When Japhethlee Llamido was introduced to Naoya “The Monster” Inoue, he quickly realized that the boxer didn’t entirely live up to his nickname.

“He carries himself like a gentleman and is very respectful,” says Llamido, a 19-year-old Filipino-American boxer, before adding that “he has a good jab, power and timing.”

Monsters and men: Naoya 'The Monster' Inoue (right) and Japhethlee Llamido take a picture in the sparring ring in Yokohama. | HIDEKI SATO
Monsters and men: Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue (right) and Japhethlee Llamido take a picture in the sparring ring in Yokohama. | HIDEAKI SATO

Llamido, who goes by the name “Japheth,” flew into Yokohama last month to help prepare the 26-year-old Inoue for his upcoming bout with Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire. He came with his father, boxing coach EJ Llamido, and his older brother, boxer Jethro Llamido. Together, the trio were brought here from the United States to help with various workouts and sparring — a full-time gig.

“One of our fighters is Japanese and went to Japan for a tournament and got in touch with (Inoue’s) team,” says Jethro, adding that his brother impressed the Japanese boxer as he’s currently a sparring partner for champion Ukranian boxer Vasily Lomachenko. “After hearing that, they wanted him. Especially since Inoue is fighting Donaire who is also Filipino.”

On the surface it might seem that boxing operates under something of a universal language, but Japheth says that each country’s fighters have their own ways of doing things.

“You get to witness a different style and their way of training compared to how it is back home,” he says, adding that there are really no disadvantages to being able to travel and train in a different country. Well, except for Japan’s late summer humidity.

“The biggest difference culturally between the U.S. and Japan is that the fighters here are more disciplined and respectful,” says EJ. “When the fighters come to train, they focus on the work, listen to their coaches and don’t play around.”

With eight elite-level championship titles under his belt, Japheth has gained the respect of many accomplished fighters. The featherweight first discovered his propensity for the sport in his maiden fight, where he tied in a split decision with the incumbent six-time winner in the national U.S. championships.

Although the judges eventually ruled in his competitor’s favor, Japheth realized that he had serious potential for entering boxing full-time.

“After winning multiple muay thai matches (in my youth), I wanted to try something else to challenge myself,” Japheth says. “Boxing was harder and more competitive since it was more organized as a sport.”

Of course, behind every great fighter lies a great coach and for the Llamido brothers, that person is their father.

“My father’s coaching made me the fighter I am today,” says Japheth. “All the skills I developed did not come overnight but as a result of all the years of training together.”

After finishing up with training in Yokohama, Japheth plans to return to the States to take part in the Eastern qualifier for the United States Olympic trials.

“I won the Western qualifier earlier this year,” he says. “Before the Eastern qualifier, I will be going to the Philippines to fight the No. 1 fighter at my weight class.”

If he’s successful, Japheth may be returning to Japan sooner than he thinks for the 2020 Olympic games.

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