By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
After going to hell and back in that fight of the year with Nonito Donaire recently, shall we see the same Monster Naoya Inoue again?
Boxing history is replete with cases of fighters toting killer images and credentials who went into crucial defining physical and brutal battles as decided favorites and though emerging winners, were never the same fighters that they were before, mostly for the worse.
Smokin Joe Frazier in his first fight against the come backing and already aging Muhammad Ali in March 1971, though he won by decision to retain the heavyweight title, he was so physically damaged that he spent the night in a hospital and so psychologically drained he did not fight for the rest of that year. The following year, George Foreman knocked him down six times to force a stoppage and wrest his heavyweight crown.
Another is Hector Macho Camacho who was a whirlwind dervish when he devastating the ranks in the 130 lbs class and even when he moved up to 135 lbs until he ran smack into fellow Boracuan Edwin El Chapo Rosario against whom he survived a knockdown and many scary moments to win on points. But he was never the same Macho Man again. The effect was as much as physical as psychological.
Yet another is Boracuan knockout sensation Wilfredo Gomez who laid to waste many a Mexican legendary bantams as Alfonso Zamora and Carlos Zarate until he ran into the nail tough Guadalupe Pintor who forced him into a war of attrition in their fight which he eventually won by 14th round stoppage. He was never the same Dinamita again as Salvador Sanchez showed in brutally stopping him in his next bout.
After 12 highly physical rounds with Donaire, Inoue was found to have suffered orbital bone fracture in his right eye and a broken nose.
It was a credit to his courage that he not only survived but overcame those injuries even waging a strong comeback to score a crucial knockdown and win by unanimous decision.
It was undeniably a character defining fight and win for the Japanese in his less than 20 pro bouts.
His corner should be commended too for preventing those injuries from getting any worse. What wonder of sports science and medicine did they apply in tidying a bloodied and bruised Inoue after every round such that those injuries were not even apparent at the end of the fight?
The effects and scars of physical injuries could be masked and Inoue could well recover from those in time. But what about the psychological scars and effects of that hell of a fight he went through against Donaire?
And what the pressure of being now hailed as among the premier elite fighters in the world and possibly billed as the top pound for pound fighter on the planet will have on the still young and yet to fully mature Naoya?
Having signed up with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotion, there is also that possibility of Naoya fighting again in the United States.
He has fought in California before but against an Antonio Nieves whom he disposed off in no time. He has also seem action in Glasgow where he destroyed Emmanuel Rodriguez in the WBSS semifinals but both of them were visiting fighters. What will his mindset and comportment be in a real major fight set in the acknowledged world’s boxing mecca?
I am very keen to know once Naoya steps up in the ring again.
Against whom, is another question.
One possibility is an IBF title defense against Filipino mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas first before considering another unification against WBC titlist Frenchman Nordine Oubali or WBO ruler Zolani Tete should the rangy South African succeed in his title defense versus another Pinoy, Johnriel Casimero later this month.
And there’s the defrocked undefeated WBC kingpin Luis Nery who broke Japanese hold of the premier bantamweight title with two crushing but controversial stoppage wins over the now retired Shinsuke Yamanaka some years back.
But with Oubali decisively beating Naoya’s younger brother in the Saitama main support bout to retain his WBC crown, there may be greater demand and pressure to make that fight as soon as possible.
Where and when depends on Naoya and Top Rank.