This coming weekend is quite possibly the biggest ever weekend for the Super Flyweight division as we get a stacked divisional suer show. Part of that show is the US debut of Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (13-0, 11), who will be giving the wider boxing world a chance to see what the fuss is all about. He will be doing so as he defends the WBO Super Flyweight title against once beaten American challenger Antonio Nieves (17-1-2, 9) in a bout being aired all over the globe.
For Inoue the bout might be his US debut but he's already an established professional and will be seeking his 6th defense of the WBO title. Even more impressively is the fact that this bout will be his 9th world title bout, and his 11th career title bout, two genuinely amazing feats for a fighter who is still only 24 and has been a professional for less than 5 years.
Whilst we suspect regular readers here will be very aware of Inoue and what he brings to the ring others might be just hearing of his name for the first time. Those who have seen him will be fully aware that he's one of those special boxers who really can do anything in the ring, and seems to be constantly adding new things to his arsenal. He showed incredible pure boxing skills early in his career, then impressed with showing an ability to fight as a pressure fighter, mowing throwing Jerson Mancio for the Oriental title in his 4th professional bout. He can box, he can bang, he can move, he can counter punch and in recent outings he's also shown he can do it as a southpaw as well.
Those who haven't seen him really have missed out on his rapid rise through the ranks, but of course it's never too late to be won over by a fighter, and that's what is likely to happen this weekend when Inoue gets a chance to shine on US soil.
Dubbed “The Monster” due to his freakish physical strength and punching power he really is a brute in terms of how hard he hits, but he doesn't fight like a pure puncher. Instead he seems to switch between fighting on the back foot as a counter puncher and on the front foot as an all out pressure fighter. He controls the range whilst choosing which style he wants to employ and has every punch in the book. He switches between head and body with natural fluidity rarely seen in the ring, his movements all seem to be a step ahead of those of his opponents and his finishing instincts are among the very best in the sport.
Although a sensational talent Inoue isn't flawless. Physically he has had recurrent hand issues, with regular damage to his right hand, and in the ring he has been seen to turn off, with that issue prevalent against Petchbarngborn when he dropped his hands and ate several clean shots following a low blow. A lack of in ring experience may be to blame, but it's still a chink in his armour and something that will need to be tidied up before he moves up in weight again, as he begins to chase a third divisional title.
Of course Inoue isn't going to be shadow boxing and he will have to over-come American foe Nieves if he's to leave America as a champion, and not damage his reputation as one of the sports best fighters. The American is no push over and the Ohio native is a very credible fighter himself. He's typically been fighting up at Bantamweight, and even Super Bantamweight, and has yet to be stopped during his 20 fight career. Not only has he not been stopped but his only defeat has been a very close one to talented Russian Nikolai Potapov, with that loss coming this past March.
Footage of Nieves shows that he's an aggressive fighter, who likes to come forward and has heavy, but not concussive, power. He can apply smart pressure, switches between head and body well and looks to be a solid all-rounder, but not someone who excels in any specific area. He does however keep a solid work rate, and is pretty accurate, though this is a massive step up for him.
Although naturally fighting at a higher weight it's not expected to be an issue for Nieves, who is a relatively small Bantamweight and has come in light for the 118lb division in the past, suggesting he can easily make Super Flyweight. The fact he has been fighting at the higher weights is however a sign that he can take a solid shot but he's to face a world class fighter, and this is a major step up for him.
If Nieves can take a shot, he could make Inoue work really hard for the win, but we suspect the American will be broken down in the middle rounds as Inoue looks to make a statement and announce himself to a whole new audience. The big issue for him will be staying relaxed, not trying to force things and fighting his fight. If he can do that then he will almost instantly win over the US fans, who will be begging to see more of him. If he rushes things and becomes scrappy he could find himself looking less than sensational, and like another “hype job”, which would be considered a genuine disappointment for the Kanagawa.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.