By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On May 18, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 World champions meet in the second round of the Bantamweight WBSS tournament, as the WBA (Regular) champion Naoya Inoue goes one on one with the IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, with both titles on the line, as well as the vacant Ring Magazine championship.
Naoya Inoue (17-0/15 KOs) is considered to be one of the best boxers that have come out of Japan. His power, agility and precision have brought him immense success, while he is already ranked in the top 10 (P4P) list by The Ring, ESPN, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and others.
Before becoming a pro, he had a relatively short but rather accomplished amateur career, amassing 75 victories in 81 outings, with 48 of them being stoppages. Naoya won numerous (inter) high school tournaments, earned the gold at the 2011 Indonesia Presidential Cup and became the All Japan Light Flyweight champion, the same year. He also placed high at the Asian & World championships.
In 2012, the Monster finally made his pro debut and quickly made himself a guy to look out for. After going 3-0 in less than a year, he was set to face Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4) for the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Taguchi, at 18-1, not only was he the more experienced of the two, but he was also a world ranked fighter. Inoue displayed much aggressiveness, taking control of the fight from the opening round. We saw a lot of his body work at display, which became one of his biggest weapons as his career progressed. After 10 rounds of action, the youngster took a clear unanimous decision win (one of only the two times a fight of his has gone the distance) and the belt. Taguchi eventually went on to become the WBA, IBF & The Ring Light Flyweight World champion.
Just 4 months later, he fought Jerson Mancio (18-6) for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. Naoya’s offense was too fast for the Filipino. He weakened his opponent with body shots, before the referee was forced to stop the fight in the 5th as Mancio was getting repeatedly tagged.
It wasn’t long after that Inoue received his first world title shot against Adrian Hernandez (30-5) on April of 2014. The 2 time WBC Light Flyweight World champion had marked 4 successful title defenses coming into this one. Both strong body punchers, Hernandez seemed to be gaining ground in the 4th round but Naoya quickly bounced back with some heavy shots of his own. It was an even match until the 6th when the Japanese Monster dropped El Confesor with a lighting fast right hook, who despite getting up, refused to continue. As a result, Inoue was declared the World champion at 21 years of age, in only his 6th professional bout.
Inoue defended the WBC title only once against Wittawas Basapean (34-9), before moving 2 weight classes up and within the same year, he challenged Omar Andres Narvaez (48-3) for the WBO Super Flyweight World championship. Narvaez, a 1999 Pan American Games winner, enjoyed a 7 year reign with the WBO Flyweight World title (16 defenses) prior to winning the Super Flyweight strap, which he had held for 4 years at the time (11 defenses). This was meant to be the Japanese fighter’s toughest test yet. Instead, it turned out to be one of his most dominant performances, as he dropped the veteran 4 times in just 2 rounds, sealing the deal with the liver shot, to become a 2 division World champion. That was the sole KO loss in Narvaez’s career.
The Monster remained champion for 3.5 years, reaching an impressive number of 7 title defenses. Warlito Parrenas (26-9), Karoon Jarupianlerd (42-9), Ricardo Rodriguez (16-7) and Antonio Nieves (18-2) were easy work for him, as neither of them was close to his level. David Carmona (21-6) did better, simply because Naoya injured his right hand during the match. Still, he managed to outclass his opponent, even put him down in the last round, earning his second and last decision victory. Yoan Boyeaux (41-6), another promising challenger, was on a 31 fight winning streak (close to 5 years unbeaten) and with 26 KOs under his belt. This also ended up being a one sided beatdown, with Inoue scoring 4 knockdowns in less than 8 minutes.
His best challenge was against the 2 time WBA Super Flyweight World champion Kohei Kono (33-12) on December of 2016. Kono came out strong in the beginning, connecting with some good punches, surprising Inoue for a while. Before you know it, this was turned into a wild brawl with both men bringing the heat and exciting the fans. All that changed in the 6th when Naoya landed a perfect left hook that floored the former champ and proceeded to finish him off a couple of seconds later, putting an end to this thrilling encounter.
In 2018, Inoue decided to enter the Bantamweight ranks and immediately challenged the WBA (Regular) title holder Jamie McDonnell (29-3). The Yorkshire native hadn’t suffered a single loss in a decade (22 fights). A former British, Commonwealth, European & IBF Bantamweight World champion, McDonnell was his best opponent since Narvaez. The Monster, true to his nickname, overwhelmed the champ with powerful shots, dropping him in the very 1st round. McDonnell managed to stand up again, but found himself trapped against the ropes as Naoya delivered a lethal flurry to get the KO. After the fight, the Japanese superstar announced his participation at the Bantamweight WBSS and in October he was matched against the former WBA (Super) World champion Juan Carlos Payano (21-2). In what was voted as one of the best knockouts of 2018, Inoue nailed him with a straight right and put his lights out, in just 70 seconds into the fight. Both McDonnell & Payano had never been stopped in their entire career.
Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0), the reigning IBF Bantamweight World champion, unlike his Japanese foe, had quite an extensive run as an amateur. His most noteworthy accolades took place in 2010, when he won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games and the silver at the Youth World Championships. Amongst his 182 bouts (171 victories), he owned wins over the likes of AIBA Youth World & Central American and Caribbean Games champion Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2) as well as the current WBO Light Flyweight World titlist Angel Acosta (20-1).
As a pro, he mostly fought in his home country of Puerto Rico against local competition. In 2015, he KOed world title contender Luis Hinojosa (31-16), with a stunning right cross, in the 3rd round. He also picked up 2 decisions over former challengers such as David Quijano (16-7) and Alberto Guevara (27-4).
Rodriguez fought the former IBF Bantamweight World champion Paul Butler (28-2) for the same vacant title, on May of 2018. Butler was on a 9 fight winning streak since losing the belt. The Mexican fighter knocked him down twice in the opening round, once with the right and then with the left hook. Rodriguez continued to control the pace until the end, thus winning a wide decision and was declared the new World champion.
His 1st defense took place in October, against the WBA Oceania & Commonwealth champion Jason Moloney (18-1), as part of the WBSS. The Australian was undefeated at 17-0 when he entered the tournament. Much like Naoya Inoue, Manny utilized some excellent body work that, in the long run, won him the fight. Moloney started to put on a better offense half way through, giving the champ some trouble, especially in the closing rounds. When the final bell rang, Rodriguez was awarded a split decision to advance to the semi finals.
It’s obvious that Rodriguez has the better amateur pedigree than most of Inoue’s opponents, but he hasn’t faced the same caliber of competition as a pro. Moreover, both of his world championship fights has gone the distance and he hasn’t finished anyone since 2017. On the other hand, Naoya has been on a path of destruction, knocking out top contenders and champions alike, for 5 years straight (minus 1 match). It’s seemingly impossible to stop him at this point of his career, especially after the dominant 2018 he had. Considering that in his last 2 fights he spent a total of 3 minutes in the ring, it will be a surprise if Manny makes it past the 5th round.
This coming Sunday we see the Bantamweight version of the World Boxing Super Series kick off, with Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) facing off with former world champion Carlos Payano (20-1, 9) in the inaugural bout. Not only will it kick off the next weight at the WBSS but it will also serve as Inoue's first defense of the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title, a belt that he won earlier this year when he blitzed Jamie McDonnell.
The tournament, which features Inoue and Payano, alongside Ryan Burnett, Zolani Tete, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jason Moloney, Nonito Donaire and Mikhail Aloyan, is expected to see 3 titles unified and have global interest. The weight is the lowest to be featured in the WBSS and is expected to give the Bantamweight division the spotlight it deserve, and a spotlight that had previous been shone on the Cruiserweight division, helping Oleksandr Usyk become a major name.
In Japan “Monster” Inoue is already a massive star. He's not only one of the most significant men in Japanese boxing but is popularity is up there with the biggest names in Japanese sport in general. The young sensation was hyped ahead of his debut, with promoter Hideyuki Ohashi proudly telling the boxing world how good Inoue was, and the fighter has since delivered, proving elite level prospects don't need to be matched softly. Within just 16 fights, and 92 rounds, he has already notched up wins against Ryoichi Taguchi, Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono and Jamie McDonnell. In scoring those 16 wins he has claimed the Japanese, OPBF and WBC titles at Light Flyweight, the WBO title at Super Flyweight and the WBA regular title at Bantamweight.
In the ring there is very little Inoue can't do. He's lighting quick, very physically strong for such a big man, scarily heavy handed, brilliant at cutting the ring off and improve all the time. Early in his career there was some defensive issues, sometimes he dropped his concentration and there was a little bit of over-confidence but that now seems to have vanished and he's about as perfect of an offensive machine we currently have in professional boxing. There are still some defensive things to work on, but he's not as defensively naive as he once was, and when he chooses to box on the move there are few fighters with the skills or speed to connect on him.
