Bob Arum: Naoya Inoue ‘One Of The Greatest Fighters I've Ever Seen’

Muhammad Ali. Sugar Ray Leonard. Roberto Duran. Marvin Hagler. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Manny Pacquiao. Oscar De La Hoya. Those are just a select few of the top fighters Top Rank boss Bob Arum has promoted throughout his Hall of Fame career.

You can also put pound-for-pound top star Naoya Inoue on Arum’s list of the most prolific and preeminent fighters the 92-year-old has presided over. 

The undisputed 122-pound king Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) returns Tuesday to defend his crown against former two-division champion Luis Nery (35-1, 27 KOs). Ring walks are estimated for 7:35 a.m. ET on ESPN+.

“He's a terrific young man and one of the greatest fighters I've ever seen,” Arum told BoxingScene. “It's scary with what I am seeing. He overwhelms really good opponents. I've never seen a fighter of that size perform the way he has. Maybe Salvador Sanchez had that ability. Even then, Sanchez did not win nearly all his fights by knockout. Inoue goes in, boxes, and knocks these guys out. What we're seeing in Inoue is something that is really special. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He's as special to boxing to what [Japanese star] Shohei Ohtani is to baseball. We're honored to be playing a part in his career.” 

The Japanese sensation Inoue will be headlining a boxing event at the Tokyo Dome for the first time since 1990 when Mike Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas. The sold-out show featuring Inoue and Nery will draw over 50,000 fans and generate a gate of over $20 million. 

Even though Inoue’s fights in Japan take place in the early morning hours in the United States, Arum said he’s still a smashing success with stateside fans. 

“ESPN has told us that even though Inoue's fights come on at a crazy hour, the audience is still very large,” said Arum. “Boxing fans also know they are watching something special when they are watching Inoue … The Japanese are not really emotional, but they are really emotional for Inoue.”

The four-division champion Inoue certainly has been special in recent years. 

The 31-year-old was the undisputed champion at 118 pounds before moving up to 122 pounds in 2023. In two fights, Inoue became the 122-pound king by knocking out unified champions Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales. 

BoxingScene and the Boxing Writers Association of America, among others, awarded Inoue 2023 Fighter of the Year honors. 

Inoue is currently considered a top-two pound-for-pound fighter along with Terence Crawford. 

An unimpressed Nery hasn’t gotten the memo – he recently called Inoue “overrated, overconfident, and ordinary.”

“Luis Nery is a tough Mexican fighter who will give him a go for a few rounds and then Inoue will knock him out,” said Arum.

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at], or via