WBSS: Inoue and Relikh Progress To Semi-Finals; Kenshiro Stops Melindo In 7
By: Ste Rowen
Naoya Inoue scored a sensational 1st round knockout of former world champion, Juan Carlos Payano, sending him into the WBSS semi-finals and solidifying his status as the bantamweight tournament favourite.
70 seconds into the fight Inoue, in search of his 7th straight stoppage victory, landed a jab, dropping Payano’s guard and firing off a punch-perfect right hand to send the Dominican to the canvas and bringing the main event proceedings to an early end.
Before tonight Payano was 20-1 (9KOs) having lost just once in a decision defeat to Rau’shee Warren, tonight in Yokohama the southpaw was almost lulled into a false sense of security in the first 60 seconds, until ‘The Monster’ executed his game plan to perfection.
The victory means that Inoue will face either IBF champion, Emmanuel Rodriquez or Jason Moloney, which takes place on the 20th October, in the next round of the World Boxing Super Series.
Speaking post-fight, Naoya was in jubilant mood,
‘‘It’s an amazing feeling.’’
‘‘I am very happy I continue to fight like this, but this is just the 1st round, I will have a 2nd round so I will show the best fight next time too…I would love to fight against (Emmanuel) Rodriguez because he is the best fight for me.’’
Also, on the Yokohama card…
Kiryl Relikh, now 23-2 (19KOs), sealed his place in the super-lightweight WBSS semi-finals and defended his WBA title for the first time, after scoring a unanimous 12-round decision victory over Eduard Troyanovsky. All three judge’s scorecards returned as, 115-113.
The matchup was completely overshadowed by the Kenshiro and Inoue fights that followed it but, the WBA super-lightweight champion will just be happy to have come through a tough test. Relikh will now fight the winner of Regis Prograis vs. Terry Flanagan, which takes place in New Orleans on the 27th October.
With the WBC light-flyweight belt on the line, Teraji Kenshiro made his fourth consecutive defence as the ‘Smiling Assassin’ scored an impressive 7th round TKO over former world champion, Milan ‘Method Man’ Melindo.
The early rounds, of the scheduled 12, lacked sustained action, despite Melindo landing a single overhand right in the 2nd round, Kenshiro was boxing well enough to win the rounds and keep his Filipino opponent at bay. Milan began to pick up the pace from round 4, which in turn, brought the best out of the WBC champion. A battle of the jabs ensued, and both men attempted to fire off combinations more freely.
By round 6 it was clear the pace of the fight was getting to Melindo as the Japanese star’s shots seemed heavier and were having much more of a lasting effect on ‘The Method Man’. Then in the 7th, having already sustained a cut to his left eye, the referee called the ring doctor to check over the Filipino, seconds later the bout was waved off and Kenshiro moved to 14-0 (8KOs).
WBSS Preview: Inoue vs. Payano & Relikh vs. Troyanovsky
By: Ste Rowen
One week on from the end of the super middleweight World Boxing Super Series final and season one of the game-changing tournament, we get to do it all over again as season three, which this time includes three weight classes (Bantamweight, Super-Lightweight & Cruiserweight), gets underway in Yokohama’s 17-000 capacity arena. Sunday’s event in Japan will signal the beginning of both the bantam and super-lightweight tournaments.
Headlining the card is WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue vs. former WBA ‘Super’ holder, Juan Carlos Payano. Already a two-weight world champion and 16-0 (14KOs), Inoue has had a sharp rise in the ranks since turning professional at the end of 2012.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
Fans last saw the Japanese phenomenon in May when he destroyed seasoned pro, Jamie McDonell inside one round in what was Naoya’s first fight since moving up from super-flyweight, to add the WBA ‘Regular’ to his ever-growing trophy cabinet.
Speaking at Friday’s press conference, Inoue gave nothing away,
‘‘I believe in my own strengths. I have had a good camp and I’m in great shape…I am looking forward to fighting in front of my own fans…I have great respect for Payano. He has good technique…He is a two-time Olympian, so he is very experienced.’’
Juan Carlos Payano, 20-1 (9KOs) is no stranger to world title bouts. The Dominican southpaw briefly held the WBA ‘Super’ belt, currently owned by Ryan Burnett, before losing a rematch via majority decision to Rau’shee Warren. Since that 2016 loss Juan Carlos has scored three consecutive victors including a unanimous decision over unbeaten Filipino, Mike Plania.
‘‘I have the utmost respect for Inoue, he is a warrior like myself which makes this fight one of the most interesting bantamweight fights of this year. Expect the best from me on Sunday.’’
The other 118lb WBSS fellow quarter final matchups are as follows;
Ryan Burnett (WBA ‘Super’ Champion) vs. Nonito Donaire – 3rd November 2018
Zolani Tete (WBO Champion) vs. Mikhail Aloyan – 13th October 2018
Emmanuel Rodriguez (IBF Champion) vs. Jason Moloney – 20th October 2018
Firing the starting gun for the super-lightweight WBSS sees WBA champion, Kiryl Relikh step into the ring with former IBF titlist, Eduard Troyanovsky. Relikh, 22-2 (19KOs) stepped into the mainstream light when he lost two straight competitive, and some would say controversial, decisions to Ricky Burns and Rances Barthelmy, respectively. But, the Belarussian made up for one of those losses when, in March this year, he flipped the first fight with Barthelmy on its head and earnt a 12-round unanimous decision to not only hand his opponent his first loss but also pick up the WBA strap for good measure. At the pre-fight press conference, Relikh recognised the opportunity awaiting him,
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
‘‘The Muhammad Ali trophy is my chance to show the world who I am and what I can do. I am sure that my fight will be great. It is time for me to prove that I am the real champion.’’
Kiryl’s opponent on Sunday is ‘The Eagle’ Eduard Troyanovsky, 27-1 (24KOs) fighting outside of Russia or Germany for the very first time as a professional. Troyanovsky, native to the Siberian region of Omsk, has loss just once in his 28 fights when he was knocked out cold in a shock loss to Julius Indongo, back in 2016.
