Naoya Inoue made up for a late start to his fight by providing a quick ending and an exciting finish.

The three-division and reigning WBA/IBF bantamweight titlist offered the latest example of why many hail him as among the very best fighters in the world following a third-round knockout of Philippines’ Michael Dasmarinas. Yokohama, Japan’s Inoue scored three knockdowns, the last of which prompted the knockout finish at 2:45 of round three Saturday evening at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

Dasmarinas vowed to reveal to the world the true meaning behind his ‘Hot & Spicy’ nickname heading into his IBF-ordered title shot. That moment never came, nor was he interested in trading with the dangerous Inoue as he repeatedly circled the ring in the opening round. Inoue quickly closed the gap, landing a left hook in the first minute and spending most of the rest of the round shooting his jab in hopes of setting up power shots.

Inoue scored the bout’s first knockdown in the final minute of round two. A paralyzing left hook to the liver caused Dasmarinas to turn and fall to the canvas, though managing to beat the count. The Filipino southpaw would make it to the bell, though not before absorbing several more left hooks to the body.

“I just wanted to see what he had and what he could take in the first round,” Inoue told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna. “After that, I was confident that I could take him out.”

That moment would come in round three, though not before doling out more punishment before closing the show in style.

Dasmarinas showed little interest in trading with the potent Inoue, who continued to dig to the body. When the fleeing challenger attempted to defend against the attack, Inoue brought the attack upstairs. A right uppercut by the unbeaten 28-year-old was effective in getting Dasmarinas to raise his guard, setting up the opportunity to land a body shot to force Dasmarinas to the canvas for a second time.

Referee Russell Mora reached the count of nine before Dasmarinas was fully on his feet and convincing the third man that he could continue. Inoue would put an end to that idea, with another left hook to the body causing the overmatched challenger to double over in pain before falling flat on his back. The sequence produced the end of the fight, with Inoue successfully defending his titles.

Inoue improves to 21-0 (18KOs), getting the job done through precise power punching. He landed 38-of-112 total punches (34%), including 31-of-48 power punches (65%) according to Compubox statistics. Dasmarinas fell miserably short in his first career title bid, landing just 12-of-80 total punches (15%), including 10-of-40 power punches (25%). The loss sends his record to 30-3-1 (20KOs), ending a 13-fight unbeaten streak in the process.

The 28-year-old southpaw made his way to the IBF number-one position following a 12-round decision win over Kenny Demecillo in March 2019, though with the coronavirus pandemic delaying his title shot.

As for Inoue, he continues to plead his case as the sport’s pound-for-pound best. The competition in that race for the former junior flyweight and junior bantamweight champ and current unified bantamweight titlist is fierce, though also well outside of his weight class, with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (56-1-2, 38KOs) topping most lists and welterweights Terence Crawford (37-0, 29KOs) and Errol Spence (27-0, 21KOs) hovering near the top.

Saturday’s win also puts Inoue’s record in true title fights at 14-0 (12KOs) along with a pair of knockout wins with a secondary title at stake. The aim moving forward is to become the undisputed bantamweight champion, which that path perhaps a shorter on the heels of news earlier in the day that Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27KOs) will now face John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21KOs) in a WBC/WBO title unification clash on August 14.

Inoue owns a 12-round win over Donaire, becoming the unified WBA/IBF titlist following their November 2019 slugfest. Two knockout wins have followed, both taking place in Las Vegas.

Inoue returned to the gambling town and self-proclaimed boxing capital of the world eight months after knocking out perennial top contender Jason Moloney last Halloween at MGM Grand Conference Center. The fight was his first with Top Rank, coming nearly a full year after the terrific war with Donaire who has since claimed the WBC bantamweight title and now looks to unify with Casimero.

Inoue was previously due to face Casimero last April before the pandemic shut down those plans. The two never managed to bring their matchup back around, although there now exists the opportunity to produce the division’s first-ever undisputed champion in the foreseeable future.

“Getting this win brings a smile to my face,” notes Inoue. “The ability to face the winner of Donaire-Casimero brings an even bigger smile to my face.”