Moving up in weight wasn’t designed to be easy. No matter how great a particular fighter is, life changes once they decide to compete in a higher weight class. For Naoya Inoue, however, it’s been a walk in the park.
In 2012, the Japanese star waltzed to the ring as a 108-pounder. Fast forward roughly a decade later, and he’s now fought in five different divisions. Along the way, despite usually stepping in as the smaller man, he normally dominates.
Just recently, Inoue did it again. After grabbing every world title at 118 pounds, he tossed his IBF, WBO, WBA, and WBC titles to the side and moved four pounds north. In his first fight in the super bantamweight division, he made it look incredibly easy against Stephen Fulton, taking him out in eight rounds and lifting his WBO and WBC titles off his lifeless body.
From a distance, Shakur Stevenson has noticed that Inoue (25-0, 22 KOs) is getting closer and closer to his division. If the pound-for-pound star is looking for a real challenge, Stevenson is officially putting his hand up and daring him to move up a few more weight classes.
“Tell him come up and fight me,” Stevenson told a group of reporters. “I would love to fight Inoue.”
Stevenson isn’t just a former two-division champion but he’s also a student of the game. Inoue, it just so happened, is his favorite fighter to study. Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) admits that Inoue can do it all. Boxing on the outside? No problem? You want to bang it out in the middle of the ring? Sure. Inoue is well-versed in practically every part of the ring.
The reverence that he has for the current unified super bantamweight champ is through the roof. More than anything, Stevenson simply wants to know what it feels like to be in the ring with a fighter the caliber of Inoue. But while he would love nothing more than to push himself to his physical limits in a showdown against him, Stevenson knows that it’s incredibly unlikely.
“He’s a helluva fighter. Honestly, he’s one of the fighters that I’ve been watching the most lately. I give him his credit in terms of skills, his speed, his power – everything is tremendous but I think he just a little too small.”