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Naoya Inoue Set to Defend World Titles Against Luis Nery

Looking ahead to the blockbuster bout, Naoya Inoue recently said, "There's definitely risks and challenges ahead, but I'm expecting an intense showdown."

A colossal showdown is set to unfold at Tokyo Dome on Monday, May 6: Naoya Inoue vs Luis Nery.

The 31-year-old Inoue is the unified world super bantamweight champion across all four major professional boxing organizations, and 29-year-old Mexican Nery is currently ranked No 1 in the super bantamweight division by the World Boxing Council. 

Inoue boasts an impeccable record of 26-0 (23 knockouts). 

Meanwhile, Nery brings his own impressive track record to the ring, with 35 victories in 36 bouts, including 27 KOs, marred only by a solitary defeat in May 2021 against Brandon Figueroa.

This match marks a historic moment in Japanese boxing history. Tokyo Dome is hosting the monumental event, the first of its kind in 34 years, last seen during the legendary clash between Mike Tyson and James "Buster" Douglas on February 11, 1990. 

Moreover, at Tokyo Dome, this will be the first time a Japanese fighter headlines the event, with "Monster" Inoue making his entrance to the ring adorned with all four super bantamweight title belts for the very first time.

On April 10, Inoue showcased his skills to the gathered press, demonstrating a series of moves including shadow boxing, as well as jabs, straights and hooks on the sandbag. 

Naoya Inoue
From left, trainer Shingo Inoue, Naoya Inoue and Ohashi Boxing Gym president Hideyuki Ohashi attend a press conference on April 10 in Yokohama. (©SANKEI)

'It's Going to Be a Thrilling Match'

During the press conference preceding his training session, Inoue shared his thoughts on his upcoming opponent, remarking, "There's definitely risks and challenges ahead, but I'm expecting an intense showdown. We might see some surprises, like in the [Marlon] Tapales fight [on December 26, 2023]. Whatever the outcome, it's going to be a thrilling match." 

His father and trainer, Shingo Inoue, also expressed confidence, stating: "Even if the opponent resorts to rough tactics, I have absolutely no worries as long as Naoya stays firm."

When asked about his impressions of Nery, Inoue remarked, "People often focus on his offensive skills, but he also knows how to handle himself defensively in the midst of aggressive boxing. He's also skilled at managing the space when facing opponents up close." 

Naoya Inoue
Naoya Inoue in action against Marlon Tapales on December 26, 2023. (ⒸSANKEI)

How Naoya Inoue Expects to Fight Against Luis Nery

Regarding his approach to facing Nery, Inoue explained, "I'm prioritizing sticking to my distance game plan and remaining adaptable, even in close-range exchanges." 

Analyzing how to deal with an aggressive opponent, he added, "I'll be mindful of how to neutralize his attacks. Whether it's through sidestepping or counterattacks, I'm preparing for various scenarios to handle whatever comes my way."

Luis Nery
Luis Nery works out on April 23 at a gym in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. (©SANKEI)

It's just a shoe!

Nery Shares Views on the Upcoming Bout

Nery arrived at Haneda Airport on April 21, amidst the lively buzz of a Sunday afternoon. 

Despite the flurry of activity surrounding his arrival, he took questions from reporters for approximately nine minutes.

"Inoue is quick, strong and talented, but I believe I have the upper hand. I don't see him as the pound-for-pound number one. While I respect Inoue as a fighter, I'm not intimidated by him. I'm here to secure a knockout," he confidently stated before departing the airport with his wife and three daughters, who had accompanied him on the journey.

Two days later, on April 23, Nery faced the press at Teiken Boxing Gym in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. There, he engaged in shadow boxing and practiced combinations of hooks and uppercuts with his trainers. 

During the press conference, he expressed, "It's going to be a tough fight, not just for me but for Inoue as well. Both of us have the potential to win. 

"But I am Mexican. I am ready to fight with all my heart, even if it means risking my life in the ring," he declared, concluding the press conference with a vow to fight with unwavering determination.

Luis Nery
Luis Nery speaks to reporters at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on April 21. (©SANKEI)

Inoue Says Japanese Fan Support Will Be a Big Factor

Nery, known as "Pantera" (Black Panther), is regarded as the toughest opponent among the boxers Inoue has faced to date. 

However, Inoue declared, "Having nearly 50,000 fans cheering for me will be a massive boost. With their support, I aim to put on an extraordinary performance."

President Hideyuki Ohashi of the Ohashi Boxing Gym in Yokohama, where Inoue trains, remarked, "Naoya Inoue fighting at Tokyo Dome solely on his skill is a momentous event for Japanese boxing." 

As the undisputed champion in the history of Japanese boxing, adorned in attire inspired by the White Tiger, he prepares to face off against the Black Panther. 

Will Inoue clinch a dramatic victory at Tokyo Dome on May 6, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Ohashi Gym's founding and carving a new legacy in Japanese boxing? 

The highly anticipated showdown will be streamed live on Amazon Prime, with the day's fight card starting at 5 PM JST.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Shin Sato

Shin Sato is a staff consultant of The Sankei Shimbun Sales Department and a sports writer for JAPAN Forward.

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