By: Sean Crose
Twenty four years old. Five feet, four inches tall. Thirteen wins. Zero Defeats. Zero draws. Eleven knockouts. Two world titles in a career that has run a span of less than five years. Meet Naoya Inoue, the WBO World Super Flyweight Champion from the southern portion of Japan, who is about to make his American debut this Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The highly acclaimed Inoue will be one of the headliners on a card deemed “Superfly” because it will present fans with top level superflyweight matches. It is most certainly one of the year’s biggest cards.
Aside from Inoue’s premiere stateside foray, there’s Roman Gonzalez’ much anticipated rematch with Srisaket Rungvisai after their brilliant battle for the WBC super flyweight crown last winter in New York. Juan Francisco Estrada will also be facing Carlos Cuadras, who will be looking to show his mettle after a disappointing performance last March. To be sure, there are those who claim that Inoue has the easiest of the three big fights this weekend. This line of thinking, however, may prove to be wide of the mark. For Inoue’s opponent, Antonio Nieves, might not seem as menacing as Gonzalez, Rungvisai, Cuadras or Estrada, but he’s certainly no slouch.
Boasting a record of seventeen wins, one loss and two draws, the Cleveland native’s lone defeat came by split decision to the undefeated Nikoli Potapov in a fight that was aired on Shobox back in March. He may not be a power puncher, but Nieves has a solid amateur background, an effective jab and the opportunity of a lifetime before him. Expect the fighter, who also works as a banker, to try to make the most of his opportunity in front of HBO cameras this weekend.
The man will have his work cut out for him with Inoue, however. For the fighter known as “The Monster” has terrific footwork, blistering combinations, a sound jab and destructive power. It could, in fact, be argued that Inoue is the complete package. He’s certainly proved his worth in less than fourteen professional fights. One matter of possible concern, though, if the fact that people are expecting a lot from the young man from Kanagawa. An upset loss or a less than stellar showing could harm Inoue’s fearsome reputation. Like Floyd Mayweather just over a week ago, the fighter will walk into the ring knowing anything less than dominance will be seen as a disappointment.