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Naoya Inoue dethrones WBA bantamweight champ Jamie McDonnell via first-round TKO

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

“Monster” put up a monstrous performance against someone he described as the toughest opponent of his career.

Naoya Inoue dominated in the ring from the opening bell and finished the bout without sweating much with a first-round technical knockout win over British champion Jamie McDonnell to capture the WBA bantamweight title at Ota City General Gymnasium on Friday night.

Inoue (16-0, 14 knockouts) has collected his third world title, all in different weigh classes. He’s the fifth Japanese to become a three-division champ.

“Everybody! This is boxing!” ecstatic Inoue shouted from the ring right after the fight. “For those who think it ended too quickly, I’m sorry. (But) I’m surprised myself with this result. I’d trained extremely hard for this and I’m satisfied right now.”

Inoue did not waste any time from the beginning of the match, putting pressure on the much taller McDonnell. He landed a solid left hook on the 176-cm Brit midway through the round.

Moments later, Inoue knock him down with a one-two combination.

Inoue then rained blows on the weakened McDonnell and the referee stopped the bout with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining in the first round.

As the ref waved his hands to signal the fight was over, the 25-year-old jumped up on one of the corner posts to share his joy with the sellout crowd.

Despite what seemed to be a complete win, Inoue said that he was a little stiff earlier while throwing his punches too roughly.

But Inoue, a former WBC light flyweight and WBO super flyweight champion, said that he was thrilled to get in the ring, and compete in a new weight class.

“While I was in the locker room warming up, I felt I was moving well and I could throw heavier punches,” he said. “So I knew I could knock him out if I landed them. I’m relieved that I won.”

The 32-year-old McDonnell (29-3-1, 13 KOs), who made five title defenses before Friday’s bout, suffered his first loss in over a decade.

Inoue politely thanked McDonnell for traveling to Japan for the fight.

Inoue, who is listed at No. 7 in Ring magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings, declared that he would compete in the World Boxing Super Series, in which the champions of different organizations assemble. The bantamweight and light welterweight competitions will kick off this fall. Other champs of the bantamweight class such as WBA super champ Ryan Burnett of Britain, WBO champ Zolani Tete of South Africa and IBF king Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico have already announced their plans to participate.

“I believe I was able to showcase what I can do well enough (in tonight’s fight),” Inoue said. “I’ve received an offer for the WBSS. I will be in it! There will be some of the strongest boxers in the world like Tete and Burnett. I will train even harder and hopefully I can win it all in the tournament.”

In another world title match on Friday, WBC lightweight champ Ken Shiro successfully made his third title defense with a second-round KO win over Mexico’s Ganigan Lopez at the same venue.

Shiro buried a perfect right body shot on his opponent later in the final round. Lopez (34-8, 19 KOs) wasn’t able to stand up in time.

“It felt too good to win this way,” said the Wakayama Prefecture native, who improved his unbeaten record to 13-0 (seven KOs). “I didn’t think the fight would end early, but it did and I’m excited.”

Also on the same card, Takuma Inoue, Naoya’s younger brother, posted a first-round KO win over Indonesia’s Waldo Sabu.

“I would like to get closer to my brother as much as possible going forward,” said the 22-year-old Takuma (11-0, three KOs).