Luis Nery is digging in his heels and embracing his role as the boogeyman who will blast and beat “The Monster.” 

Nery (35-1, 27 KOs) will challenge Naoya Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) for the undisputed junior featherweight championship on May 6 on ESPN+ at the Tokyo Dome in Japan in front of an expected crowd of over 50,000 fans.

The fight marks the first time the Tokyo Dome has hosted a boxing match since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990. The former 118 and 122-pound titlist Nery believes he will pull off a similar shocker against his seemingly invincible opponent.

“Inoue is a very good fighter and this is the biggest fight of my career – four titles are on the line,” Nery told BoxingScene in an interview through a Spanish translator. “But I've seen his fights and I think he's overrated. I think he's an ordinary fighter, or at least that's how it appears to me. I'm going there looking for the knockout. I'm not going to Japan looking for a decision.

“I have the typical Mexican style. I like to come forward. I like throwing punches. I'm prepared to go 12 rounds. But I hope it doesn't go the 12 rounds. I want it to end early. You will see a conditioned, stronger, faster, and intelligent Nery who hits hard.”

Nery certainly is neither infatuated nor impressed by Inoue’s accolades, which include being an undisputed champion at 118 pounds, a champion across four different weight classes (108, 115, 118, 122) over the last 10 years, the 2023 fighter of the year winner and universal recognition as a top-three pound-for-pound fighter.

During a kickoff press conference in Japan last month, Nery faced off against Inoue and had a chance to size him up in person – both stand at 5-foot-5.

“He's physically a small fighter – a normal fighter, just like the rest,” Nery said. “It could be the upset of the year if I beat him. Inoue is not a dummy. He knows how to fight. He's not incredible, in my opinion, but it can be a back-and-forth fight. 

“I see that he's a fast fighter. He's intelligent. He has a lot of power, apparently. Those are his strong points. His weak point is that he opens up when he throws, and that's where I come in.”

While many respected boxing observers awarded Inoue with fighter of the year honors last year, Nery was shortlisted for the fight of the year for his 11th-round knockout of Azat Hovhannisyan. After nearly fading midway through the fight, Nery caught a second wind to outlast Hovhannisyan in an all-out war. 

“In the Hovhannisyan fight, I learned not to be overconfident,” Nery said. “I trained for 25 to 30 days for Hovhannisyan. I'll be training for nearly three months for this fight.”

Meanwhile, Inoue, 30, outclassed then-unified champions Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales with relative ease in 2023, knocking out Fulton in eight and Tapales in 10 to become the undisputed champion at 122 pounds.

“I saw the Tapales fight,” Nery said. “Tapales is a B-rated fighter. To me, he's not good and he lasted 10 rounds and made things difficult for Inoue. Maybe Fulton is the best win of Inoue’s career, but Fulton didn't throw that many punches. He was scared.”

Nery, a 29-year-old southpaw slugger, is also embracing his role as a villain in Japan. “Pantera” has a checkered past in Japan, and exacting revenge for Nery’s wrongdoings is partly why Inoue has admittedly expressed interest in fighting him. 

In 2017, Nery secured a fourth-round technical knockout victory over the long-reigning Japanese bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka in Kyoto. Nery's win, however, was overshadowed by a positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol after the fight, a matter the WBC later attributed to contamination.

In the 2018 rematch against Yamanaka in Japan, Nery faced further setbacks when he weighed three pounds over the limit. He was forced to forfeit his title and was handed a lifetime ban from the Japanese Boxing Commission.

Nery still managed to deliver another knockout blow to Yamanaka, this time in just two rounds, and Yamanaka hasn’t fought again.

“I didn't pay attention or care too much to the fact that the Japanese Boxing Commission banned me,” Nery said. “People over there saw it was lucrative for me to fight Inoue, so that's why they lifted the ban. Maybe Inoue is taking this fight personally. It doesn't matter what he does or thinks, because what's done is done and you can't erase that from history.”

Nery, based in Tijuana, Mexico, is also unbothered that he has to fight on the opposite side of the world with little support. 

“More than anything, it's more calm for me, actually,” he said. “I'm not undefeated. I'm not the champion. Win or lose, no problem. He has the risk … There is no rematch clause. It's because he's overconfident. He thinks that an easy win is coming, but a surprise is coming. I've been training hard. It's going to be a mistake that they accepted this fight. They have nothing to win. They are doing it for honor, but they are going to regret taking this fight.”

Nery's confidence and braggadocio don't reflect how bookmakers deem the fight.

Inoue is listed as a -1400 betting favorite, while Nery is a +800 betting underdog, according to DraftKings. The over/under for the fight is set at 6.5 rounds.

“I have no idea what punch, what round,” Nery said. “But the fight will definitely end in a knockout. Either I knock him out or he knocks me out. He probably has the chin to take my power. We saw him take Nonito Donaire's punches in their 2019 fight. Donaire hit him and hurt him. But I am younger than Donaire and will be able to pressure Inoue. It will be another story with me.” 

After the February 2023 firefight against Hovhannisyan, a former Inoue sparring partner, Nery took a stay-busy fight and scored a two-round knockout win in July in Mexico.

Nery’s only professional loss came against Brandon Figueroa in 2021 when he suffered a seventh-round knockout on a body shot. Nery lost the 122-pound WBC title Inoue now owns in the fight.

After several instances of changing trainers and missing weight throughout the years, Nery says he’s finally gotten his career back on track.

But for how much longer remains to be seen.

“I've been focused more in recent fights, and you've seen that. Things have gone well,” Nery said. “If all comes out as planned, as I understand, there could be a fight against Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and that would be my last fight. I would retire. Boxing is very boring to me in my life right now.”