Eduard waited 8 months before stepping into the ring again and though the wait was long, his return fights were short. July 2016, the Russian viciously KO’d Michele Di Rocco in the 4th round and, four months later, stopped Carlos Manuel Portillo in the 1st, with the same thunderous right hook which he dispatched Di Rocco with. ‘The Eagle’ expects his power to be on show again this weekend,
‘‘We are two fighters who can punch so it is going to be a really good fight. People can look forward to a fight that will probably not go all the rounds.’’
The rest of the super-lightweight quarter-finals are;
Regis Prograis vs. Terry Flanagan
Josh Taylor vs. Ryan Martin
Ivan Baranchyk vs. Anthony Yigit
‘Vacant IBF World Championship’
Adding to an already intriguing card, WBC light-flyweight champ, Ken Shiro fights Milan ‘Method Man’ Melindo. Shiro, of Japan, known as the ‘Smiling Assassin has so far notched up a record of 13-0 (7KOs) and won his WBC strap in just his 10th bout when he got a close decision over Ganigan Lopez, an opponent he stopped within two rounds earlier this year. Speaking to the ‘Japan Times’, perhaps the cheeriest world champion in boxing was optimistic of stretching his run to 4 defences,
‘‘I’ve already taken on world champions and built confidence in myself, so I would like to prove that I’m the strongest in the light-flyweight class.’’
His opponent on Sunday is 37-3 (13KOs) and former IBF titlist, Milan Melindo who’s hoping to quickly return to winning ways after losing a unanimous decision to Shiro’s fellow Japanese champion, Ryoichi Taguchi (who has since lost his IBF & WBA belts to Hekkie Budler). Speaking at a press conference in the Philippines last week, ‘The Method Man’ sounded more than happy to return to Japan,
‘‘I won a world title before in Japan, I can do it again. Plus, I love Japan. I like the fans and I love Japanese food.’’
Japan’s Naoya “Monster” Inoue Becomes 3-Division World Champion
By: Ken Hissner
Japan’s Naoya “Monster” Inoue, now 16-0 (14), won the WBA World Bantamweight title on May 25th stopping champion Jamie McDonnell, 29-2-1, of the UK @1:52 of the 1st round at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. This is the third division title Inoue has won.
In Inoue’s next to last fight in December of 2017 Inoue defended his WBO World Super Flyweight title for the seventh time stopping Yoan “Yo Boy” Boyeaux, 41-4, of Beaune, France, at 1:40 of the 3rd round at the Bunka Gym, in Yokohama, Japan.
In the sixth fight of Inoue’s career he won the WBC World Light Flyweight title stopping Adrian “Big Bang” Hernandez, 29-3-1, of Toluca, MEX, at 2:54 of the 6th round in April 2014. He made one defense.
In December of 2014, Inoue knocked out the former WBO Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez, 43-1-2, of Chubut, Argentina, to win his WBO World Super Flyweight title @3:01 of the 2nd round. Narvaez still holds the all-time record of 27 title defenses. In Inoue’s only bout outside of Japan he fought in the US stopping Antonio Nieves, 17-1-2, in September of 2017 at the Stub-Hub Center, in Carson, CA.
Inoue has wins over three current world champions including WBA Super World Bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett, 19-0 (9), of Belfast, No. Ireland, the WBO World Bantamweight champion Zolani “Last Born” Tete, 27-3 (21), of Eastern Cape, So. Africa and IBF World Bantamweight champion Emmanuel “Manny” Rodriguez, 18-0 (12), of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. All were in the World Boxing Super Series.
In Inoue’s only non-stoppage wins in his fourth fight he won the Japanese Light Flyweight title defeating Ryoichi Taguchi, 18-1-1, over 10 rounds. The other decision win was defeating David “Severo” Carmona, 20-2-5, of Mexico City, Mexico, over 12 rounds in a WBO World Super Flyweight defense.
The WBC title is vacant. Their No. 1 contender is the WBC Silver champion Nordine Oubaali, 14-0 (11), of France who on June 23rd will meet the No. 2 contender Tassana “Petch Sor Chitpattanna” Sanpattan, 46-0 (31), of Roi-Et, Thailand. The site has not yet been announced. Neither fighter has fought outside his country.
From 2010 to 2012 as an amateur Inoue competed in five major tournaments winning but one of them. He was 13-4 losing to Cuban Yosvany Veitia twice, Iran’s Masoud Rigi and Kazakhstan’s Birzahn Zhakipov of which none of these three ever turned professional.
Since Inoue has defeated the WBO, IBF and WBA Super World champions in the past they may not be too eager to unify titles fighting him. He just turned 25 in April so he is young enough to wait them out or possibly move up the Super Bantamweight division. The four world champions are the IBF’s Ryosuke Iwasa, 25-2 (16), of Chiba, Japan, WBC’s Rey Vargas, 32-0 (22), of Otumba, Mexico, WBA Daniel “Danny the Baby Faced Assassin” Roman, 24-2-1 (9), of L.A., CA, and the newly crowned WBO’s Isaac “Brave-Son” Dogbe, 19-0 (13), of Accra, Ghana. The No. 1 WBA contender is the interim champion Reymart “Assassin” Gabalo, 19-0 (16), of General Santos City, Philippines.
So the future is very bright for the 3-Division champion Inoue who joins two other current multi-division champions. The IBF World Super Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia, 38-0 (30), of Moreno Valley, CA, is a 4-division champion who in July defends his title against the IBF World Lightweight champion Robert Easter, Jr. He held the WBO Feather, WBO Super Feather and WBC Lightweight titles. The WBA Super World Lightweight champion is the Ukraine’s Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko, 11-1 (9), of Oxnard, CA. He also held the WBO Feather and Super Feather titles.
So as you can see there are many opportunities in the future for Japan’s unbeaten newly crowned WBA World Bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue!
Naoya “the Monster” Inoue to join WBSS Bantamweight Tourney
By Eric Lunger
Following up the success of the super middleweight and cruiserweight tournaments, World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) has announced a second iteration of the series, including a bantamweight division. Kalle Sauerland, the chief boxing officer at Comosa AG — which promotes the WBBS — recently announced that three fighters have committed to the tournament, and they happen to be three of the current world champions: Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 Kos) of Northern Ireland (WBA Super), Manny Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico (IBF), and Zolani Tete (27-3, 21 KOs) of South Africa (WBO).
