By Steve Kim Updated on June 09, 2022

Naoya Ichiban?

Picture for Naoya Ichiban?

It was a few years ago when I was still at the four-letter network that I made the case that Naoyo Inoue was the worlds best fighter in the wake of his destruction of the previously undefeated Emmanuel Rodriguez (who was the IBF bantamweight titlist) in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series.

Here is my aforementioned piece:

Inoue would then go onto win the Muhammad Ali Trophy by defeating Nonito Donaire in November of 2019. Since that point, he signed a deal with Top Rank that was supposed to vault him into international stardom. Unfortunately, because of the world-wide pandemic, he performed just once in 2020 and twice last year.

With the recent runs of Canelo Alvarez and Oleksandr Usyk, it was difficult to state that Inoue was still the best boxer in the world. Folks, activity matters. 

Well, after his recent destruction of Donaire on Tuesday morning in Saitama, Japan, it's clear that 'the Monster' is still very much among the very elite in the sport. To paraphrase Bum Phillips when speaking about the great Earl Campbell: he may not be in a class by himself, but that class doesn't take long to call roll.

Picture for Naoya Ichiban?Naoki Fukuda

Coming into this contest, Donaire was the WBC bantamweight champion and rated as the top rated challenger to Inoue in the Ring Magazine ratings. After his defeat to 'the Monster' in 2019, he had since scored dominant fourth round KO's of two younger, undefeated foes in Nordine Oubaali and Reymart Gaballo.

Many Stateside fans tuned in curious to see if Donaire could once again trouble the Japanese star. They were given an early morning exhibition of speed, accuracy and precision by Inoue. It was over in two explosive rounds.  

Inoue floored Donaire late in the first with a well-placed counter right-hand, and then finished him with a barrage of punches that were delivered at a frightening pace. 

Naoya Inoue Highlight Reel KO of Nonito Donaire In Rematch, Becomes Unified Champion | HIGHLIGHTS

Yeah, the usual suspects will say that Donaire was old (and he is 39), but those remarks certainly weren't made as he was thrashing his last couple of foes on Showtime. And ask yourself this -- what other current bantamweight would you clearly favor over 'the Filipino Flash'? 

At the elite level you are judged a bit differently.

Picture for Naoya Ichiban?Naoki Fukuda

This is what I wrote in that ESPN article: "It's also not just that he wins, it's how he's done so. Nobody is passing the eye test the way Inoue is, and when it comes to pound-for-pound rankings, that absolutely matters because it's about elite boxers who separate themselves from the very good ones."

With this latest conquest, Inoue is now the WBC/WBA/IBF bantamweight champion. The last remaining strap (WBO) belongs to Paul Butler. To his credit, Butler has made it clear that he is up for the challenger --- some would call it a ritual sacrifice -- of facing Inoue. Yes, the Butler is ready to serve up his belt.

"We'll pursue that obviously if Butler wants to do that," said Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank, on Tuesday afternoon. "It would be nice if he won that fight and move up to 122."

Picture for Naoya Ichiban?Naoki Fukuda

There is already some online chatter about a possible showdown with unified champion, Stephen Fulton, the talented boxer from Philadelphia. Fulton has made it clear that he would like to unify all the belts at junior featherweight first and foremost. An Inoue-Fulton fight would be a dream matchup, but the reality is that there are a lot of promotional and network hurdles to overcome to ever make this come to fruition.

Regardless, at age 29, Inoue seems to be at his physical and technical apex as a fighter. He is a mesmerizing blend of clinical precision and violence. Here's hoping that Top Rank does their part to make sure that he is showcased more often to the public.



So just how hard of a sell is a rematch between undisputed lightweight champion, Devin Haney, and George Kambosos, given how lopsided their match was last weekend in Melbourne, Australia?

"Its not easy," admitted Arum, who now represents Haney, "it would've been easier if it was a close fight but we'll have to figure out how to sell it. But we're committed to a rematch."

There has been talk of contingency plan where Kambosos takes a step-aside fee and allows Vasiliy Lomachenko to face Haney. 

Picture for Naoya Ichiban?Mikey Williams/Top Rank

But Arum made it clear to, "I don't want to start any problems, we have a commitment for a rematch, Devin and Top Rank. Anything is possible in boxing as far as stepping-aside and all that stuff, but it's just a day or so after the fight.

"I don't want to talk about anything other than the rematch because that's what's on the table."

Meanwhile, Lou DiBella, who reps Kambosos stated, "Look, there's always chances of discussing stuff. George, contractually is entitled to a rematch. Interestingly, Haney, contractually is also entitled to a rematch."

So the bottom line is, if both boxers want the rematch -- no matter what the public thinks -- we'll be getting Haney-Kambosos II. It would just probably happen at a smaller venue like the Rod Laver Arena. 

And if you look at it like this, Haney probably thinks if they fought a 100 times, he wins a 100 times. For Kambosos, the rematch might still be the highest payday available to him. So from this perspective, it does make sense for both of them to run it back. 



On the latest episode of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller with Mario Lopez and myself, we welcome in noted trainer, Joe Goossen, who gives his thoughts on various subjects on the game of boxing:

Mario & Kim Welcome Joe Goosen & Talk Training Ryan Garcia | The 3 Knockdown Rule Ep. 34 | TrillerTV



It was announced by Showtime that because of a back injury, Jermall Charlo, has been forced to post-pone his bout against Maciej Sulecki, which was scheduled for June 18 in Houston....Showtime has announced that on July 30 they will have a telecast from the Barclay Center in Brookyln that features the return of Danny Garcia versus Jose Benavidez.... Dereck Chisora-Kubrat Pulevl will take place on Jul7 9 at the O2 Arena in London on DAZN....Can't say I'm really excited by either card on ESPN(featuring Edgar Berlanga) or DAZN(with Jaime Munguia) this Saturday night....I can be reached at

About Author
Naoya Ichiban?
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.