Naoya Inoue Really is a Video Game Character

Naoya Inoue vs. Marlon Tapales

That’s my conclusion after Naoya Inoue’s eventual destruction of Marlon Tapales, who had a pretty solid game plan that was giving him trouble. Tapales found a way to nullify the Japanese champion’s vaunted right hand, but the ninth round then saw Inoue solve the problem by throwing it harder and more often. The tenth then saw him become sure of that solution and blasted through Tapales’ guard like a wrecking ball going through a condemned building.

Inoue unified the super bantamweight world titles by being a character straight out of Street Fighter and throwing special moves for chip damage until he got the guard crush. While casuals are now hating on Tapales for lacking defense, the truth is the opposite — his game plan showed both his bravery and defensive savvy. However, the world isn’t fair because Naoya Inoue isn’t just a skilled fighter, but also a physically-gifted specimen.

Naoya Inoue is a rare example of what happens when born talent is bolstered with hard work and tempered with humility. He’s a polished gem among diamonds in the rough.

Much has been said over the years of how he’s a Monster, but his last two fights really showed both the depth and breadth of his skill and talent. The Stephen Fulton fight showed that his explosive legs could punish whoever tries to box him from the outside; this Marlon Tapales fight showed that his power is a panacea that can cure all ills at 122. We’ll now see if he’ll defend this unified title to solidify this claim or climb up to 126 and beyond to further his legend.

Naoya Inoue KOs Marlon Tapales via Guard Crush

The power of the Monster was the ace in the hole, but not without difficulty. Tapales had a strategy that he had to stick to, and he lasted for as long as he did due to both adhering to that strategy and being tough as nails. Inoue just had to realize that he already had a big enough hammer and all he had to do was give those nails harder whacks.

At first, Inoue was throwing right straights to the body of Tapales, and they were sinking pretty well. However, Tapales was landing right hooks to the side of his head. Much of that story was told with each of their lead foot, showing how both fighters were initiating against each other. No one was overextending as they kept their weight behind the lead foot at all times. It was a battle of who imposes their rhythm first.

It turns out a major difference between them was the deftness of their back foot. Inoue is able to step back more quickly, while Tapales is not as adept at it. Also, the Filipino was more prone to leaving himself overextended as he kept trying to touch the Japanese with his shots. We saw the quickness and explosiveness of Inoue’s feet in the Stephen Fulton fight, where he used the risky but explosive hop-forward jab to close the distance against the American.

Rounds three to five saw Inoue cracking Tapales pretty hard with his heavy hands, sending the Filipino down to the canvas in the fourth. Tapales then readjusted as he realized the urgency of having to address the right hand. He dropped his lead guard and shelled up, leaning back to evade right straights and “answering the phone” to block right looping punches from Inoue.

We may consider round six as the key transition period as this was when Inoue’s gas tank was usually said to become suspect. He has only gone the distance in 3 fights, and he only had to fight past the sixth round in 9 out of 25 of his previous fights. That’s an astounding 64% rate of not having to fight past the first half, even before he became a twelve-rounder.

There’s some logic to this thinking. Much of the Monster’s fearsome power is from the snap in his punches. As the phosphagen energy system — the most immediate of the three energy systems of the human body — starts to become depleted, that snap starts to weaken. To compensate for that loss of snap, most would throw more of their weight into their punches, thus making them easier and more enticing to counter.

I think Inoue knows that quite well.

As mentioned in the Hidden Gem analysis video above, blocking punches can still hurt you. Since Tapales isn’t as quick on his feet, all he could really do to try nullifying Inoue’s power punches was to shell up and brace for impact. Due to the Monster’s notorious power, his plan was doomed to not last. It wasn’t even a question of toughness since Tapales was not lacking in grit, but blocking punches only takes away some of the sting.

The arms are still a part of the body, so Inoue made like Rocky Marciano fighting Ron La Starza.

Round ten saw Inoue spam the heavy punch button onto Tapales’s guard and guard-crushed him to oblivion. While Tapales found a way to minimize the damage he was taking, that minimal damage was still huge because Inoue is truly a monster who combined his physical gifts with patience and vigilance. Congratulations to the new undisputed super bantamweight world champion.

Marlon Tapales Earned My Respect

It was obvious that the Filipino (now-former) champion’s best chance for victory was to weather the storm and survive twelve rounds while getting more shots in than Inoue — an order as tall as Everest. While it’s a shame that Tapales didn’t become the fourth opponent to take the Monster to the distance, his strategy won my admiration over the course of the fight.

He had a tremendously brave gameplan — foolhardy, even — of staying inside of Inoue’s range enough to dampen his power and nullifying the Japanese knockout artist’s right hand. He would pull back to evade right straights and his left glove would absorb right hooks. In the end, Inoue would find a solution by committing more to his shots and hitting even harder to break through Tapales’ guard and reach his face. The gap between them widened to a grand canyon.

While the result may have not gone his way and expectations leading up to the fight were not to his favor, he did give Inoue a difficult fight. He showed his championship mettle and lived up to the prestige of his now-former titles. He has nothing to be ashamed of, and he certainly earned my respect as I watched him fight against what most thought to be insurmountable odds.

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