Top boxers’ final fights give next generation shot at titles


Japan’s youngest-ever World Boxing Organization super middleweight champion has just knocked out Reako Kawahara in Tokyo to claim the Super WBO belt and become a star not only in Japan but in the United States as well. He may do the same thing to former middleweight titleholder James Kirkland when the two fight in Tokyo in October.

Last February on the undercard of HBO’s Manny Pacquiao-Bradley fight in Las Vegas, Inoue recorded his first career knockout by dropping Kirkland three times to put the Texan on the canvas twice, and so was stopped in the fifth round. Kirkland “lives with the idea of losing” and Inoue has promised to deliver a knockout. “I won’t fight if it’s not a knockout. I’m looking for a knockout,” Inoue told The Post.

Although Kirkland (34-2-1, 28 KOs) has beaten most of the top fighters in his division, Inoue (14-0, 12 KOs) is more impressive. In his first professional fight at age 16, he destroyed an opponent standing 8 ½ feet tall. In six more fights after turning pro, he completed the trifecta, defeating 13 other fighters who stood 6 feet or more than half his height.

Inoue’s prize for beating Kazakhstan’s Kiryl Relikh last Saturday was a shot at Kirkland. “Kirkland is like a big brother to me. He’s a friend as well as a fighter,” Inoue told The Post. “But he’s also a great fighter, and we can’t afford to let our guards down. We need to be sharp and focused. It is his last chance. He doesn’t have any more excuses.”

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