The second of 7 world title bouts to end the in Japan was a WBO Super Flyweight title bout that saw defending champion Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10) [井上 尚弥] retain his title in a brilliantly fun fight against the aggressive and tough Kohei Kono (32-10-1, 13) [河野 公平] in a genuine exciting fight.
From the opening seconds it was clear that Kono wasn't in the ring to make up numbers and within a minute he was launching hooks and trying to put Inoue under pressure. Sadly for Kono that wasn't hugely effective in the first round as Inoue's speed and skills saw him land some nasty shots, and he seemed to shake Kono in the final moments of the round. Kono is known as the “Tough Boy” for a reason and proved that in round 2 when he continued to apply the pressure and steamed in again in an offensive manner. Again he was punished with Inoue landing some really brutal body shots that would have taken out most other foes. Kono on the some how saw out the round with going down but he had been badly hurt before the bell.
Kono refused to learn his lesson and continued to apply the same game plan in round 3, and again took some abuse to the body. It was however a better round for Kono who seemed to realise that his offense was causing Inoue to put limit what he was doing and despite taking some monstrous body shots he withstood most of the Inoue assault with no real issue. Kono continued to build on that success with an excellent round 4, a round in which he seemed to genuinely win with sheer determination and work rate, despite a vicious combination at the end from Inoue.
We saw Kono continue to attack in an ultra-aggressive manner through round 5 and once again he seemed to have Inoue hadcuffed at times while unloading flurry after flurry. Not every shot from the challenger got through but there was enough getting through to give him half a hope as Inoue seemed to slow down. Although Kono was having success Inoue didn't look too bothered by things, but was clearly under some pressure.
Sadly for Kono the ultra-aggressive tactic became his undoing in round 6 when he was caught by a frighteningly good counter shot from Inoue. The shot sent Kono down hard and it seemed unlikely Kono would beat the count, so much saw that Inoue rushed the corner and started celebrating. Amazingly Kono regained his feet, and the referee allowed him to go on. It was however a futile effort and a follow up from Inoue sent the challenger down for the second time, this time causing the referee to wave the bout off.
For Kono, who suffered his first stoppage loss here, this is probably the end. He was game and brave through the bout, giving Inoue one of his most interesting tests to date, but it was likely a case of “giving everything and going out on your shield to end your career” rather than anything else.
As for the champion his attention surely turns, once again, to unification bouts and other notable opponents with contests against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Kal Yafai, Johnriel Casimero and Jerwin Ancajas all really attractive propositions in the red hot Super Flyweight division. His stoppage here was a much needed statement after some less than flattering performances recent and it may well have put the division on alert once again, much as he did when he took out Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds at the end of 2014.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.