Photo Credit: Naoya Inoue Twitter Account
Now Naoya “the Monster” Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) of Japan, now a three-division world champion, can be added to that list, according to recent reporting by Sky Sports. Inoue may not be familiar to US fight fans; he has only fought once in the US, at the StubHub Center in September of 2017 against Antonio Nieves on the Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II undercard. Nonetheless, Inoue’s rise to prominence has been meteoric. He won the WBC world light flyweight title in only his sixth professional fight, taking down Adrian Herandez by sixth-round TKO in April of 2014. Eight months later, he moved up to 115 lbs., and captured the WBO world flyweight title from Warlito Parrenas in a second-round TKO.
Inoue successfully defended that title six times over the next three years, and only one of those fights went the full twelve-round distance. Then, on Friday night, the “Monster” went up to Bantamweight to challenge the WBA (Regular) champion Jaime McDonnell (28-2-1, 13 KOs) from Yorkshire, England. The bout took place at the Ota-City Gym in Tokyo, Inoue’s home turf. McDonnell couldn’t last a round against Inoue (recap here: https://www.boxinginsider.com/headlines/inoue-stops-mcdonnell-in-one)
There were two striking things about the way Inoue dispatched McDonnell. First was how he calmly adapted to, and exploited, McDonnell’s game plan. Almost at once, it was quite clear that McDonnell wanted to slow Inoue down by jabbing to the body. By my count, McDonnell landed five jabs to the body before Inoue timed him (as McDonnell ducked in to jab) and delivered a crunching left hook to the champion’s temple, staggering the Englishman. That shot was the beginning of the end.
The second remarkable trait of the “Monster” was the precision of the finish. He knew McDonnell was in trouble, and he attacked with a full assault with both hands. An overhand right by Inoue was well-defended, so Inoue slipped slightly to his left and landed a left hook to the liver that dropped McDonnell immediately. It was the kind of punch that starts with perfectly planted feet, gins up its force in the rotation of the hips, and explodes onto the opponent’s body. It was dramatic, but it was precise footwork that set it up. To his credit and courage, McDonnell got up and beat the count. But he was still in distress. Almost calmly, Inoue pinned him to the ropes, landed a right hook to the body, left hook to the body, left hook to the exposed chin, and the referee jumped in to save McDonnell from further punishment.
It’s not like McDonnell fought poorly. Quite the opposite, he managed the distance, used his jab to keep Inoue’s pressure at bay, and he kept an efficient high guard. McDonnell is a fine fighter who successfully defended his WBA World title six times in four years. And McDonnell had never been stopped in his career. But Inoue is at another level, another step up in class. What will he do in this field of champions in the WBSS Bantamweight tournament? I can’t wait to find out.
Inoue Stops McDonnell in One
By: Ste Rowen
Japanese phenomenon, Naoya Inoue lit up the Ota-City General Gym and put the bantamweight division on notice by stopping WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Jamie Mcdonnell in the 1st round.
The bout started off fairly tentatively as McDonnell looked the busier boxer, whilst Inoue bided his time before striking. Then half way through the round, Inoue landed a left hook which sent McDonnell shaking and ‘The Monster’ smelt blood. He followed the hook with another sharp left hand to the body which dropped his English opponent and signalled the beginning of the end.
The former IBF champion rose, but Inoue charged in, landing a barrage of power shots in quick succession and forcing the referee to call an end to the fight with just over a minute left in the 1st round.
McDonnell was expected to move up before today’s fight was announced, and after such a devastating defeat for the former British and European champion, it seems even more likely that he’ll make the jump to 122lb. That’s if he chooses to continue to fight.
Naoya though, now 16-0 (14KOs) will move onto the upcoming 118lb World Boxing Super Series, a tournament that already includes WBA ‘Super’ champion, Ryan Burnett, IBF holder, Emmanuel Rodriguez and WBO titlist, Zolani Tete.
Quickfire Undercard Report…
Ken Shiro wasted hardly any time in defending his WBC light flyweight belt, knocking out the former holder of the same strap, Ganigan Lopez of Mexico with a brutal body shot, in a rematch of their championship bout in May last year when Shiro, now 13-0 (7KOs) earned a majority decision.
Brother of Naoya Inoue, Takuma moved to 11-0 (3KOs) after knocking out Indonesian, Waldo Sabu in the 1st round.
Super featherweight, Tsuyoshi Tameda, now 17-3-2 (15KOs) stretched his knockout streak to four after taking just three rounds to stop Rivo ‘El Matador’ Rengkung.
In their respective professional debuts super flyweight, Taku Kuwahara and super featherweight, Ryuya Goto both scored 1st round stoppages.
Bantamweight Title Fight Preview Between Naoya Inoue and Jamie McDonnell
By: Ste Rowen
This Friday at Ota-City Central Gym in Tokyo, Jamie McDonnell, 29-2-1 (13KOs) will once again step away from home comforts to fight a man, most boxers would rather avoid. The Doncaster native, and WBA ‘Regular’ bantamweight champion will step into the ring with the much feared, Naoya ‘The Monster’ Inoue, already a two-weight world champion in just 15 pro fights.
It’s been almost four years since McDonnell picked up the vacant WBA ‘Regular’ after stopping 52-3 (34KOs), Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat with a crushing left hook, and since then, the former IBF titlist has fought just six times, fighting twice in 2016 and once last year – a Monaco rematch with Liborio Solis that ended in a ‘No-Contest’ due to a cut above the left eye of McDonnell.
In my end of 2017 UK P-4-P rankings, McDonnell was a ‘notable exception for those same reasons. Such a talented fighter deserves to be in the ring more often, but now he has the perfect opportunity to remind boxing fans just how good he is when he takes on ‘The Monster’,
‘Right now, I am in unbelievable physical and mental shape like never before,’ Jamie told Sky Sports, ‘I have a good understanding that Naoya Inoue is a great boxer and a knockout artist…and he’s pound-for-pound, but I can box with anyone.’
‘I’m unbeaten for the last 10 years, and I’m a long-time world champion…I don’t think Inoue has fought someone like me in his entire career.’
Along with the record to back up his claims, McDonnell also brings a significant size and reach advantage into the bout. The two boxers came face to face earlier in the week and the difference between them was clear, but it’s not something ‘The Monster’ is overly worried about. Speaking to ‘Boxing Mobile Japan’ he said,
‘It isn’t easy to find those kinds of fighters in Asia…It’s the first time that I’m going to face a fighter that tall. But it’s the same when meeting any fighter for the first time, there’s always something new to contend with.’
