Inoue in Tokyo on May 6.

GLASGOW — Some boxers embrace the role of playing the villain. Whether he likes it or not, in the eyes of the Japanese boxing public, Luis Nery is exactly that.

With a checkered history in Japan dating back to two victories over Shinsuke Yamanaka in 2017 and 2018, Nery now returns to the country he was once banned from boxing in, looking to dethrone undisputed super bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue.

The 29-year-old Nery (35-1, 27KOs) is sure to receive a somewhat hostile reception at the huge Tokyo Dome on Monday, May 6. It's only the third time in history the venue has hosted boxing ― Inoue's popularity in his homeland justifies him headlining at the arena nicknamed "The Big Egg."

The other two times boxing has taken place at the baseball stadium Mike Tyson headlined. Tyson's second appearance there ended in the biggest upset in boxing history when James "Buster" Douglas handed him his first career defeat in February 1990.

Now, it is Inoue looking to avoid being on the receiving end of a big upset. A win for Nery would only increase his unpopular standing amongst Japanese boxing fans.

Time to look a little closer at Nery's history in Japan, how he has arrived as Inoue's mandatory challenger and how the bout might play out.

Luis Nery
Luis Nery made his pro boxing debut in May 2012 in Tijuana, Mexico. (©SANKEI)

Luis Nery's Past Transgressions in Japan

In August 2017, Tijuana native Nery, then 23-0, had earned the right to challenge longtime WBC bantamweight king Shinsuke Yamanaka. The assignment took Nery to Japan. Yamanaka was making the 13th defense of a title he won way back in 2011.

Thirteen proved to be an unlucky number for Yamanaka as Nery overpowered him, winning by stoppage in the fourth round. Nery was now the WBC and The Ring magazine bantamweight champion.

After the fight it was revealed that Nery had tested positive for banned substance Zilpaterol. After this was announced The Ring stripped him of their belt but, with Nery's team claiming food contamination, the WBC ordered a rematch.

Nery was back in Japan in March 2018 for that rematch. On weigh-in day, Nery missed the 118-pound (53.5-kg) limit by a whopping five pounds (2.26 kg). The bout went ahead but only Yamanaka could win the belt if he was victorious.

With a huge weight advantage, Nery made even faster work of Yamanaka, scoring a second-round stoppage. In the days that followed the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC), under severe pressure from the public, handed down a heavy punishment to the Mexican boxer.

A promotional poster for the May 6 fight card at Tokyo Dome. (©SANKEI)

Major Boxing Media Covered 2018 JBC Sanctions Against Nery

Reporting for The Ring in March 2018, Doug Fischer wrote: "The JBC announced on March 9 that it is suspending Nery from fighting within its jurisdiction indefinitely."

Fischer's report went on to add, "Typically, the JBC would suspend a fighter for one year for failure to make weight. However, given Nery's history, the commission ethics committee met on March 8 and ruled to ban Nery from boxing in Japan for life."

Fast-forward six years and the JBC decided to lift its sanction against Nery. Now boxing in the super bantamweight division, Nery is the WBC's number-one ranked contender. And Inoue was required to face the WBC mandatory challenger in the first defense of his undisputed title.. 

Failure to do so would have seen Inoue stripped of that particular belt. Inoue wanted to face Nery. If the JBC hadn't allowed Nery to box in Japan, the bout would have taken place elsewhere, albeit with far less revenue generated from the fight. It made sense for the JBC to lift Nery's ban.

Luis Nery
Luis Nery prepares for his May 6 bout against Naoya Inoue during a workout on April 23, two days after arriving in Japan. (©SANKEI)

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Luis Nery's Road Back to Japan

With the history and ruling out of the way, now is the time to look at the actual boxing match.

Nery is arguably at his peak as a boxer. On a three-fight KO streak which underlines his power, and carrying confidence in his aggressive ring style, Nery has won nine out of his 10 bouts since his disgraceful weight failure in Japan.

During this run he moved into the super bantamweight division. In 2020 Nery captured the WBC 122-pound title with a points victory over Aaron Alameda.

He tasted defeat in his first defense though, losing by stoppage in the seventh round to Brandon Figueroa in May 2021.

