Japan’s Naoya “The Monster” Inoue is one of the fastest-rising boxing stars of today.
The 30-year-old from Zama, Kanagawa prefecture, is a four-division world champion and currently a unified super bantamweight titleholder, having defeated Stephen Fulton most recently to capture the WBC and WBO belts.
Inoue is also a former undisputed bantamweight world champion, having held the WBA (Super), IBF, and Ring magazine lineal belts between 2019 and January 2023, and the WBC and WBO titles between 2022 and January 2023.
Fans call him “The Monster” due to his incredible punching power and relentless body attack. He is today ranked the world’s best super bantamweight by boxing statistics and records website, Boxrec.com. Featuring a perfect 25-0 record, including 22 knockouts, Inoue is also widely considered one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the sport, and the only Japanese boxer in history to be ranked #1 pound-for-pound by the popular boxing magazine, The Ring.
Besides Fulton, his other notable victories include wins over Omar Andrés Narváez, Nonito Donaire, Jason Moloney, Michael Dasmariñas, and Paul Butler, among others. Because of the ominous knockout threat he carries in every fight, Inoue is thought to be one of the most avoided fighters in the sport today.
We analyze Inoue’s fast and furious boxing style, what makes him such a great fighter, his biggest weapons in the ring, and all the qualities that make him unique in this fighter breakdown.
Today, Evolve Daily breaks down Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue’s fighting style and identifies his most dangerous weapons.
1) Debilitating Body Shots
Because body shots don’t score as much in the amateur ranks, there isn’t much focus in this area when it comes to fight strategies. Too much focus is placed on head-hunting, especially in Olympic boxing. As a result, body punching has become a lost art.
In a real fight, however, body punching is an effective way to do some great damage to an opponent that builds through the rounds.
Inoue dedicates large portions of his training camps exclusively to body work, developing his body punching combinations. In fact, he is one of the very few fighters today that rely on body punching to get the job done.
The left uppercut to the solar plexus and the hook to the liver are Inoue’s favorite body punches, and he digs there often and repeatedly until his foes crumple to the canvas in pain.
2) Unorthodox Combinations
What makes Inoue such an effective offensive force is the fact that he’s been able to fashion both his left and right hand into dangerous weapons. His left hook is just as powerful as his right hook, his left uppercut is just as jarring as his right, and so on, and every punch in his arsenal carries explosive knockout potential.
Because of this, Inoue has the ability to throw each weapon in his toolbox at will, and often in unorthodox combinations that opponents have difficulty reading. Inoue can launch an uppercut down the middle, and come back up top with a hook with the same hand in a seamless transition.
They say the punches that do the most damage are ones that opponents aren’t prepared for. These unorthodox combinations make Inoue unpredictable in the pocket, which is a huge reason for his success.
However, perhaps Inoue’s most dangerous weapon is the right straight, which he throws with expert precision, blinding speed, and malicious intent. Inoue’s right hand can destroy his opposition on impact, separating them from their senses instantly and abruptly.
3) Relentless Aggression
One of the reasons fans love Inoue’s style is because he always comes to fight. He’s never boring and perpetually moves forward in the ring. Not that he doesn’t know how to fight backward or play a little bit of defense every now and then, but Inoue’s most distinct characteristic is his foreboding pressure.
Inoue will stay in front of guys fearlessly, without caution, and is willing to take punches in order to unleash his trademark power. He’s a volume puncher and unloads a torrent of haymakers on his foes from the first bell to the last. The non-stop punching not only allows him to outwork whoever he’s in the ring with, but also allows him to overwhelm any defense he’s faced with.
The majority of Inoue’s opponents so far have had trouble dealing with this relentless pressure. Many fold early both physically and mentally, and are simply not prepared for the heat that he brings.
4) Unbridled Power
However, none of it matters without this very important and very special trait that Inoue possesses. The power that is latent in his fists cannot be underestimated. The Japanese stalwart’s concussive knockout potential is the alpha and the omega, as far as his fighting style is concerned.
In fact, while most punchers prefer to wear Cleto Reyes or Everlast MX gloves, which are padded traditionally with horsehair to maximize punching power, Inoue opts to don the Japanese-branded Winning, which uses synthetic material.
Boxing insiders often refer to Winning gloves as pillows because they soften the blow and impact of punches in favor of protecting the hands. They are used primarily for training purposes.
Still, Inoue can punch right through Winning’s extra layer of padding and knock guys out, which is unheard of as a power puncher. His power simply permeates the gloves and transfers right through the intended target.
While knockout power can be trained and honed in the gym to an extent, it’s clear that Inoue has been blessed by the boxing gods with unbridled knockout power that can’t be taught.
One Weakness: He’s Human
At this point, Inoue may appear unbeatable. His unblemished professional record certainly proves he has yet to taste defeat. But like every boxer, he can be defeated, and he has one glaring weakness.
Inoue’s biggest weakness is that he’s human. Yes, he has a great chin that can withstand heavy shots. But in his November 2019 fight against multiple-division world champion and surefire Hall-of-Famer Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire, Inoue finally showed a chink in his armor.
Donaire hurt Inoue in a barnburner 11th round with his patented counter left hook. A visibly staggered Inoue fought back valiantly but was nearly finished late in what was an action-packed affair.
Although Donaire fell to the Japanese monster, losing by unanimous decision, he certainly held his own against Inoue and provided the blueprint to defeating him.
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