Naoya Inoue is well aware of the high stakes heading into his first career trip to Las Vegas this weekend.
The three-division and reigning unified bantamweight titlist fights in the United States for just the second time as a pro, and his first in the industry-hailed fight capital of the world. The occasion comes in the form of an attempted title defense versus Australia’s Jason Moloney (21-1, 18KOs), taking place this Saturday live on ESPN+ from The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“I think there are a lot of expectations of me,” Inoue told Top Rank’s Mark Shunock during the final pre-fight press conference on Thursday. “I want to be able to live up to those expectations. I take that pressure and expectation, and I turn that into power. I just try to improve with every fight."
Japan’s Inoue (19-0, 16KOs) was due to make the trip this past April—in fact with the pound-for-pound entrant as well as Moloney to have appeared in separate bouts on the same show at Mandalay Bay. The April 25 was shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with Moloney having since taken on a stay busy fight before heading into his second attempt at a bantamweight belt.
All told, it has been nearly 51 weeks since Inoue has last fought. That moment came in his title-unifying decision win over Nonito Donaire last November in Saitama, Japan, earning top honors in the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament in the process.
Since then has come several stops and starts, including his waiting on a firm date for his long-awaited Vegas debut.
“Up to this point, with COVID it’s been tough training,” admits Inoue. “But I’m sure it’s the same for everyone in boxing. We will go in the ring, and you will see how I was able to adapt to training under such conditions.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox