Team Nakatani: “Junto Is Stepping On Those Inoue Shoes Hard”

Is Nakatani The Man Who Will Topple Naoya Inoue?

Junto Nakatani approaches Naoya Inoue
Junto Nakatani (Imago/Aflo Sport) could be the toughest challenge for Naoya Inoue (Kyodo)

Junto Nakatani Open to a Showdown with Naoya Inoue


In boxing’s lower-weight divisions, reigning undisputed junior featherweight champion Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) is considered the man to beat. But could the biggest threat to the Japanese superstar come from countryman and three-division champion Junto Nakatani (27-0, 20 KOs)?

On February 24 in Tokyo, Japan, Nakatani made his 118-pound debut with a sixth-round stoppage over Alexandro Santiago to win the WBC bantamweight title. A former world champion at 112 and 115, Nakatani was the talk of boxing social media because of how he easily disposed of Santiago.

BUILDING MOMENTUM

As a result of his performance, there is chatter among boxing observers about how Nakatani would fare in a fight with The Monster.

Nakatani’s trainer, Rudy Hernandez, spoke to the news outlet The Ring following Nakatani’s win over Santiago. When asked about Inoue, Hernandez said the following:

“He’s stepping on those Inoue shoes pretty hard now, but if that can’t happen, we continue to do our job, hoping Junto can claim to be one of the top 3 fighters ever from Japan.”

HOW THEY WOULD MATCH UP

On paper, it’s a fascinating matchup. Named the 2023 Fighter of the Year by 3kingsboxing.com, Inoue gained universal acclaim for his dynamic speed and explosive punching power. The Monster also has terrific boxing skills and an underrated ring IQ.

But if there is a fighter who can stand up to Inoue from a sheer physical standpoint, it’s Nakatani. At 5’8”, the 26-year-old is four inches taller than Inoue and has a longer reach.

The newly-crowned bantamweight champion is highly skilled in his own right. What beats a fighter with incredible speed is a fighter with a good jab and excellent timing. Nakatani possesses both of those attributes. He’s a daunting task for anyone from 115-122. Nakatani is arguably the most gifted opponent of Inoue’s career and stands the best chance to beat him.

If it happens, it will not occur until at least 2025. Nakatani has eyes on a bantamweight unification fight with WBA bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue. Inoue’s 2024 will be devoted to defending his junior featherweight titles.

Inoue versus Nakatani at junior featherweight would be a compelling fight. It can potentially be a super-fight wherever it lands.

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About Mike W.1959 Articles
Mike is the host of boxing podcast "Pound 4 Pound Boxing Report" and is a Senior Writer for 3kingsboxing.com.