The author talks about his visit to “10 men who challenged Naoya Inoue” Why do they talk so much about “the reason why they lost”? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The author talks about his visit to “10 men who challenged Naoya Inoue” Why do they talk so much about “the reason why they lost”?

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Naoya Inoue beat Stephen Fulton in July and also won the WBC and WBO world super bantamweight belts (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

Naoya Inoue, 30, is a treasure of the Japanese boxing world. He unified the four bantamweight divisions of the world with KO victories in all four weight classes, and in July of this year, he also won the WBC and WBO world super bantamweight belts with KOs. He also earned the title of “Pound for Pound (PFP) No. 1,” which determines who is the best boxer by eliminating weight differences in boxing where there are class differences. As Inoue’s name and strength spread around the world, Masanori Moriai, a boxing reporter for the Tokyo Shimbun, felt conflicted.

I haven’t been able to put Inoue’s strength into words.

In order to understand Inoue’s strength, Moriai went to Argentina, Mexico, and other countries to talk with 10 fighters with whom he had exchanged fists. On October 26, he published the book “The Day I Met the Monster: Fighting Naoya Inoue” (Kodansha). The book has been attracting so much attention that it was reprinted before its release.

While eliciting Inoue’s otherworldly abilities, the book asks what he gained by standing by the loser and rising from defeat. There are two athletes who became world champions using their defeats as sustenance. On the other hand, there are those who left the ring in despair, having had everything they had built up since childhood destroyed in the ring. Nevertheless, they are all proud to have fought Inoue (all comments in parentheses are from Mr. Moriai).

Everyone practiced hard and risked their lives in order to win,” said Moriai. But most of them were beaten to death. But because they are the ones who have given their all, they know how great Inoue is.

Fists flying from various angles, counters that you cannot hit, being blocked by defenses that seem to have seen through your aim – you are astonished by Inoue’s ability of another dimension during the match. At that moment, you could tell that Inoue had studied himself thoroughly, and how much he had practiced to get into the ring. He seems to understand that what he has accumulated day by day is different, that what he has built up is different.

They talk as if they were impressed, saying, ‘Only Inoue could dodge a punch like that,’ or ‘He should have guarded himself, but he was hit from the inside. It was amazing that everyone talked so eloquently about Inoue’s otherworldly abilities, using gestures and hand gestures.

Moriai must have opened his heart because he was the listener. Moriai has respect for the underdog. When he was a student and working part-time at Korakuen Hall, he was in charge of handing out gloves to boxers to be worn in matches, known as “Kagiban. After a match, when he saw a defeated fighter in a state of shock, he would sit at the door of the waiting room in agony, unable to say, “It’s time to return the gloves. It was because he was such a Moriai that we were able to ask him.

Tomoki Sano, who fought Inoue. Behind him is a poster of the Inoue fight.

It’s rude, isn’t it? To talk to the losing fighter. I was not talking about myself, but about my opponent who had won the match. I wondered if it was OK and if I could do it, and I was conflicted about it until the end. Before the interview, I was always in the same frame of mind I was when I was playing keyboard, and I had the same worries about whether it was the right time to ask.

That conflict was there until the end, but Mr. Sano also told me about his eye disease. That he had a ruptured retina just before he retired. He also told us that he had falsely told his gym that he had cataracts so as not to worry them. It was a story that only a limited number of people knew, and I don’t think he intended to tell strangers.

Adrián Hernández of Mexico also told us that after his defeat, he even went through a rough period in his life, where he was addicted to alcohol and even broke up with his then girlfriend. If they were prepared to go that far and expose their scars, I felt I had to tell the world about their way of life. The more I interviewed them, the more I felt strongly that I had to give a clear form to their way of life.

The “Sano-san” Moriai is referring to Tomoki Sano (41), ranked No. 1 in Japan at light flyweight, who crossed fists with Inoue on April 16, 2001. On that day, most of the spectators were there to see the ringing super rookie with two wins and two KOs in two fights. Sano was taken down in the second round and it looked like a matter of time before he would lose by KO, but he held on. From the first round to the 10th, the KO round, Sano was one-sidedly beaten, but he got up again and again, and when a shallow punch hit Inoue in the face, the audience applauded and cheered.

