Naoya Inoue lives up to nickname, dominates Michael Dasmarinas to retain titles

LAS VEGAS - Naoya Inoue saw the body was open. Watched Michael Dasmarinas stagger back after a body shot landed in the first round. Saw Dasmarinas clutch his side the first time Inoue knocked him down in the second round.

And it told him how he needed to attack. How he could end the defense of his IBF and WBA bantamweight titles as fast as he could. So to the body he went with knockdown after knockdown -- three of them in total -- until the fight was stopped in the third round with another Inoue win.

Inoue realized early on if he went after Dasmarinas' head, it might take longer than going at the body.

"After he went down with a body shot the first time," Inoue said through an interpreter. "Yeah, I pretty much decided that I was going to take him out with a body shot."

It was a dominant performance from the start for Inoue (21-0, 18 KO), who chased Dasmarinas (30-3-1, 20 KO) around the ring, using half of the first round to size up his opponent before landing punch after punch. Inoue almost got him in the first round, too, turning Dasmarinas around, but it was a punch that didn't quite connect.

After it was all over, Inoue raised his fist to the crowd and those who remained in the audience gave him yet another cheer.

After each knockdown, Dasmarinas clutched his sides because it was there -- not his head -- that Inoue continued to do the most damage. Inoue has long shown he is one of the best fighters in the world, and while Dasmarinas wasn't a headline opponent, it was still a title defense -- one the Zarna, Japan, native handled with ease.

Watching from the crowd was his potential next opponent, Nonito Donaire. Donaire, the WBC bantamweight title holder, is fighting the WBO champion, John Riel Casimero on Aug. 14. The winner, in theory, would face Inoue to unify all four belts.

It is what Inoue wants and, in some ways, a message he was trying to send with Donaire at ringside. After the fight was over, on the production stage above the ring, they posed for photographs together and engaged in conversation.

It's possible soon enough they'll be opponents again, too. Inoue beat Donaire by unanimous decision in Japan on Nov. 7, 2019.

"Of course that was on my mind," Inoue said. "And looking forward, it was a motivation for me to basically show them and basically appeal to them that, hey, I'm out there and I'm good."

Inoue said he has no problem waiting for the winner of that fight because it is the fight that makes the most sense for him at this point. As for who he thinks might win between Donaire and Casimero? Inoue -- perhaps smartly -- was being diplomatic.

"They are both hard punchers so it's very difficult to guess who is going to win," Inoue said. "But I feel like the possibility of a decision is relatively low."