On Sunday, October 7, the boxing world witnessed the return of one of its dynamos, as unbeaten WBA bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue faced off with former junior featherweight champion Juan Carlos Payano. The Inoue vs. Payano clash will took place in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, Inoue’s hometown, and also served as the first round of the latest installment of the World Boxing Super Series. Any fans in American looking for a replay of the fight can check out the action by downloading the DAZN streaming app.
Inoue has definitely burst onto the scene and last night’s performance helped bolster his status, as he crushed the usually durable Payano in under round round. Inoue and Payano reached the center of the ring and began feeling each other out with jabs. It looked to be a cautious scene, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the match might last a while. But, just like that, Inoue unleashed a very lethal one-two punch that absolutely rocked Payano.
Payano crushed to the canvas and couldn’t rise despite his efforts. Inoue already had his hands raised in the air before the fight was waived off. He knew it was over.
But if you have tracked the 25-year old’s career, you could see the progression. We first saw him on HBO’s airwaves in September of 2017, as he absolutely outclassed and dominated contender Antonio Nieves. Inoue was on top of Nieves all night, breaking him down to the body and head before the fight was stopped in the sixth round.
That was definitely an eye-opener, but it was two fights later when Inoue dropped jaws with an electrifying performance against the very capable Jamie McDonnell. In that fight Inoue (16-0, 14 KO’s) was sensational and deadly at the same time, as he hammered McDonnell around the ring before scoring a first round TKO victory to claim the WBA bantamweight title. McDonnell was a champion for four years prior to that match, so it was shocking to see.
And now, with this weekend’s whitewash, Inoue will march forward to the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series. Already you can sense how exited people are for another performance from him.
Keep in mind, Payano was no slouch coming in. Prior to this fight with Inoue this weekend, the only blemish on his ledger had been a a majority decision to former Olympian Rau’shee Warren in 2016. That fight was actually a rematch, as one fight prior we saw Payano overcome Warren in a gritty fight that he won via split-decision.
In watching his fights vs. Nieves, McDonnell, and Payano, I am reminisced of another fighter who broke out on the scene in similar fashion; Manny Pacquiao. If you remember when Pacquiao stopped by Lehlo Ledwaba and later Marco Antonio Barrera, it wasn’t just his power that was eye-opening, but the way he delivered it. Inoue too seems to be blessed with such ability and the rest of the WBSS tournament will go a long way to telling us how big of a star he can become.
Inoue will now wait patiently for the winner of Emmanuel Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) vs. Jason Moloney (17-0, 14 KOs), for Rodriguez’s IBF title.