‘I think it’ll be similar to the Omar Narvaez fight in terms of intensity…McDonnell is a tough fighter, but I want to knock him down with one punch.’
If victorious, Inoue, 15-0 (13KOs) will technically become a three-weight world champion, after picking up titles at light-flyweight and super-fly, and the Japanese phenomenon has also confirmed his place in the upcoming bantamweight World Boxing Super Series, assuming he gets the win this week.
It took Naoya just six pro bouts to pick up his first world championship honours by stopping 29-2-1, Adrian Hernandez with a brutal right hook. He defended the WBC belt just once before jumping up two weight classes to take on Narvaez for the WBO strap at super-fly. ‘The Monster’ continued to live up to his nickname by carrying his much-hyped power through the weight divisions and wiping out his Argentinian opponent in two rounds.
The Japanese has only gone the full distance twice, 10-rounds with recently dethroned light flyweight, Ryoichi Taguchi and 12 dominant rounds with David Carmona – who takes on Kal Yafai in Fresno, also this weekend. McDonnell however has a wealth of experience, including in high level bouts, going the 12-round distance on nine occasions, including his two impressive points wins over Tomoki Kameda back in 2015.
Whoever comes out victorious in Tokyo on Friday, it’s hard to envision a bout that doesn’t entertain. Whether it’s six minutes out of your day as, Naoya plans, or if it goes the full twelve, this could end up being the perfect way to start your Friday.
HBO Boxing After Dark Results: Rungvisai Stunningly Knocks Out Chocolatito, Estrada and Inoue Win Convincingly
By: William Holmes
The Stub Hub Center in Carson, California was the host site for tonight’s HBO Boxing After Dark telecast
The super flyweight division was featured as two world titles were on the line and one world title eliminator fight was shown.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan/K2 Promotions
The opening bout was between Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2) and Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1) in an eliminator bout for the WBC Junior Bantamweight Title.
Both Estrada and Cuadras have previously lost to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and were fighting for a chance to have another crack at him.
Cuadras came out firing to start the first round and was able to land jabs and combinations to the body and head. Estrada was throwing punches of his own, but wasn’t landing at the rate of Cuadras. Cuadras ended the first round with a hard right cross.
Cuadras activity continued into the second round as he was throwing more combinations than the stalking Estrada. Cuadras was showing a good variety of punches in the third round, but Estrada ended the round strong with a hard-left hook to the chin.
Cuadras continued to outland Estrada in the fourth and fifth rounds while showboating at times, but Estrada was continuing to come forward and land some hard shots of his own.
Estrada picked up his pace in the sixth round and looked like he hurt Cuadras with a combination ending right cross. Estrada’s uppercut was also finding it’s home and the tide of the fight was turning in his favor.
The seventh round went back and forth and featured several heavy exchanges, but Cuadras was showing signs of tiring and his mouth was wide open.
Estrada’s left hook was landing in the eighth round. Cuadras may have stolen the ninth round with a heavy right uppercut that snapped the head of Estrada backwards, his best punch in several rounds.
Estrada sent Cuadras crashing to the mat in the tenth round with clean straight hand. Cuadras was able to get back to his feet and survive the round, but the knockdown solidified Estrada’s path to victory.
Estrada kept up the pressure in the final two rounds of an action-packed bout. At the end of the twelfth round he acted as if he was victorious.
Michael Buffer originally announced the final scores as 114-113 on all three score cards for Carlos Estrada, and Carlos Cuadras celebrated as if he won the fight.
But Buffer corrected himself and the correct score of 114-113 for Juan Francisco Estrada was read.
The next bout of the night was between Naoya “Monster” Inoue (13-0) and Antonio Nieves (17-1-2) for the WBO Junior Bantamweight Title.
Tonight, was Inoue’s American debut.
Inoue showed off his notorious jab in the opening round and was able to mix in a few uppercuts and left hooks. Nieves was able to block a lot of Inoue’s early punches, but wasn’t able to land anything significant in return.
Inoue’s jab was moving Nieves around the end of the ring in the second round and even had Nieves hurt in the final ten seconds of the second, but Inoue thought the ten second warning was the end of the round and laid off a visibly hurt Nieves.
Inoue started to land heavy shots to the body in the third round and it’s intensity and ferocity picked up in the fourth.
Inoue scored a knockdown with a thudding left hook to the body in the fifth round. Nieves was able to get back to his feet but took a large number of hard body shots in the remainder of the round.
Inoue continued his assault in the sixth round and was landing cracking body shots at will. Nieves was not throwing much in return and looked like he was just trying to survive.
Nieves corner stopped the fight before the start of the seventh round. Inoue wins by TKO at the end of the sixth round.
The main event was between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1) and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-1) for the WBC Junior Bantamweight Title.
Rungvisai won a shocking upset in a fight of the year candidate in their first meeting.
Rungvisai, a southpaw, looked a lot more confident than the first time they met and came out aggressively and right at Gonzalez.
Rungvisai was able to land his right hands and kept Gonzalez uncomfortable with his pressure.
Rungvisai continued to be the aggressor in the second round but Gonzalez was able to land multi punch combinations even while he was complaining about head butts.
There were several good exchanges in the third round but Rungvisai looked like he was taking the shots of Gonzalez well but landing heavy shots of his own.
Gonzalez came at Rungvisai at the start of the fourth round but Rungvisai was able to land two hooks to the body followed by a right uppercut, and later followed that with a right hook to the chin of Gonzalez that sent him crashing to the mat. He was able to get back to his feet but still in a dazed state and momentarily exchanged with Rungvisai, but another left hook by Rungvisai sent Gonzalez to the mat for the last time.
Rungvisai wins by knockout at 1:18 of the fourth round.
HBO Boxing After Dark Preview: Chocolatito vs. Rungvisai, Inoue vs. Nieves, Cuadras vs. Estrada
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the super flyweight/junior bantamweight division will take center stage on HBO as three fights in the division, which includes two world title fights and a WBC junior bantamweight title eliminator will take place.
Photo Credit: USA Today
The Stub Hub Center in Carson, California will be the host site for Saturday’s HBO Boxing After Dark Card. This card is stacked in the super flyweight division. Additionally, former UFC fighter Nam Phan will compete on the undercard as well as former world title holder Brian Viloria.
