TOKYO – I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting that.

The pitch of the cheers was different, the weigh-ins, the pageantry, the respect, the routines, it was all different.

Spending a few days in Tokyo around the Naoya Inoue vs. Luis Nery event was an education, an experience and a privilege.

I was asked several times by colleagues whether I liked the differences, and I did.

The press conference was Saturday, the weigh-in was Sunday, the fights on Monday. There were five fights on the bill, the first started at 5pm. Tokyo Dome doors had opened at 4pm and it looked like there were more than 20,000 fans in there for the first prelim bout.

But we will get to that.

Everyone was in and out of Sunday’s weigh-in inside half an hour. Before it started, at 1pm, I interviewed Bob Arum about Inoue-Nery, while he sat and watched Canelo Alvarez-Jaime Munguia on a laptop.

A few smartphones and tablets dotted around the room were being held by people doing two things at once and as I rubbernecked a cell phone to watch and then looked towards the stage, the owner of said device excitedly nudged me to say Munguia had gone over. 

The weigh-in started with Duane Ford, representing the WBC, announcing that the sanctioning body would award a diamond belt to the winner of the main event.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. Here are a few things about the weigh-in you may find interesting. The star of the show weighed-in first. Inoue was followed by Nery, and then they worked down the card, with each pairing posing for photos. The weights were promptly written onto a whiteboard in both pounds and kilos. There was no music. There were no members of the public but strangely, during a quiet moment, a baby was crying from somewhere in the room. One would also assume that more stock is placed in written journalists as I do not recall seeing many, if any, YouTube style reporters on the scene. The whole thing was far more formal, efficient and organized. It started at 1pm on the button, as advertised, the fighters were each politely applauded for making weight.

As far as head-to-heads go, Inoue-Nery was edgy, but never threatened to boil over.

More than once, of course, my non-existent understanding of the Japanese language was an issue, but several people tried and did help me throughout the trip but I still felt like that guy; uneducated and impolite. 

Saturday’s press conference had also been a rapid affair, to the point that when Jason Moloney and members of his team stepped out to get the bus back to the hotel the vehicle had already left.

I breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing Jason as he – given he was defending his title on the bill – had the clout to get the bus back. Had it not been for him, I might have lost the rest of the day getting back from Yokohama.

No one, I was informed, said much of any consequence at the presser. It was all respectful, even with the supposed feud between Inoue and Nery. There was, apparently, a lot of, “I’m coming here to win,” “Best shape ever,” “Unbelievable camp,”-type stuff.

That was fine. In fact, given what had been going on in Las Vegas it was refreshing.

Fight day came and that, of course, was the centrepiece of the trip. My old friend Joe Koizumi, an International Boxing Hall of Famer and Mr. Boxing in Japan kindly escorted me from the hotel to the Tokyo Dome and made sure I got in without trouble.

Mr. Koizumi is an incredibly modest man. When we first met in 2008, and I’m sure it was after plenty of correspondence, he was being enshrined in Canastota and he was just as pleasant then. But I had not realized how famous he was here.

As we walked around the Dome, he was stopped, greeted and waved at with a considerable amount of regularity. 

He was, in his very affable way, extremely warm to everyone. 

“No one can say Joe Koizumi is arrogant,” he said, puffing his chest out with a pretend swagger. 

“Joe Koizumi is humble,” I said, and the 77-year-old smiled.

“Joe Koizumi is humble,” he repeated.

The acknowledgement of a Japanese legend continued as we walked the perimeter of the Dome, and also once we were inside. And it was people of all ages.

By the way, upon entering the Dome, everyone was given a free, thick, glossy program. Not just media members. It was part of the event. And hundreds upon hundreds of fans wore Inoue T-shirts.

Apart from the Dome WiFi giving me nightmares, the show delivered, and then some. Just five fights. Elaborate entrances. Fast-paced. Even contests. High drama. What wasn’t to like.

I especially liked it when the crowd warmly applauded a fighter standing up after a knockdown. The appreciation for courage was heartening, whereas I’d been more familiar with someone yelling at the other guy to jump on his victim and finish the job.

There was no booing of the visitors’ national anthems. There shouldn’t be, either, of course. But in England… Sigh…

TJ Doheny opened up the show, trying to stake his claim for an Inoue fight in September. The Irishman is popular and respected here, and he didn’t have to venture out of second gear. 

I was impressed by WBA flyweight champion Yuri Akui, who had already stopped Taku Kawuhara once but couldn’t repeat the feat, despite the bout largely being one-way traffic. 

Takuma Inoue was on the floor in the first round but retained his WBA bantamweight title with an otherwise solid performance. The only thing he lacks is some pop, but he’s a handful and increasingly well-rounded

Jason Moloney was oh-so-close to making a memorable defense of his WBO bantamweight title but lost to a very good Yoshiki Takei. Takei was quickly out of the blocks and earned Moloney’s respect early on, but Takei started to flag and was hanging on by the skin of his teeth in the last. Another 15 seconds and Moloney might have retained. Even if he didn’t have the power to topple Takei, the hugely-popular Japanese star would have wilted from exhaustion, and was so fatigued he probably would not have been able to stand again had he fallen.

That closing minute was wildly-exciting stuff.

In exchange for a couple of mints, the reporter next to me allowed me to use the hotspot on his phone to send in my reports (we didn’t understand each other and I have no idea how he knew what I was asking for), but after the final bell I confronted tens of thousands leaving the arena to go back to the hotel and write my report on the main event.

Inoue-Nery was outstanding. Incredibly entertaining. Inoue is great. I was ringside for Terence Crawford-Errol Spence last year and it is hard to separate them as one and two in the world today. I’d lean towards Crawford, but they are both exquisite talents in very different ways. 

And Inoue’s stats are now wild. He might be compared to fighters who had long, unbeaten records and so forth, but look at those fighters and what they did in their first 27 fights. I could guarantee 22 of them had not been for world titles!

I’ve sat and written in the hotel lobby today for my final day. It’s not rock n’roll. I’d like to have seen more of Tokyo, but having had a taste I’d also like to return. 

Fortunately, as I hovered – I’m sure non-journalists might say “lurked” – in the reception, I bumped into Australia’s Sam Goodman. We had been introduced by mutual friend Mike Altamura earlier in the week and on the morning of the show, Sam and I were the only ones in the hotel gym getting a sweat on. 

As I slurped a coffee and bashed the keys on this laptop, with the annoyingly sticky ‘R’ giving me fits, I felt someone standing over me and looked up.

I jumped out of my seat as fast as I’d moved for several days.

“I’m Honda,” said the legendary Hall of Fame promoter who I’d known all about since around 1990. 

Imagine that. Any of the world’s leading fight figures going up and introducing themselves to a writer in a coffee shop to say hello. “I’m King,” just doesn’t have the same ring.

We talked a while, too, and it was surreal. My first and lasting impression is that I could tell why he is universally respected and liked, and I’ll tease a gesture to say why he is so highly thought of, but save the actual story for another day. 

He asked whether I’d enjoyed his show (I had), how much longer I had in Japan (about an hour before the airport) and I hassled him for information about Inoue’s next steps knowing he did not really do interviews. We also talked about the incredible health of Japanese boxing, and he proudly told me there were many more exciting talents to come that we haven’t heard of. This is a boom period for Japanese boxing, and it was a pleasure to see.

They had said it was “The greatest event in the history of boxing in Japan” and that might not just have been hyperbole. If it was, I’m a lucky man.