Four wins on the bounce since his only career defeat have elevated Nery to No 1 in the WBC rankings, hence the opportunity to fight Inoue.

While wins over Carlos Castro, David Carmona, Azat Hovhannisyan and Froilan Saludar (the last of which was a second-round TKO in July 2023) aren't to be sniffed at, everyone who watches boxing knows that taking on "Monster" Inoue is an entirely different proposition.

With 36 professional contests under his belt, and his status as a two-weight world champion, Nery is probably the second best 122-pound boxer in the world at this moment in time.

Luis Nery
Super bantamweight title challenger Luis Nery (©SANKEI)

What Will Nery Bring to Tokyo Dome on May 6?

As hinted at above, Nery will bring aggression when he faces Inoue. In a recent press release from promoter Top Rank, Nery said as much: "I will win by knockout. There's no other way. I know that either he or I will be stopped. But I'm sure that he will be stopped."

Boxing out of the southpaw stance, Nery is known for his love of a war. With both combatants being close in height and reach, there could be many explosive moments in the Tokyo Dome ring.

Some of Nery's trends are similar to that of Inoue's last foe, Marlon Tapales. Both are southpaws. Both are known for favoring a pressure style of boxing with plenty of punches thrown.

It will be interesting to see if Nery noted that during the Inoue-Tapales fight on December 26, 2023, Tapales actually fared better during the rounds he boxed on the back foot, forcing Inoue to initiate the attacks. A little subplot to look for maybe.

There is an outside chance of Nery boxing tactically as he does possess solid fundamentals. He knows how to make the most of his footwork in order to open up the best angles of attack and is a dangerous body puncher.

Nery also has passable speed and can deliver punches in bunches when he is on the front foot.

Can Nery's Strengths Outweigh His Weaknesses Against Inoue?

One major flaw in Nery's makeup is being susceptible to accurate counterpunching. A good example of this is his 2023 battle against Hovhannisyan in Pomona, California.

Although he was leading on the scorecards when he stopped Hovhannisyan in the penultimate round, the fight was a back-and-forth slugfest which many observers considered to be last year's Fight of the Year.

It certainly was entertaining but frankly, against quality opposition, Nery is too easy to hit.

Does Nery have the discipline to resist the urge to revert to brawling tactics against Inoue for 12 rounds? Probably not.

There's nothing wrong with controlled aggression. It is perhaps the only way Nery can win this fight. The danger for him is if he drifts over the line into irresponsible aggression. Inoue, who we all know carries ridiculous power in both hands, would then be able to capitalize and counter viciously with the timing and precise punch delivery he possesses.

Luis Nery
Luis Nery (©SANKEI)

More Words From Nery and a Fight Prediction

Nery fully understands that he is a huge underdog as he prepares for his third bout on Japanese soil.

Despite this he has been speaking positively during his training camp in Texas.

"I'm the only one who can beat Inoue because I have good power. I can take punches, I have heart and I'm willing to die in the ring," the challenger said, according to Top Rank's press release.

He added, "I'm a fighter who, above all, is a brawler. I like to brawl but I like to counter as well. [And] I adapt to whatever style of fight I'm in to get the victory."

While Nery is sounding confident, my belief is that Inoue will knock out his challenger on May 6. When that occurs will depend on just how aggressive Nery is. As soon as the southpaw starts swinging for the fences, Inoue will counter Japanese boxing's public enemy number one into a 10-count. Expect fireworks but expect that it could be over quickly.

The last word for this piece goes to Luis Nery, though. In a tip of the hat to boxing history and Monday's venue, Nery concluded his training camp remarks in fine style: "This is an important fight. It deserves to be in an arena that is just as important like the Tokyo Dome. And I think it's a sign. If Mike Tyson can lose his unbeaten record there, then so can Naoya Inoue. Now, Mike Tyson was actually a monster. He for sure was an assassin. I'm happy they made the fight at Tokyo Dome."


Author: Colin Morrison

Morrison is a freelance sportswriter. Find his stories on SportsLook. Writing since 2016, his byline appears on boxing websites and His main areas of interest are boxing, soccer, golf and rugby union. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @Morrie1981.


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