Heading into his bout against reigning WBO Jr. Bantamweight champion Omar Narvaez, the question was whether Naoya Inoue was biting off more than he could chew and was this too big of a leap? Inoue, a 21-year-old phenom from Japan who this past April defeated Adrian Hernandez to capture the WBC Jr. Flyweight title, moved up two divisions to challenge Narvaez who while 39-years-old, was regarded as the best fighter in the division and making the 12th defense of the title. Well as it turns out Inoue (8-0, 7 KO’s) emphatically answered all questions as to whether this was too big of a leap as he destroyed Narvaez, scoring four knockdowns on the way to a second round knockout to win the Jr. Bantamweight strap yesterday in Tokyo.
Inoue, known as “The Monster”, got the fireworks started early knocking down Narvaez down with a right hand 27 seconds into round one. 33-seconds later Narvaez went down again, this time by way of a left hook. From that point on you could sense that it was just a matter of time and there was little that Narvaez could do to thwart what was coming. Luckily for Narvaez he survived the round even as Inoue continued to land hard shots to the head and body of the defending champ. However Inoue was on a mission and continued his onslaught in round two as he once again knocked down Narvaez, first with a beautiful counter check-hook, then finished matters with a savage left hook to the body putting Narvaez down for the count at the end of the round. Two things were clearly evident. One, the two-fisted power that Inoue showed at Jr. Flyweight carried up with him in weight and two, the move up in weight greatly benefited Inoue who looks to be physically stronger at this weight. There’s no doubt the move up in weight was a plus for Inoue.
I know folks will say well Inoue was the favorite heading into this bout and that Narvaez is old. However, this is the same Narvaez who went the distance with a prime Nonito Donaire back in 2011, a Donaire who at the time was regarded as one of the five best fighters in the sport. This was an annihilation by Inoue, the kind of performance that wakes folks up and makes people take notice.
Inoue’s impressive win over Narvaez could lead to potential huge big money fights for the precocious young champ. Immediate fights on the horizon for Inoue could be showdowns against either Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada, both of whom currently hold world titles at Flyweight. In fact prior to Inoue’s stoppage of Narvaez, Gonzalez expressed a desire to fight Inoue in 2015. There are also big money bouts with fellow countrymen, three-time, three-division champion Koki Kameda who recently dropped down from Bantamweight to Jr. Bantamweight. Another possibility down the road could be bouts with current Bantamweight titlists Tomoki Kameda (Koki’s younger brother) and Shinsuki Yamanaka. Fights against either Gonzalez or Estrada would be one of the best fights that could be made in boxing, and bouts against either Kameda brother or Yamanaka would be huge in Japan and would garner significant paydays.
What makes Inoue a fighter to keep an eye on is that for such a young fighter, he is just so darn talented and advanced at such an early stage of his career. A boxer with terrific technical skill and power, Inoue is arguably the top young fighter in the sport and one of the most dynamic and explosive boxers in the world. It’s the combination of hand speed, agility and power, coupled with the intelligence, patience, and composure for fighter beyond his years that makes Inoue already bordering elite status after only eight fights.
At age 21, it could be argued that Naoya Inoue is already one of the top ten boxers in the sport. Given his impressive stoppage of Adrian Hernandez to win the Jr. Flyweight title in April, then moving up two weight divisions to win a Jr. Bantamweight title last evening, Inoue is a serious candidate for Fighter of the Year in 2014. Inoue has the look of a special talent and a potential star who could be one of the faces of boxing for years to come regardless of his size. Like Michael Carbajal in the 1990’s, Naoya Inoue could be the one guy from boxing’s mighty mites that could get mainstream boxing attention. His star is as bright as anyone in the sport right now and his potential is limitless.