GOING into the fight with Naoya Inoue, I knew it was an enormous task. I knew how good he was, but it was an opportunity of a lifetime. You beat a fighter like that and you’re a superstar. Your career just skyrockets and the world’s your oyster. Basically, it was high risk, high reward.
I had nothing to lose, and I went into that fight really believing that I could beat him. Unfortunately, I actually went into the fight with a badly injured hand which wasn’t great, but I just blocked that out and really did believe that I had what it takes to beat him. I thought I’d be able to keep it long and outbox him and I also thought I could get on his chest, pressure him, smother him and rough him up but he’s just exceptional. He exceeded my expectations. I knew how good he was going in, but he was even better than I thought he was.
He’s explosive in his hand speed, obviously very powerful with his punches but incredible with his feet. His distance control when you wanna attack; he’s just exceptional at stepping back, making you fall short and then bringing you on to his own shots. If you are trying to move or get away from him, his closing speed of that first step is electric the way he gets on you. His explosiveness, in terms of his feet and his hands was even more extraordinary, than I imagined.
His power is obviously exceptional but for me it was his speed. Those shots he hurt me with or the times he put me down I just didn’t see the punches. I was committing to my own shots, and he just beat me to it. Pulled the trigger and beat me to it both times. The first time I was trying to double-jab him and before I knew it, he left hooked me and I was on my back. The next time I was going for my right hand, and he beat me to it. It’s as flush a shot as you’ll ever take. He hit me with his own right hand. His speed, his timing and his power was even better than I imagined.
I haven’t felt power like that in a boxing ring before. Early stages of the fight he was hitting me on the gloves and on the forearms and I was blocking a few of them and I thought, this isn’t incredible power, this isn’t what the hype is, I’d felt heavier shots on my arms. Early in the fight I thought this power’s bearable, this is okay, I can take this. It was more the combination of the speed and the power that gets you, I think.
If I go to the first knockdown, the left hook, he caught me as I was throwing the double jab. I wasn’t overly hurt, it wasn’t an overly powerful shot. It was me coming in with the double jab not quite seeing it and him bringing me on with perfect timing. So, I didn’t really see the shot and that’s when it obviously has the effect on you, and it knocked me down. It was a flash knockdown, I was up before the count of three and I wasn’t overly hurt, my legs were still there, still had all my faculties but it was the speed and the timing of it that was incredible. The final knockdown where he knocked me out essentially, I was still conscious, but I didn’t know where I was. I’ve never been hit like that in my life. Again, I didn’t see it which is where it had the big effect. The timing of that shot, it’s been shown a million times, it’s on every highlight reel because it’s incredible. I know there’s been videos shown of him training for that prior to the fight. The way he throws that over my jab as I’m throwing a right hand the timing is impeccable. You can’t get better than that. You’re not gonna get hit by a better shot than that in your life. I didn’t know where I was. I’ve never been hit like that in my life. You watch it on the slow-motion replay, the way it snaps my neck, my ears are flapping about. It’s the biggest shot you can take and that’s when I went, yeah, the power’s real.
He hit me with something which I thought there’s maybe not a lot there and when he knew it was gonna land, he backs himself and his power’s devastating. When you watch him when he’s really letting his hands go or when he’s got someone hurt, he puts everything into it. He’s ruthless. If he thinks, it’s gonna land or if he thinks he’s got you hurt, or he senses that you’re vulnerable he’s ruthless and puts everything behind them and that’s when his power is real. It’s exceptional.