I was talking with Mr. Sano, and I could tell from every word he said that he had put his life on the line. I think he was putting his life on the line to prove his existence in that one fight. He regretted his half-heartedness during his amateur days, and he was one step short of winning the Japanese title. He had put his whole boxing career on the line to burn up in that ring. To the casual observer, the fight was one-sided, but even though Mr. Sano was getting punched, he was shifting the vital points with his body work until the ninth round, feeling Inoue breathing through his mouth in the latter half, inspiring him to hold on a little longer, and timing his short straight right hand to hit him. When I was writing Sano’s chapter, and when I read it back, I almost cried as the scenes of the interview came back to me.”

On August 25, 2001, Ryoichi Taguchi, the Japanese light flyweight champion, lost his belt after a full-round bout with Inoue by decision. The president of Taguchi’s gym offered him a way to return the belt, avoid Inoue’s challenge, and aim for the world championship, but he chose to fight Inoue , saying, “There is no point in running away from Inoue-kun and aiming for the world championship.

Taguchi said, “I couldn’t understand why he chose to fight Inoue when he was aiming to become the world champion and had the possibility to challenge him, so I questioned not only him but also his chairman and trainer many times. Taguchi’s sense of value was to fight Naoya Inoue rather than the world champion, and he seemed to find value in that.

He had been beaten by Inoue in a sparring match, and he probably felt humiliated by the defeat. He also said that he did not want people in the industry to say that he “ran away from Inoue. I think he wanted to fight Inoue for his real strength and to be proud of being a boxer.

Taguchi fought well against Inoue, and a year and four months later he became the WBA world light flyweight champion, defending it seven times and unifying it with the IBF.

His trainer said, ‘The process of the fight with Inoue came into play. During the fight, when things got tough, he gave me mental support, saying, ‘You’re not stronger than Inoue-kun. He said that the fact that he did not run away from the Inoue match was an asset.

I was impressed that not only Taguchi but also those who fought Inoue genuinely said that they wanted to fight someone strong and wanted to know how strong they were.”

Omar Narvaez and his son Junior Narvaez interviewed by Moriai

It was the WBO World Super Flyweight title match on December 30, ’14 that brought the Monster’s name to the world’s attention. He sank champion Omar Narvaez four times, winning by second-round KO. Narvaez defended his WBO world flyweight title 16 times and his super flyweight title 11 times, and was called the “Hero of Argentina. In 21 years as a pro-am fighter, he has never fallen in 150 fights. The KO was so convincing that the legend said, “I felt a big difference. Moriai was the subject of the interview that Moriai paid the most attention to.

He said, “An accomplished fighter lost that way. I wondered what to ask him. I was the most nervous about him, but when I actually met him, he was really kind. He even reproduced the punch that knocked me down with gestures. He explained to me in detail how he and Inoue had attacked and defended each other, saying, “You would think the punch would come from the outside, but the trajectory changed and the punch came inside. I wondered how he could explain so clearly how he got knocked down in a fight that he lost.

It seems that Narvaez felt that the media did not properly understand and report Inoue’s strength. He himself said that during his active career, he was unfavorably written that “Narvaez chooses his opponents” even though he made many defenses. Inoue also told us that he thought he was written as ‘I didn’t beat Narvaez in his prime. I felt as if he entrusted me with the responsibility of telling them that Inoue was a great fighter and that I would give a full explanation.

On the other hand, Inoue, who had defeated them all, would not talk about the losers. When Moriai met Inoue for an interview, he asked him about their recent situation, but he did not talk deeply about their opponents. Inoue seemed to think that he was the winner of the match and that it would be unbecoming of them to talk about anything.

The winner bears the loser’s boxing life on his behalf. I felt that Inoue thinks that if he talks half-heartedly, he will keep quiet and continue to fight. There is no doubt that he respects the fighters he fought against. There are things that only those who have fought each other in the ring can understand. Because I was on the winning side, I dare not talk about it. I think it is because they have special feelings for each other that they don’t want to talk about it.

Moriai writes in the epilogue

Moriai writes in the epilogue, “The men who were defeated by the monster. Are they losers?

The losers are noble, too. That is why Inoue’s games attract many fans. This book will also attract many readers.

Click here to purchase “The Day I Met the Monster: Fighting Naoya Inoue”!

Author Masanori Moriai interviewing Adrian Hernandez (right) in Mexico
  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki

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