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Naoya Inoue primed for superstar status in the USA

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue 19-0 (16) is ready to invade America.

The 27-year-old Japanese superstar is expected to face former world title challenger Jason ‘Mayhem’ Moloney 21-1 (18) in the United States in late November or early December.

The fight would be just the third time Inoue has fought outside of his homeland and would also mark his debut for new promoter Top Rank, who are looking to market the undefeated power-puncher as the next Manny Pacquiao.

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“He has this telegenic style. Boxing enthusiasts have a great appreciation for Inoue so we wanted to bring him to America to get him more exposure,” Top Rank president Todd DuBoef said to Sky Sports.

“In essence, he is like Manny Pacquiao, a kid from Asia with dynamite in both hands. The project would be similar. His opponents have a Hispanic base, like Pacquiao’s.

“Inoue is a real push of positive energy.”

Inoue has much in common with Filipino Pacquaio. He has already won world titles in three different weight classes, while Pacquiao was a former flyweight world champion when he challenged Lehlo Ledwaba for the IBF super bantamweight championship in Las Vegas in 2001.

Pacquiao didn’t speak English at the time and neither does Inoue, but that didn’t hinder the Pacman’s ability to cut through to fight fans.

“It is a level of challenge that you don’t have otherwise but it’s nothing new to Top Rank,” said Top Rank executive Brad Jacobs to Sky Sports.

“We have had many fighters whose native language isn’t English but we overcome it with time. Fighters have learned the language well enough to communicate with media and fans.

“Now the advent of social media means it is a lot easier for these guys to communicate. It is a challenge but nothing we can’t overcome.”

Inoue was originally expected to face WBO 118-pound champion John Riel Casimero in a unification bout in Las Vegas, but that fight was eventually cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Inoue needs to break out onto the US stage which he is about to do,” Jacobs said.

“Inoue has a long way to go to emulate Pacquiao but he is still young. They are both sensational fighters.

“The US fans will take him in, similar to how they did with Pacquiao, because of his style and ability.

“You need personality – Pacquiao had tremendous personality to go with his ability. We will see how Inoue’s translates in the US.”

Inoue was already a star in his native Japan when he won the World Boxing Super Series with a hard-fought but comprehensive 12-round unanimous decision win over former four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire in November last year.

Top Rank signed him shortly after the fight with a view to bringing him to the US.

“Inoue is already very famous,” the Japan Times told Sky Sports. “He is as famous as a Japanese boxer could possibly become so far.

“That’s especially the case since he captured the World Boxing Super Series title last year. As you know, Inoue has been dominant in the ring, which people want to see from the sport at the end of the day.

“Like Ryota Murata, he has been in many TV programs and in other media outlets.”

That popularity is something Top Rank is expecting to build on.

“Yes certainly. He comes with a terrific record too. We are in close contact with his promoters from Japan,” Jacobs said.

“Everything is in place for him to become a huge star in the US but, of course, he needs to deliver inside the ring.

“I predict huge things for Inoue.”

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