Manny Pacquiao apparently sees a lot of himself in Naoya Inoue.
To the point that the eight-division champion and former senator of the Philippines wants to help what many feel today is the world’s greatest fighter.
Inoue, the four-division titlist and current unified junior featherweight titlist, is coming off a rousing eighth-round stoppage win over Philadelphia's Stephen Fulton last month in Tokyo to wrest away Fulton’s WBC and WBO 122-pound titles. The Japanese dynamo stunned many fans and observers with his dominance, as it was first fight in the junior featherweight division.
Inoue’s performance set off all sorts of bold speculation, with some suggesting that the Japanese champion, who started his career at 108 pounds, could scale further heights by making a stand in the 126 and 130-pound divisions. Showtime Sports head Stephen Espinoza, whose network prominently showcased Fulton in the past, suggested Inoue could even move up to 135 to fight Gervonta Davis.
Inoue has his crosshairs aimed at unifying the 122-pound division in his next fight, possibly against Marlon Tapales, who holds the IBF and WBA belts.
In a recent interview, Pacquiao—someone who knows a thing or two about conquering multiple divisions—indicated he would be open arms to helping Inoue acclimate himself to higher weight classes. Pacquiao has won titles in eight divisions.
“I like Naoya,” Pacquiao told Little Giant Boxing. “Before he became [multi-weight champion] I teach him in Japan. Naoya, he’s thinking of moving up in weight divisions. I hope I can teach him and supervise his workout and training.
“I want to train him and supervise his training if he wants to move up to higher weight divisions.”
Of Inoue’s latest performance, Pacquiao was ecstatic.
“Fantastic,” Pacquiao said. “It was a good performance: fast, quick, strong. Congratulations on your last fight and keep up the good work.”
The 44-year-old Pacquiao, who retired briefly after his loss to Yordenis Ugas in 2021, is set to participate in yet another exhibition bout in the first quarter of next year against Muy Thai star Buakaw Banchamek in a six-round catchweight bout in Thailand.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.