On the final two days of 2016 Japanese fight fans will get a series of world title bouts, ranging from intriguing rematches to complete mismatches. One of the most anticipated of those bouts will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (11-0, 9) return to the ring to seek his 4th defense of the title, as he takes on former 2-time WBA champion Kohei Kono (32-9-1, 13), and looks to secure one of the most notable wins of his career.
If you ask a typical western boxing fan right now what Japanese fighters they could name Inoue will be one of the few names on their lips, a sad fact in many ways but one that shows the appeal of the “Monster” who has been named dropped across Western boxing media, including by HBO. The 23 year old Kanagawa fighter isn't just a name who has been dropped by Western media but also by every hardcore fight fan, many of whom have seen Inoue fight either live on Fuji TV or on Youtube, and understandably they have been impressed by a youngster who combines exceptional skills, power and speed.
Inoue burst out in 2014 when he claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title, stopping Adrian Hernandez in 6 rounds, and then went on to claim the WBO Super Flyweight title with a stoppage against Omar Andres Narvaez. Those bouts saw Inoue prove he was the monster and saw him claiming world titles in his 6th and 8th bouts as a professional, with the win over Narvaez exciting people to a potential show down with Roman Gonzalez.
Although Inoue hasn't looked his best in recent bouts, wins over David Carmona and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, he has been plagued by issues including over-training and over-looking his opponents. Coming in to the bout with Kono however he has cut back his training and will have taken Kono seriously, knowing this is a huge chance to remind fans just how good he is, how fast he is and how destructive he is.
During a 42 fight career Kono has been one of boxing's true over-achievers. He lost on debut back in November 2000 and suffered his second lost in his 10th bout to fall to 8-2 (2). He again fell to a loss in 2005 as his record fell to 14-3 (4). At that point his career could easily have fallen by the way side but instead he took lessons from those losses and avenged that third defeat less than 2 years later as he claimed the Japanese Super Flyweight title, his first professional title. He would later unify with the OPBF title in 2008 but failed to claim a world title in his first attempt, losing in a thriller to Nobuo Nashiro. A second loss at world level occurred in 2010, to Tomas Rojas, before he suffered losses to Yota Sato and Yohei Tobe, falling to 25-7 (9).
Amazingly since the start of 2012 Kono's career has gone 7-2-1 (4) with wins against Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, Tepparith Kokietgym, to claim his first world title, Denkaosan Kaovichit, to claim his second title, Koki Kameda and Inthanon Sithchamuang whilst losses have come in close decisions to to Liborio Solis and Luis Concepcion.
In the ring Kono is an incredibly tough man, he has been down several times during his career, and has been hurt even more often, but has never stopped coming forward and trying to fight. Although tougher than old boots Kono is technically limited, a bit slow, and likes to walk forward before letting his hands go. He's solid with a high work rate and a great energy level but he doesn't really work to get his way in and instead applies often clumsy pressure, allowing fighters to out work and out move him.
Whilst Inoue's last few opponents haven't been exceptional it's fair to say Kono is genuine world class. Sadly though Inoue has been better against top opponents than against the lesser foes and his father has set a more relaxed training regime this time, to help prevent injuries. With that in mind we're expecting to see the best Inoue to date, and we're expecting to see him use his speed and power to dismantle a tough, and brave, Kono within 9 rounds.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.