Former World Heavyweight Champion’s Bold Prediction, One Sided Outlook on Naoya Inoue vs Nery Showdown | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former World Heavyweight Champion’s Bold Prediction, One Sided Outlook on Naoya Inoue vs Nery Showdown

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His explosive power is what appeals to him, said Tim, who ranked Inoue as No. 1 pound-for-pound ©AFLO

As the plane was getting ready to land, I noticed that Philadelphia below was covered in white. The snow had been cleared from the runway, but the city was completely silver.

It’s been two years since we’ve had heavy snow in Philly.

The old man sitting next to me spoke to me in a whisper.


Cowering in the 2°C cold, I rent a car at the Philadelphia International Airport and drive 45 km northeast. I was headed to the home of a former world heavyweight champion in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.


The ill-fated champion praised Naoya Inoue.

Oh, you’ve come a long way.

Tim Witherspoon (66) greeted me at the door of his two-bedroom apartment. On the sofa in the living room, a green championship belt was displayed. He had won the WBC heavyweight title in March 1984. About nine months before that, he had challenged the veteran champion for the same belt and lost by a 1-2 split decision, even though he had the upper hand in the fight.

When Tim wrapped the WBC heavyweight belt around his waist, the fight money announced by the media was $250,000. However, he actually received only $44,640. Promoter Don King, 92, naturally undercut Tim’s guarantee every time.

Sickened by such treatment, Tim lost his motivation to fight. Despite his exceptional talent, he was unable to build a long-term regime, losing his WBC heavyweight belt in his first defense and the WBA title he later won in his second defense. He remained active until the age of 45 because he did not know how else to make money. Despite his advanced age, he was ranked No. 9 in the world until a few months before his last match, and showed immense defensive skills.

Tim has been keeping an eye on the “Japanese Monster” Naoya Inoue, and has seen all of his fights over the past few years. This time, I decided to ask him to predict his fight with Luis Nery, which will be held at Tokyo Dome on May 6th.


Inoue is a really good boxer. It’s no wonder that various media outlets have named him the Fighter of the Year and pound-for-pound in 2023. He’s confident in himself. Whoever he fights. I don’t think he’ll lose either. He’s at his peak right now.

I can tell from his every move that he’s a well-trained, strong man who is strong in himself. His explosive destructive power is really attractive. His confidence is building with each fight. His two fights against Nonito Donaire and the Paul Butler fight, which lasted a little longer, were at bantam, but he moved up to super bantam against Steven Fulton and then Marlon Tapales, and he’s even more awesome.

He became a “monster” because he also has the “talent to work hard”©AFLO

Tim, who grew up on the south side of Philadelphia, connected on Fulton, a junior champion from his hometown, saying, Poor guy, he got ripped to shreds.

We asked the former world heavyweight champion to watch some footage of Nery. First, Tim saw his two fights against Shinsuke Yamanaka and then against Carlos Payano.

For a bantam, my first impression is that he has a thick body.For this class, he probably has more power.Until the fight with Payano, he had 29 wins, 23 KOs.

But it can’t compare to Inoue’s speed. The back step is slow. Plus, his guard is low and his swings are big. I can’t really say that his movements are natural. There’s no flexibility in the front legs either.

Of course, I am not aware of the fact that Nery was using banned substances when he won the first fight against Yamanaka in August ’17 by KO in four rounds, the fact that he was stripped of the belt in the rematch in March ’18 for being 5 pounds (2.268 kg) over the weight, or, The fact that he was 0.5 pounds over the previous day’s weigh-in for the WBC bantamweight silver title fight against Payano in July ’19, without learning his lesson, In November 2019, he was unable to build a bantamweight physique, and told the story of how he lost a match.

In July ’19, Nery defeated Payano by KO in the 9th round. Inoue finished the same opponent in 70 seconds @ AFLO.

In short, he’s the type of guy who can’t get himself in the right condition.Sometimes I see guys who fight just by feeling.I can’t believe that this guy takes boxing seriously.But he still deserves a chance. That means it has some commercial value.However, with this, it won’t be able to compete with Inoue.

