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Naoya Inoue: "My first goal is to become world champion"


When Naoya Inoue recently beat Ryoichi Taguchi, he matched the accomplishments of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Akinobu Hiranaka in winning the Japanese national title in just his fourth pro bout.

The precociously talented phenom narrowly missed out on last year’s Olympics, first appearing at the 2011 World Championships, losing a razor-thin decision (12-15) in the third round to Cuban Yosvany Veitia before again coming up short in the final of the Asian Games against the far more experienced Birzhan Zhakipov (11-16). The Zhakipov bout was the last qualifying stage before London 2012. Zhakipov went on to lose to eventual gold medallist Zou Shiming 10-13 in the quarterfinals.

All told, it made the decision to turn over to the pros easy. Inoue made his debut in October of last year, impressively knocking out Filipino national champion Crison Omayao in four rounds. He followed that with a first round demolition of Thai champion Ngaoprajan Chuwatana. Inoue then became the first to stop compatriot Yuki Sano, doing so in the 10th round, leading to his 10-round points win over Taguchi.

The 20-year-old light flyweight says of Taguchi (via Japanese boxing doyen Joe Koizumi), “I respect him as national champion and think he is a good boxer.” Taguchi went into their bout with a solid 18-1-1 (8) record and was six years his senior, winning the Japanese title for the second time in his fight prior to the Inoue outing. Taguchi was also ranked number three by the WBA, 11 by the WBO and eight by The Ring magazine. We can expect Inoue to take over those rankings in the coming rankings as his win saw him debut in The Ring ratings at 10.

Anson Wainwright - On the 25th August, you fought Ryoichi Taguchi. What are your thoughts on the fight and him as a boxer?

Naoya Inoue - I respect him as national champion and think he is a good boxer.

AW - It was only your fourth pro fight and you were already fighting for the Japanese title. Why are you moving so quickly?

NI - I believe that I am already mature enough to fight for the national belt. Also, my victory tied the previous record of Messrs. Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Akinobu Hiranaka, having won the belts in their fourth bouts.

AW - In your first pro fight, you beat the Filipino champion and in your second you beat the Thai champion. That is highly impressive. What are your thoughts in retrospect?

NI - It was due to my concentration on fighting my opponent. I am satisfied to have beaten the national champs of the Philippines and Thailand in my first two professional bouts.

AW - Who are the key members of your team?

NI - I’m regularly training at Mr. Hideyuki Ohashi’s Ohashi Gym, where my father, Shingo is exclusively coaching me since my childhood. Now it is my great pleasure that I improve constantly with my father’s coaching. My younger brother, Takuma is also two-time national high school champ like me.

AW - How popular would you say are you in Japan?

NI - I don’t know how popular I am but I am just concentrating on training regularly. I have no commercial endorsements at this moment as I have no interests in them.

AW - Can you tell us about your youth growing up in Zama, Kanagawa? How did you first become interested in boxing?

NI - Since my father was formerly a boxer, he started coaching me since I was a small boy. All my family has been supporting my amateur and professional career with pleasure.

AW - You were a very promising amateur, winning many high school championships. Can you tell us about your amateur career?

NI - My amateur record was 75-6 including 48 KOs and RSCs (“referee stops contest”). I won seven national high school championships. It was a pity that I failed to go to the Olympic Games in London and I wished to try my fists in the professional ring.

AW - Without getting ahead of ourselves, what are your thoughts on the light flyweight division and the current champions?

NI - All the good and strong champions, I respect very much. But when time comes, I wish to fight any of them with my very best.

AW - In Japan, WBA titlist Kazuto Ioka is very highly thought of. Do you feel the two of you could one day fight in what would be a huge fight in Japan?

NI - Mr. Ioka is an excellent boxer and champion. I look forward to meeting him in the future.

AW - What are your goals in boxing?

NI - My first goal is to become world champion. I will consider the second after I successfully realize the first.

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