The following is a preview of the three planned televised fights on Saturday night.
Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1) vs. Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2); WBC Junior Bantamweight Eliminator
The opening bout of the broadcast will be between Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada, two boxers in the junior bantamweight division that previously faced, and lost to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.
Both boxers stand at 5’4” and have a reach of 66”. Cuadras is twenty nine years old and two years older than Estrada. Both boxers have considerable power. Estrada has twenty five stoppage victories on his record while Cuadras has stopped twenty seven of his opponents. Estrada appears to have the edge in power in recent fights however, he has stopped three of his past four opponents while Cuadras only has two stoppage victories in the past five fights.
Cuadras appears to have the slight edge in amateur experience. Estrada claims an amateur record of 94-4, while Cuadras won a gold medal in the International Junior Olympics and won a gold medal in the Pan American Games in 2003.
Estrada only fought once in 2016 and once in 2017, but that can be partly explained by a surgery he had to his right hand. Cuadras fought once in 2017 and twice in 2016.
Cuadras has defeated the likes of David Carmona, Richie Mepranum, Luis Concepcion, and Wisaksil Wangek. Estrada has a slightly better resume as a professional and has defeated the likes of Hernan Marquez, Giovani Segura, Milan Melindo, and Brian Viloria.
This should be an entertaining bout and could go either way, but Estrada is considered by many to be the second best super bantamweight behind Chocolatito and they appear destined to rematch in the near future.
Naoya Inoue (13-0) vs. Antonio Nieves (17-1-2); WBO Junior Bantamweight Title
Naoya Inoue is a world titlist form Japan that is starting to generate a lot of buzz in the boxing community.
He’s a world champion at only twenty four years old and has spent his entire career fighting in Japan. He’ll be six years younger than Nieves on fight night and will also have about a half an inch height advantage. However, he is giving up about an inch in reach.
Inoue also appears to have the power advantage. In thirteen fights he already has evel stoppage victories, including three of his past four fights. Nieves only has nine stoppage wins in twenty professional fights and is coming off of a loss.
Both boxers experienced moderate success as an amateur. Inoue won the gold medal in the 2011 President’s Cup and Nieves was a silver medalist in the 2011 National Golden Gloves.
Inoue has faced good opposition ever since his professional debut. His list of notable wins include Kohei Hono, David Carmona, Omar Narvaez, and Adrian Hernandez. Nieves is coming off of a loss to Nikolai Potapov. His only notable wins were against Oscar Mojica and Stephon Young.
Many expect Inoue to wow the crowd on Saturday night with a dominating victory against Nieves. A win may set up a possible big money fight with Roman Gonzalez, provided Gonzalez also wins his bout on Saturday.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1) vs. Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-1); WBC Junior Bantamweight Title
This bout is a rematch of their barn burner fight which saw Rungvisai pull off the stunning upset victory over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Many fans in attendance, and many members of the media, thought Gonzalez did enough to win the fight despite the fact he was knocked down in the first round.
In fact, CompuBox stats showed that Gonzalez had outlanded Rungvisai in ten of the twelve rounds, but still wound up losing the fight.
Gonzalez and Rungvisai are both thirty years old and stand at 5’3”. Gonzalez will have a slight half and inch reach advantage on Rungvisai. Gonzalez has thirty eight stoppage wins on his record, but has only stopped one opponent in his past four fights. Rungvisai has thirty nine stoppage wins to his resume and has stopped nine of his past ten opponents.
However, Rungvisai lacks amateur experience and Gonzalez won the gold medal in the 2004 Central American Championships.
Gonzalez fought once in 2017 and twice in 2016. He has defeated the likes of Carlos Cuadras, Brian Viloria, Edgar Sosa, Akira Yaegashi, and Juan Francisco Estrada.
Rungvisai fought once in 2017 and five times in 2016. However, three of those fights in 2016 were against debuting fighters and most of his wins came against suspect competition. His biggest wins to date were against Jose Salgado and Roman Gonzalez. He has a loss to Carlos Cuadras on his resume, and his other three losses came within the first five fights of his career.
Many felt Gonzalez won their first encounter and many expect him to emerge victorious in their rematch. However, you can not discount the heart that Rungvisai showed in their first fight and he appears to be a boxer with legitimate power in his hands that can end the fight quickly.
This should be another entertaining scrap, but it’s a scrap that Gonzalez is expected to win in a way that will take it out of the hands of the judges.
Super Flyweight Super Card: 2017 Just Keeps on Giving
By: Matt O’Brien
“I think 2016 should go down as one of the worst years in boxing history, maybe the worst.” – Oscar De La Hoya, October 2016.
Photo Credit: HBO Sports
The Golden Boy’s sad assessment of the state of boxing almost a year ago may have been somewhat of an exaggeration, but it’s fair to say 2016 was not exactly a banner year for the sport. Still recovering from the stench of the Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-letdown in 2015 and facing the prospect of being usurped as the world’s No.1 combat sport by a surging UFC, boxing was certainly in need of a serious shot in the arm.
Many of the sport’s detractors, especially the less informed members of the mainstream media as well as some of the staunchest supporters of MMA, were prepared to go even further than De La Hoya and pronounce the imminent demise of the Sweet Science. Writing for the LA Times in September 2016, for example, reporter Dylan Hernandez confidently declared: “Boxing is dead”.
Well, if boxing is dying, it is one hell of a glorious death. 2017 has been an absolute treat, with a raft of superb cards around the world and several of the best and most meaningful fights across the divisions getting made.
January started with a bang as the world’s two best super middleweights, James DeGale and Badou Jack, fought to a draw in their attempted unification fight in New York. Keith Thurman then unified two welterweight belts in March, while April saw 90,000 fans pack out Wembley Stadium for one of the best heavyweight title fights in recent memory. Errol Spence travelled to the UK for another massive stadium showdown with Kell Brook in May, and in June Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev fought to determine pound-for-pound supremacy in a rematch for the WBO/WBA/IBF light-heavyweight championships. Then in August boxing crowned it’s first undisputed champion for 12 years, as Terrence Crawford captured all four major belts at 140lbs.