Tim then looked at the fight in which Nery beat Aaron Alameda by decision to win the WBC super bantamweight title, followed by a unification with WBA champion Brandon Figueroa, in which he lost by seventh-round KO.

I guess both Nery and Alameda were unanimous decision winners. Nery was moving better at this time than he did against Payano. Maybe he is free from his weight loss struggles. He is hitting a sharp jab and his straight from distance is not bad. But his defense is difficult. His head movement is one-patterned, so it is easy for Inoue to target him.

He may have been a hard puncher at bantam, but at 122 pounds, he doesn’t give that impression as if he was. He needs to twist his shoulders and hips more to strike, or he won’t be able to put weight on his fists. It’s more of a hand strike than you’d think. And his hips are too high. He should lower his center of gravity more. He doesn’t move much after striking.

Nery, who currently has 35 wins (27 KOs) and 1 loss, had the following to say about the fight against Figueroa, which was his only loss.

As the rounds went on, Nery’s punches were getting harder and harder to carry his weight, and his left and right hooks were swinging too much. That’s why I got cut down in the close rounds, because I was getting hit by Figueroa’s punches. The body blows were working. The last shot that knocked me out was also a left body uppercut. He seems to be a fighter who has repeatedly put himself over his weight, so he has a weak stomach. If he gets hit by Inoue’s body, he’ll probably faint in agony.

In addition, Nery defeated Armenian Azat Hovhannisyan in February 2023 with an 11th round knockout, and in July of the same year he defeated Filipino fighter Froilan Saludar in his home country of Mexico in two rounds. The 2nd match was also streamed on YouTube.


He said, Nery against Hovhannisyan is still swinging wide and his guard is down. He’s a very arrogant fighter. He was still in the middle of the ring with his knees stretched out and sticking out. I also notice scenes where he stops moving and observes his opponent.

I don’t know much about  Hovhannisyan, but he’s 35 years old and has three losses. His one world title challenge was in May ’18, that’s quite a while ago. Frankly, it looks like he is already on the downhill slope. He has been calling for easy opponents for the Saludar fight as well. It’s a stunt by the promoter to beat him in front of the fans in his homeland with a bang. I get the feeling that the match has been made up with a lot of care.

Tim looked at the WBC belt that was sitting in the corner of his room and said with a sigh.

Former world heavyweight champion relaxing at a shopping mall after the interview © Soichi Hayashi

Even a man who has been penalized multiple times can still have a chance to make money if the promoter likes him. Political power and luck greatly influence a boxer’s life. You don’t have to be a true champion to become a world champion. I can’t do it, man.

However, after a dozen seconds of silence, Tim returned to his usual cheerful expression.

But this time, Inoue will beat Nery. The level of skill, speed, and punching power is much different. The “Japanese Monster” is fast and sharp. Even if Nery tries to fight rough, he will be able to twist and turn him.

If Inoue wanted to, he could kill him in seconds. He’s a smart beast. I think it will be one-sided and will end by KO. The quadruple champion will easily defend his title in about two rounds. Nery has no chance. He’s going to take a lot of damage.

Tim concluded.

Inoue has made his own era. That’s a big deal.

On May 6 at the Tokyo Dome, Naoya Inoue will make another mark. He is truly a living legend.

Click here to purchase Soichi Hayashi’s book “Fist of Minority” about Tim Withaspoon’s life.

  • Interview and text by Soichi Hayashi

    Born in 1969. Passed the professional boxing test as a junior lightweight, but suffered an injury to his left elbow. After working as a reporter for a weekly magazine, he became a nonfiction writer, and in 1996, he moved to the U.S. to teach at a public high school in the U.S. He also works as an educator. 2014, he completed the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, The University of Tokyo. He is the author of "Minority Fist," "America's Lower Level Education Site," and "America's Problem Child Regeneration Classroom" (all Kobunsha e-books), "God's Ring," "The Door to the World: Forward! Samurai Blue" and "Hohoite to Nurture Coaching" (all published by Kodansha).

  • Photo AFLO, Soichi Hayashi (Tim)

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