AFTER three weeks of sparring, unbeaten super flyweight prospect KJ Cataraja feels that Michael Dasmariñas is ready to go against Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue.

“He’s ready,” Cataraja told SunStar Cebu. “But it will be a tough fight for him.”

Dasmariñas will challenge Inoue for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Association (WBA) bantamweight titles on June 19 at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in Paradise, Nevada, USA.

Cataraja believes that it will be a difficult fight for Dasmariñas though because Inoue is at the top of his game.

“A knockout is possible because Dasmariñas has the power but the problem is if Inoue can punch. Inoue has a tough chin and he took some of Donaire’s best punches. The other problem also is Inoue’s quickness and his intelligence,” said Cataraja.

Cataraja had served as Inoue’s sparring partners on three occasions. He helped Inoue prepare for his World Boxing Super Series bantamweight contests with Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2018 and 2019, and his cancelled fight with Johnriel Casimero in 2020.

Dasmariñas got his shot at Inoue by being the mandatory challenger for Inoue’s IBF belt. He earned mandatory status with his unanimous decision win over Kenny Demecillo in an IBF world title eliminator in 2019.

Inoue is currently one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound. He’s the No. 2 rated fighter in The Ring Magazine’s mythical pound-for-pound ratings, just behind Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Inoue is also the lineal champion at bantamweight.

Inoue is coming off an easy seventh round knockout of challenger Jason Moloney. He has beaten the likes of Nonito Donaire Jr., Rodriguez, Payano, Kohei Kono, Omar Narvaez and Ryoichi Taguchi.

Dasmariñas is 30-2-1 with 20 knockouts, while Inoue is 20-0 with 17 knockouts.

Though Dasmariñas is a huge underdog against a superstar like Inoue, Cataraja believes that there’s always a possibility of an upset.

“If Dasmariñas hits him at the right spot there’s a chance. Dasmariñas has the power,” he said. “Right now, upsets are a trend. There’s always that one lucky punch.” (EKA)