Of course, most recently the richest fight in history also happened to take place in a boxing ring and saw MMA’s biggest star easily dismantled over 10 rounds. The list of huge boxing fights in 2017 goes on and on, and this weekend the trend continues.
Boxing’s little men do not always receive the attention or the acclaim that fighters higher up the weight classes typically garner, but it’s hard to ignore this stacked super flyweight card. Three quality fights, two of which are for world titles and feature two of the most talented operators in the sport, while the third pitches two exciting former world champions against each other in a battle of top contenders. There is nothing not to like about this event.
Kicking things off, American viewers will be treated to their first look at Japanese sensation Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (13-0), as the WBO 115lbs champion makes the sixth defense of his title on his American debut, versus Antonio Nieves (17-1-2) of Cleveland, Ohio. The young phenom is already a two-weight world champion at just 24 years of age and his fluid, rangy technique and vicious body attack is one of the most pleasing styles to watch in the sport. Expect the Japanese prodigy to do the business and set up a return to American soil against one of the other winners on the main card.
The chief supporting bout is a terrific Mexican civil war between former WBC 115lbs champion Carlos Cuadras (36-1-1) and former WBA/WBO 112lbs champion, Juan Francisco Estrada (35-2). Since losing a closely contested points decision to Roman Gonzalez back in 2012, Estrada is on a nine-fight win streak, including impressive victories over former world champs such as Brian Viloria, Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez. Meanwhile Cuadras is also on the comeback trail having lost his title to Gonzalez, being defeated over twelve rounds in the Nicaraguan’s 115lbs debut last year.
In what promises to be an exciting, high-skills match-up, the winner will command a spot as the top contender in the division. This one could go either way, but I’m going with the crisp combination punching of Estrada to see him through to a points victory in a tightly fought bout.
Finally, the main event on Saturday sees an immediate rematch of one of the most grueling fights and biggest upsets of the year so far, when the unheralded Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1) claimed a surprising majority decision over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in March. The Nicaraguan four-weight world champion went into that contest with a perfect 46-0 record and was widely regarded as the finest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Floored in the opening stanza by the naturally bigger challenger, Gonzalez responded well and took firm control of the contest over the middle rounds. The Thai fighter showed incredible guts and resilience to come back into the fight over the second half, though he seemed very fortunate to receive the judges’ verdict – if Gonzalez had won just a single extra point on one of the scorecards, he would have retained his title via majority draw.
In the first fight the two men threw an incredible combined total of 1,953 punches, and the return is likely to be just as bloody and fiercely contested. “Chocolatito” clearly owns the superior skillset of the two, but he is also fighting at a significant disadvantage in weight. The smaller frame and aggressive, counter punching style of Gonzalez also means that he will inevitably spend much of the fight “in the pocket”, with the extra natural strength of the Thai posing real danger. Although I expect the more accurate punching and better defence of the former champ to prevail, as I believe he deserved to last time, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Sor Rungvisai drag Gonzalez into another war of attrition and make it a close call on the official cards once again.
The fun does not end at the sound of the main event’s final bell, however. In fact, almost as exciting as the card itself are the potential follow-up fights that can be made in the wake of Saturday’s results.
Most obviously, assuming that both come through with a “W”, one of the best matches that could be made – not only in the super flyweight division but in the whole of boxing – would be a blockbuster clash between Japanese star Inoue and Nicaraguan legend Gonzalez. As well as crowning a unified and lineal champion at 115lbs, this would also springboard the winner towards the dizzy heights of boxing’s best practitioners, pound-for-pound. A match-up of this quality would easily surpass any to take place in boxing’s lower weight classes since Michael Carbajal and Humberto Gonzalez became the first little men to headline a PPV card back in 1993, in what turned out to be one of the fights of the decade. It is no exaggeration to say that a potential meeting between “The Monster” Inoue and “Chocolatito” Gonzalez could live up to similar expectations.
Estrada and Cuadras, both in the hunt for a rematch with Gonzalez, could equally provide exciting opposition for Inoue, should a superfight between the aforementioned pair be left to “marinate” a while longer, to use the promotional jargon. Assuming the two Mexicans deliver the kind of drama expected on Saturday, any combination of winner and loser of that fight vs. Gonzalez or Inoue would make for compelling viewing.
Of course, there is also the prospect of either Sor Rungvisai or Nieves – or both – pulling off the upset and throwing a great big spanner in the works. The Thai’s experience and gutsy style make him a tough assignment for anyone, and even coming off a decent losing performance versus Gonzalez he would still present an interesting challenge for Inoue, with a fight between the two South-East Asians no doubt doing great business in Japan. And while Nieves starts as a huge underdog, he comes in without the pressure of being expected to win on his shoulders. The Japanese fighter is boxing away from home for the first time, and while it’s hard to see him losing, Sor Rungvisai’s win over Gonzalez should remind us that no fight is a foregone conclusion.
In short, the possible combinations of intriguing matches emanating from this weekend’s fantastic card are numerous, and the fact that one of boxing’s lowest weight classes is gaining the kind of attention usually reserved for stars in the heavier divisions is a great sign that the sport overall is in very good health.
So, if you know anyone suggesting that boxing is “dying”, you might want to direct them over to HBO this Saturday night – they’ll see that the Sweet Science is alive and kicking. With so many other excellent fights already on the horizon, including the GGG-Canelo megabout and a plethora of mouth-watering match-ups in the World Boxing Super Series, boxing really is booming.
Monster Invasion: Naoya Inoue Comes To America
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.
Asian Weekly Round Up
ASIAN WEEKLY ROUND UP
By: Ben Underwood
HYUN MI CHOI WINS WBF SUPER FEATHERWEIGHT BELT
Korean favourite Hyun Mi Choi added yet another title to her ever growing trophy cabinet by outpointing tough South African Unathi Myekeni.Choi who is unbeaten in 13 with one draw, has won WBA titles at both Featherwight and Super featherweight and this was billed originally as a WBA title fight but only seemed to be for the WBF which was vacated.
Choi boxed well throughout keeping Myekeni at bay to comfortably win by unaminous decision with scores of 100-91,99-92 and 98-93 ,But Myekeni certainly showed how tough she was and was game throughout the contest.
