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Naoya Inoue: Can anyone stop the 'Monster'?

3 min read
Naoya-Inoue-110619-getty-ftr (Getty Images)

Calling anyone unbeatable in boxing is a hard thing to say and believe. All it takes is one punch, one unordinary performance, and the aura of invincibility is over. 

Naoya Inoue is starting to shred the notion that 'unbeatable' is a myth, however, as he decimated and then destroyed Nonito Donaire on Tuesday morning in Saitama, Japan, by second-round knockout to retain the IBF and WBA (super) bantamweight titles and add the WBC belt to his collection.

Inoue didn't have to take the rematch with Donaire. He'd already beaten the all-time great in their 2019 fight of the year candidate after suffering a broken nose and a fractured right orbital during the contest due to Donaire's power shots. But Inoue wanted to prove a point and let everyone know that while the November 2019 bout was his toughest to date, he could take Donaire out.

Thirty-one months later, Inoue showed why he's one of the best in the sport in the way he finished the second-best bantamweight in the world.

So, can anyone stop "The Monster"? If so, who?

DAZN's No. 3 pound-for-pound boxer has steamrolled through the competition to become a three-division world champion and is one belt away from becoming the undisputed champion at 118 pounds. 

Standing in his way of history is WBO titlist Paul Butler (34-2, 15 KOs). The 33-year-old was supposed to face John Riel Casimero for the title. Instead, Casimero was stripped of the championship. Butler went on to beat Jonas Sultan for the vacant belt. Immediately after Inoue took care of Donaire, Butler told DAZN he is ready and able to square off with Inoue, even if it meant traveling to his native Japan for a four-belt unification. 

“We’re ready to go. I’d pack my bags tomorrow,” Butler said. “He’s the fighter that’s number one in my weight class, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a huge fan of his. How couldn’t you be? I’ve been in with a few world-class fighters, but Inoue is just something else."

While the bravado of Butler is admirable, beating Willibaldo Garcia Perez, who Butler narrowly beat last June, and losing to Emmanuel Rodriguez, who Inoue KO'd in less than 5 minutes, doesn't instil any confidence in the Englishman being able to put any dent on Inoue. 

The 29-year-old wants to become undisputed at 118 pounds, and talks have already begun with Butler. So it should be an easy fight to make, and when it does happen, it's likely one Inoue wins with relative ease.

The biggest obstacle standing in Inoue's way to immortality is moving up to 122 pounds. His skills would be tested as they have never been before as the division is ruled by WBC and WBO champion Stephen Fulton and IBF and WBA (super) titleholder Murodjon Akhmadaliev.

Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs), DAZN's No. 7 pound-for-pound fighter, never was in any trouble in Saturday's win over former unified champion Daniel Roman. However, Akhmadaliev (10-0, 7 KOs) has business to handle on June 25 as he defends his titles against Ronny Rios on DAZN.

If Akhmadaliev can dispatch Rios, it's possible they meet to determine an undisputed champion at super-bantamweight. Fulton told DAZN last week that's what it wants, and it's hopefully something that can be made.

Even if Akhmadaliev and Fulton fails to come to fruition, Inoue against either guy when he moves to 122 is a must-see. 

The question will be how Inoue's power can translate up another four pounds? He had no problems going from 112 to 115 and then to 118. But as Canelo Alvarez showed when he fought Dmitry Bivol, the locomotive train's power will only translate and work to a certain point. Weight classes exist for a reason. 

Light heavyweight proved to be Canelo's kryptonite. Will that be the same for Inoue?

Time will tell. As proven by Alvarez, there are limits, and that would be the only way Inoue will get knocked off his perch.

Maybe, just maybe, the "Monster" is the unstoppable force that can never be stopped.

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