In quite possibly his toughest test since Omar Narvaez two years ago, Naoya Inoue dismantled battle-tested and recently made former WBA super flyweight champion Kohei Kono with a 6th round TKO.
As is tradition in Japan, the best fighters enter the ring at the end of December to punctuate the New Year’s celebrations, the most popular holiday in Japan. The fights can be seen as an equivalent to the Mexican matches on Cinco de Mayo. As is the same with both, most of the population is at home with family and ready to watch boxing after dinner.
In just his 12th professional fight, this was Inoue’s 3rd consecutive showcase during the New Year’s holiday. Fans would again be impressed this year with the #8 ranked No Sparring P4P fighter as his finish matched those of his previous fights, with a (T)KO. He peppered stinging body shots at Kono throughout the opening rounds and caught him with strong jabs and hooks. Kono fought back in flurries often few and far between but nonetheless gave Inoue some power in return.
At the end, Kono navigated Inoue into the corner and began to open up a combination that saw a nice left land. In the split second that Kono checked to see how Inoue handled his attack, Inoue responded with a left of his own that put Kono on the mat. Inoue, thinking the fight was over, jumped on the opposite corner turnbuckle and began waving to fans as Kono regained his footing.
As the ref clapped his hands to signal the return to action, the sound seemed to catch the minimal attention that was left of Kono who was still in a daze. He instinctively put up his gloves and braced for the incoming storm. Inoue handedly returned Kono to the mat and the ref called a stoppage.
After a long career for the 36 year old, the Inoue fight might have been Kono “cashing out” as it were . Kono (32-10-1 13 KOs) has lost two in a row, following the loss of his WBA title in August to Luis Concepcion. Retirement for Kono seems more than likely.
For Inoue (12-0 10 KOs), he looks to land a shot at Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalaez, a fight he’s wanted for well over a year now. The fight would be a boxing classic as it would match two undefeated top 10 Pound for Pound champions, an unusual scenario for the sport. If the fight happens it will have to happen soon as Inoue is growing out of his weight class and won’t last much longer at super flyweight.
Gonzalez currently doesn’t have an opponent named for his next fight although he is expected to fight on the Triple G undercard on March 18th. Gonzalez recently stated he’d rather take a fight in Japan for a smaller purse where taxes are lower compared to what was being offered to him for fights in the U.S. It should be also noted that Gonzalez is promoted by Japanese powerhouse Teiken, led by Mr. Honda San.