By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Which is more famous in Japan, WBO junior bantam champ Naoya “Monster” Inoue (14-0, 12 KOs) or Shohei “Japanese Babe Ruth” Ohtani? Of course, Ohtani since baseball is much more popular than boxing here. Ohtani has decided to join a US team in Los Angeles and play there from next year. Which is internationally more talented, Naoya or Shohei? Naoya, 24, has been already recognized by the international boxing fraternity, while Ohtani, 23, has yet to be tested in the major league even though the 6’4” sensational pitcher/batter Shohei is the biggest athletic export ever from Japan to the US.
Naoya will participate in his probably last and seventh defense of his WBO 115-pound belt when he puts his belt on the line against Frenchman Yoan Boyeaux (41-4, 26 KOs) in the main event on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.
We saw a deluxe press conference today, where the contestants expressed their own previews and expectations as follows:
Naoya Inoue: “This may be my last defense as 115-pound world champion. My physical and mental condition is very best, and I believe I’ll be able to show a very good performance. Next year I’d like to try to acquire my third world belt.”
“I’m ready. I wish to demonstrate an intelligent performance to surprise Japanese boxing fans.”
Hideyuki Ohashi, Inoue’s promoter/manager: “The tickets at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium have been almost all sold out. Prior to his third coronation next year Naoya will showcase his great talent before the nationwide audience.”
WBO officials are as follows: Referee Raul Caiz Jr. (US); judges Adalaide Bird (US), Luiz Ruiz and Hernando Steidel (both Puerto Rico); supervisor Edgard Lopez Sassso (Puerto Rico).
Another WBC 108-pound title bout between defending titlist Ken Shiro of Japan and Panamanian Gilberto Pedroza will also take place in the same show. Their comments are as follows:
Ken Shiro: “I’m very happy to have my title fight seen live by nationwide television watchers. I’ll show an interesting fight to them by scoring a spectacular knockout, hopefully.”
Gilberto Pedroza: “I’m sure I’ll be the thirty-first world champion out of Panama. My performance will stun Japanese people and I’ll bring the world belt to my country.”
The WBC officials are as follows: Referee Laurence Cole (US); judges Hubert Minn (US), Timothy Cheatham (US), Ed Pearson (Canada); supervisor Major Lee (Korea).
It will be presented by Ohashi Promotions and shown live by Fuji Television.