KANO VS TAKAYAMA FOR WBO MINIMUM BELT
Japanese prospect and highly talented teenager Riku Kano has come fresh off of an impressive win over former world champion Merlito Sabillo of the Philippines and winning the OPBF interim title in the process. Not even a month has passed since that win and it has been announced that Kano will now take on 3-time world champion Katsunari Takayama (30-8-0-1, 12KO’s) for the WBO belt.
This is an opportunity for Kano (10-1-1, 5KO’s) to make history in becoming the youngest ever Japanese world champion at 18 years,4 months and 4 days. This would surpass Hiroki Ioka when he won the WBC Minimumweight title from Mai Thomburifarm at 18 years, 9 months and 10 days in 1987.
The bout was announced at a press conference in Hyogo to be taken place on 20th August at the Komagatani sports park,sanda,Hyogo.
A lot can happen in 11 months ,especially if you are a man on a mission. Following a controversial unaminous decision to Amnat Ruenroeng, John Riel Casimero was that man on a mission on wednesday night at the Diamond Stadium in Beijing,China.Undefeated Ruenroeng was 11-0 as a professional and a former Olympian.He was very well known in China ,especially after beating popular fellow Olympian Zou Shiming.
During the opening two rounds the action was almost non-existant as if they were feeling each other out.In the third they both started to up the pace as Ruenroeng was frequently jabbing to both head and body,then a left hook caught Casimiro and sent him to the canvas, but the referee ruled it a slip.
Nobody expected the events of the fourth round to take place and with devastating effect as Ruenroeng decided to go through the gears and change the pace. As the Thai came in trying to land a combination, he was read by Casimero and a monsterous left counter hook sent him crashing to down. Ruenroeng was visibly hurt as he just managed to beat the count ,but the Filipino smelled blood and went in for the kill. Ruenroeing was trying to survive but as he held his hands high, Casimiro saw the body and zeroed in. After a combination to the head ,a savage left hook landed in the liver of Amnat and winched in pain as he sank to the floor for the full count of 10,losing his IBF title in the process.The new champion now has a record of 23-3.
On the undercard Chao Zhong Xiong had Jose Jimenez hurt in the first round but as time went on Xiong began to look clumsy. Jimenez managed to get home with a majority decision and is now the mandatory to the IBF minimumweight champion Jose Argumedo. Jimenez improves to 17-5-1, 7 KO’s ,Xiong drops to 26-7-1,14 KO’s. Scores were 116-111 Xiong ,114-113 twice for Jimenez.
Thai former world champion Tor Buamas was clearly outboxed and outthought by China’s Zong Ju Cai over 10 rounds in an IBF female Minimumweight title eliminator. Buamas has so much experience in the ring ,but seemed to be confused by Cai’s basic style and movement. Cai landed jabs and combinations to run out a near flawless winner with score of 100-90 and 99-91 twice. Now Cai is the manadory to japans etsuko Tada’s IBF title.
Chinese Olympian Fanlong Meng stayed unbeaten and twice floored Australian Rob Powdrill to earn a stoppage in the fourth round. Meng literally broke down the Australian hard man with the volume of clean shots he threw and was rescued in by the referee at 1:23 of the fourth. Meng is 7-0,5 KO’s and Powdrill is 6-3, 1KO.
Zi Jie Shang lost only his second fight when he fought former Super Bantamweight Wulan Tuolehazi .The fight was made at Lightweight and despite Shang being a natural lightweight, Tuolehazi gritted his teeth and toughed out a majority decision to even out his record which now stands at 1-1. scores were 57-57,59-55 twice.
KOKI INOUE AND SATOSHI HOSONO BACK IN ACTION IN KOREA
June 26th is the date where two of the Ohashi stable fighters will be in action . Hot prospect Koki Inoue will look to improve his three fight unbeaten streak where as rumour has it,may take on Korean Hyun Woo Yuh 5-1, 5KO’s.
Satoshi Hosono is the other fighter who ia said to be having a bout in a non-title affair . Hosono is the Japanese Featherweight champion there is no comment on who the opponent will be, but it can only be a good thing that Hosono stays busy.
SHIRO DEFENDS TITLE ON AUGUST 7TH
Light flyweight Japanese champion Ken Shiro will be defending his title against Toshimasa Ouchi ,who is a one time Japanese title challenger who fought Masayuki Kuroda to a draw for the title.Shiro is highly thought of with a record of 7-0, 4KO’s and is also highly ranked by the OPBF and infact this could be for the vacant title as Jonathan Taconing is bidding for a world title.
HIDENORI OTAKE BACK IN THE RING
Former world title challenger Hidenori otake will take on Hernan Cortez of Panama,who is a former WBC FECARBOX champion at Super Flyweight . This looks like an easy fight for Otake with Cortez losing three of his last six with one draw,nethertheless this looks to be a step up in class since losing a title fight to Scott Quigg 2 years ago.The fight will take place at the Korakuen hall in Tokyo.
TANAKA HALTS PATILANO
Kosei Tanaka had one eye on a title fight when he made easy work of IBF rated Filipino Rene Patilano as he dominated his way to count of 10 in the 6th round .This was Tanaka’s first fight since giving up his Minumumweight title to move up to 108lbs. Tanaka looked better not having to boil down to the sports lightest division and was sharp and powerful in dismantling Patilano.
This could be a step in a the right direction and seriously made a statement to Ryoichi Taguchi the WBA champion and will possibly get the fight after the performance he put on. Look for the fight to be made for late 2016.
Introducing Inoue: Can He Melt “Chocolatito”?
Introducing Inoue: Can He Melt “Chocolatito”?
By: Brandon Bernica
As soon as perennial talent Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez finished unlacing his gloves after a dominant performance over McJoe Arroyo a few weeks ago, the boxing universe began to chatter. See, Gonzalez has hit the point in his accomplished career where his promoters are scraping the bottom of the bucket of potential foes at 112 pounds. Consensus is that, other than a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada – who Gonzalez already edged out in a classic little-man’s scrap, no one in the division seems to pose any semblance of a threat to the Nicaraguan champ.
