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Inoue captures world title in sixth pro bout

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Phenom Naoya Inoue, nicknamed “the Monster” for his unparalleled talent and considered the next big thing in Japanese professional boxing, took his first step toward greatness on Sunday night.

The 20-year-old defeated champion Adrian Hernandez of Mexico with a sixth-round technical knockout and became the new WBC light flyweight champion at Ota City General Gymnasium.

Inoue needed only six professional bouts to earn the title, the fewest number for a Japanese boxer to win a world championship. Previously, Kazuto Ioka, the current WBA light flyweight champ, earned his first belt (WBC minimumweight) in his seventh fight.

The result was somewhat expected after the first couple of rounds as Inoue overwhelmed the Mexican champion (29-2-1) both offensively and defensively. Hernandez tried to bounce back later, but Inoue kept his cool and ended the fight in a stylish way.

“How do I look with the belt everybody?” Inoue asked the jam-packed crowd of 4,300 at the arena from the ring after the fight. “I enjoyed the fight because I’d never exchanged punches like that in my pro career.

“I had some tough moments. But I tried my best, thinking of my dream I’ve had since when I was a child.”

The dream was not just to become a world champion. The goal is a lot bigger for him. Inoue has said that once he’d won a world title, he’d try to break the record for consecutive world title defenses for a Japanese boxer, which is currently held by former WBA junior flyweight (now light flyweight) champion Yoko Gushiken. Gushiken defended his title 13 times.

“I want to be the best in whatever weight class I fight,” Inoue said. “In order to achieve that, I want to train as hard as I can.”