Living up to his billing as “The Monster,” Japan’s Naoya Inoue targeted the body of mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas on Saturday in a ruthless destruction of punching power.
Inoue (21-0, 17 KOs), a unified champion at 118 pounds, scored a trio of body-shot knockdowns via left hook to the liver to defend his WBA and IBF bantamweight titles in a third-round knockout inside the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas.
A native of Japan, the pound-for-pound ranked Inoue continued his assault on the United States after signing with Top Rank and seeing his fights regularly featured on ESPN. The 28-year-old champion of three divisions was dominant. He landed 65% of his total punches, according to CompuBox, outlanding Dasmarinas 48 to 40 overall, and 17 to 5 in terms of body shots.
“Against a No. 1 ranked fighter like Dasmarinas, I think I had a great win,” Inoue said through a translator. “I like to prepare to knock him out with a head shot or a body shot. I can’t prepare [for a specific one]. To get the knockout, I am very happy.”
Inoue was very patient in the opening round against Dasmarinas (30-3-1, 20 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from the Philippines. He began to open up just a bit more in Round 2 when a beautiful left hook to the body floored Dasmarinas before a flurry of body shots followed until the final bell.
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“The first round, I just wanted to see what he had depending upon how he came out,” Inoue said. “After a while, I started to feel like I could knock him out.”
Inoue dropped Dasmarinas a second time to open Round 3 with a body shot. Moments later, one more left hook dropped him for good as referee Russell Mora jumped in to wave off the fight without a count at 0:15 of the round.
The victory sets Inoue up for a potential shot at becoming the undisputed champion at 118 pounds. Titleholders John Riel Casimero and Nonito Donaire will meet on Aug. 14 in a battle of hard-hitting Filipino champions and both want Inoue for all four recognized world titles.
“Getting the win gives me a smile but to be able to fight the winner of Casimero and Donaire, that brings me another smile, as well,” Inoue said.
Asked which fighter he prefers to face, Inoue could only smile. He edged Donaire by decision in their 2019 unification bout that garnered honors as fight of the year. Inoue suffered a broken nose and orbital bone in the fight and Donaire was forced to get up from a body shot in the final round to finish the fight.
“I think, dramatically, [my preference] would be Donaire II,” Inoue said.
Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs), the 38-year-old ageless wonder, was in attendance on Saturday, as was Casimero.
“I have to give the biggest respect for Dasmarinas because I have been there, I know how it feels, and they hurt. I just kept getting up but that’s a horrific punch,” Donaire said. “I thought [Inoue] looked great. He is very strong and I thought he got better. It’s great to see him grow. I was impressed.
“We have always had respect for each other. When he was growing up, he looked up to me. We always had that sort of brotherhood but it was competition at the same time. Some people can call me crazy about things but I love that fight and I want to do that again. It drives me and motivates me and gets me up in the morning and I can’t wait to do it again.”
Casimero (30-4, 21 KOs) praised Inoue’s performance but remains confident in his own chances.
“I saw Dasmarinas giving too much respect to Inoue but it was a great experience seeing [Inoue] live,” Casimero said. “At this moment, my focus is on Donaire and I will do my best to win the fight against him. After that, I will take care of Inoue.”