TOKYO, June 27 — Japan’s Naoya Inoue wants to prove he is worthy of his status as boxing’s new pound-for-pound king, by becoming undisputed bantamweight world champion, the man known as “Monster” said today.
The ferocious 29-year-old was named The Ring magazine’s new pound-for-pound number one last month after demolishing the great Filipino veteran Nonito Donaire inside two rounds to add the WBC bantamweight world title to his WBA and IBF belts.
Inoue replaced Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk at the top of the pound-for-pound tree, and the Japanese fighter is keen to drive the point home by beating Britain’s WBO title-holder Paul Butler to become undisputed champion.
“People were saying that me becoming the number one pound-for-pound fighter all depended on what happened in the Donaire fight, and things worked out as well as I could have imagined,” said Inoue, who is unbeaten in all his 23 fights, winning 20 by knockout.
“From here on, I want to give performances worthy of the number one pound-for-pound fighter.
“In order to do that, I need to unify the bantamweight world titles and then take on the super-bantamweight division.”
The 33-year-old Butler captured previous WBO champion John Riel Casimero’s vacant title when he beat Jonas Sultan by unanimous decision in April.
He was elevated from interim to full champion in May when the WBO stripped Casimero of the full title.
Inoue said negotiations to face Butler before the end of the year are “progressing in a good direction” and he has “no preference” about where the fight takes place.
“If it happens by the end of this year, I don’t care whether it happens in Japan, the US or Britain,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. I want the fight wherever it is.” Inoue is the first pound-for-pound king to come from Japan, where he is a huge star.
He is also a rare example of a boxer from the lighter weight classes being rated as the world’s top fighter.
He said “satisfying the fans” was just as important to him as winning and he wants to “show everyone who comes to watch me what I can do”.
“I think that’s how I’ve been able to get my record of 23 wins with 20 knockouts,” said Inoue, who took up boxing at an early age under the tutelage of his father Shingo, a former amateur.
“I always try to knock out my opponent and I think that’s been recognised.” Inoue said he believes a step to super-bantamweight would be the “best weight class” for him, and he intends to retire from the sport when he turns 35.
He acknowledged that “boxing is not a sport that you can take lightly” but he said he would like to “retire with an unbeaten record”.
“I’d like to think when I turn 35, I will be able to look back and think I was happy that I became a boxer,” he said.
“If I’m able to feel that, I think I’ll be content.” — AFP