Paired with middleweight monster Gennady “GGG” Golovkin on April 23rd for the 3rd time, the dynamic was crystal clear. Golovkin billed as the heavy-handed ticket magnet that galvanized Southern California’s Mexican fanbase, whereas “Chocolatito” showcased as the slightly lesser-known flyweight maestro, conducting an orchestra of scathing hooks to the solar plex and overhand rights that thudded like strikes to a bass drum. Golovkin appears headed towards assuming the top space in boxing’s pound-for-pound hierarchy. In doing so, he will have to replace the man firmly ensconced in that position by most of the boxing press – his cohort, Roman Gonzalez. And in the prime of his career at 45-0 and with Hall-of-Fame credentials, who could argue that?
Every race has its dark horse. As frontrunners fade and contenders jockey to escape mediocrity, one horse usually thrusts forward to lead the pack. With our eyes trained on the one runner exercising his dominance over the field, an underdog missiles his way out of obscurity until he grabs our attention. Once our peripherals finally recognize this challenger’s determination, the real race begins.
Across the Pacific Ocean, an anomaly is slowly building a dangerous reputation in the sport. Naoya Inoue – hailing from Yokohama, Japan – is not your average fighter. For starters, he reigns as a two-time super flyweight world champion already, winning his first title in his 6th pro fight. Even more bizarre is that he still has less than 10 fights total and barely broke the age of 23 a couple weeks ago. In an era when promoters are looking to season their fighters with 15-20 comically soft tuneups before even considering decent opposition, this feat is remarkable.
If you’re old-school and prefer your cup of analysis with heavy doses of the eye test, Inoue is tough to knock in any perceivable category. Even small highlight reel sample sizes reveal gifts many veterans in the sport spend their lives seeking with no fruition. For an orthodox fighter, Inoue uncorks his lead left hook with a quick, rebuking snap. If that punch doesn’t punish his oft-poorly distanced foes, a slicing right hand – never thrown off balance – cleans up his combinations. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Inoue’s quick yet explosive career is his propensity to down fighters with body shots. Today’s culture of quick-fix consumption in the form of Vine clips and Instagram videos has diluted the sport’s craft, with boxers head-hunting for their shot to be seen on Sportscenter’s nightly top plays. Body snatching is a lost art, so the fact that the Japanese prodigy often pulverizes his foes’ guts with blows to the midsection is as impressive as it is unnoticed. What better way for an under-the-radar talent to finish fights than with punches that are also rarely appreciated by fans? To top it off, his defensive reflexes and footwork stay steps ahead of the men attempting to punch him, keeping him scotch clean and favorable in the judges’ eyes.
With all that being said, it begs the question: how could boxing’s best kept secret remain so anonymous for so long?
For one, Japanese fighters have long been reluctant to cross stateside into our collective consciences. And who could blame them? Boxing is celebrated in a Japanese culture where bravery is amongst its most notable precepts. Japanese fans shower adulation on their homebred fighters. One would surmise that financial incentives are strong for these fighters to remain on the island. 130-pound titan Takashi Uchiyama – considered the best in that division by many – has never ventured outside his home country to fight. Uchiyama’s rival Takashi Miura also held 32 of his 34 matches in Japan. One of the two foreign-turf opportunities he seized was the chance to appear on the massive Canelo vs Cotto undercard last year against Francisco Vargas, which proved to be a classic war between two rugged fighters. Japan’s boxing independence even attracts fighters from other countries to live and train inside its borders, including current lightweight champion Jorge Linares, who lives in Tokyo.
Another theory behind Inoue’s lack of public prominence deals with boxing’s long-standing, passive discrimination of the “little guy”. One common myth is that smaller fighters lack the one-punch pop to make for entertaining fights. Yet Gonzalez’s fights against Estrada and Brian Viloria validate that weight shouldn’t be a determining factor for fan enjoyment. Still, pundits such as BJ Flores will fail to acknowledge anything that transpires in the sport below 122 pounds (10 pounds above Gonzalez and 7 above Inoue). In fact, it took HBO up until last year to finally “gamble” and slate Gonzalez onto a GGG undercard. Mind you, Gonzalez is the best to offer south of 122 pounds; if he could barely find significant TV time, how does that bode for lesser warriors around that weight? And how likely does that make a network to fund a foreign fighter who, on paper, lacks the paid dues that landed “Chocolatito” air time?
Inoue’s slim amount of pro experience also might discourage fans from looking beyond the surface into what the Japanese star is all about. Guillermo Rigondeaux won his first title in his 9th fight, and Vasyl Lomachenko challenged for his first in only his 2nd official battle of his pro career. Granted, both those guys were amateur stars, yet their rapid ascensions didn’t scare away networks from getting them big time fights. Both men are of foreign descent as well and don’t speak much English. By default, you would believe that everyone would be clamoring to bring Inoue to America to be groomed into a marketable television fighter, yet that hasn’t been the case.
What’s clear is that there remain a number of factors obstructing Inoue’s inevitable birth into superstardom in the US. What isn’t clear is whether Gonzalez would be able to handle a slick, youthful talent in Inoue a few years down the line.
Yeah, yeah, Gonzalez would be favored against the Japanese slugger now. But let’s say Inoue continues down the path of success he’s towing closely right now. Perhaps he gets to hang a few more belts from his living room mantle and learns more inside of the ring in doing so, all while hitting his stride at 25 or 26. By that time, Gonzalez will only be in his early 30’s, meaning each man will presumably still command top-notch skills. Hopefully, boxing will realize the value in lower division fights, allowing this to be an event hardcore fans would anticipate with fervor.
Within the ropes, both fighters carry strong claims that they possess the qualities necessary to outlast the other guy. Gonzalez punches in bunches, is a master at gauging timing and distance, and punctuates combinations with torso turning power. Yet – out of anyone Gonzalez could face in the interim – Inoue is much more defensively sensible. Plus, his power, punch variety and intelligent offensive restraint pose monstrous quandaries that Nicaragua’s own will have to overcome. Remember also that Inoue is naturally the bigger man (3 pounds heavier), so taking and giving shots will be much easier on his end than for Gonzalez.
Two conclusions can be drawn from all of this. One is that Inoue is a diamond blaring from the rough, reflecting off the sun and daring us to notice its greatness. Two is that Gonzalez is a cut above, and to uplift respect for the smaller combatants of the sport to new heights, he might just need a true rival to test him, one who also has never glimpsed defeat in the eye. A match made in heaven just may require some divine intervention to fulfill these expectations. But like the dark horse, expectations are meant to be shattered. That’s when the fun really starts.