At 34 years old American based Dominican fighter Juan Carlos Payano is pretty much in last chance saloon. A loss to Inoue likely spells the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time champion. He is however a pretty notable fighter in his own right. As an amateur he is a 2-time Olympian, fighting in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, a 2-time World Amateur Championship competitor, competing in 2005 and 2009. As a professional he is a former WBA “super” champion at Bantamweight, and has notable wins over Anselmo Moreno and Rau'shee Warren to his name at world level. Sadly though he would lose the WBA belt to Warren in a rematch and since then scored 3 relatively low key wins, including one over Filipino prospect Mike Plania who dropped Payano back in March.
At his best Payano was a pretty good fighter, you don't beat Moreno and Warren without being good, but there was fortune in both of those wins. The victory over Payano came from a technical decision, which many watching seemed to feel went the wrong way, whilst the win over Warren was a messy foul-fest with multiple deductions and saw Payano being dropped in the final round. Given those wins were several years ago now and he's 34 years old he's a long way removed from his prime. Despite being such a good amateur he's sloppy, wild and doesn't have much power on his shots.
The southpaw stance of Payano is expected to be the biggest issue for Inoue, but is something he's been working hard on in preparation for this contest. The Japanese fighter should be too quick, too sharp, too powerful and too intense for Payano. Inoue might take a shot or two whilst cutting the distance but it's hard to see anyway in which Payano survives with the Monster, never mind upsets the star from Kanagawa. Inoue by stoppage seems almost a foregone conclusion as he looks to add the WBSS' Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of professional crowns.
This coming Friday the boxing world will turn it's attention to the Ota City General Gymnasium as Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion and claim the WBA “regular” Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to the “Monster” will be defending champion Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1-1, 13) of the UK in what looks likely to be a bout not only for the title, but also for a place as a seeded fighter in the upcoming World Boxing Super Series (WBSS).
The champion will be making his 7th defense of the WBA title, and is currently enjoying his second reign as a world champion after having previously held the IBF Bantamweight title. As for the challenger he will be looking to claim a world title at Bantamweight having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight and WBO Super Flyweight titles.
Of the two men the pressure is really on Inoue to shine, and build on his reputation as the rising figure head of the Japanese boxing scene. He was tipped for the top from his days in the amateur ranks and rose quickly as a professional. He would win the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout with a decision win over Ryoichi Taguchi and the OPBF title just a bout later as he stopped Jerson Mancio. Whilst those performance caught the eye of many hardcore fans it was his 2014 win over Adrian Hernandez that helped Inoue make his mark on the sport.
Inoue would only defend the Light Flyweight title once before moving up in weight, completely skipping the Flyweight division to decimate Omar Andres Narvaez for the WBO Super Flyweight title, stopping Narvaez in 2 rounds. As the WBO Super Flyweight champion Inoue would defend the title 7 times, scoring notable wins over Warlito Parrenas, David Carmona, Kohei Kono and even made his US debut with a win over Antonio Nieves.
In the ring Inoue is an offensively minded boxer-puncher. He's blessed with frightening power, as 13 stoppages in 15 bouts at the lower weights shows, bewildering speed and an incredibly high boxing IQ. He's flawed, and has been seen to turn off at times in fights, but like many sensational fighters there is an aura about him that screams he's in total control, even when he's on the back foot. In fact Inoue on the back-foot is really under-rated, and he can be just as brutally destructive with his counters and shots on the back foot. Not only that but he is arguably the best body puncher in the sport today, and against taller fighters, like McDonnell, that is a brilliant weapon in Inoue's arsenal.
The champion is a 2-time Bantamweight champion, as mentioned earlier, and at 32 years old is potentially on the slide physically. Despite being on the slide McDonnell is a physical freak for a Bantamweight standing at 5'10" and with a huge 72" wingspan. He's a fighter who has began to show cracks at the weight but was ½ under the limit last time out and has been under, rather than on, the Bantamweight limit in 6 of his last 7 bouts. Not only is he a physical freak in terms of stature but also energy and he has one of the most incredible engines of any fighter in the sport. He seems to get stronger the longer bouts go on, and despite being a slow starter is a real nightmare in the later stages of a fight. That stamina and his size makes him a real problem from range where he can keep up a busy output and handcuff opponents.
McDonnell started his career with out much hype and was 8-2-1 (2) after 11 bouts with losses to the recently deceased Chris Edwards and Lee Haskins, who would later go on to defeat Ryosuke Iwasa for the IBF Bantamweight title. From then however McDonnell has gone 21-0-0-1 (11) and claimed notable wins against Stuart Hall, Julio Ceja, Tomoki Kameda, twice, and Liborio Solis. He has looked really impressive at times, such as his second win over Kameda, but also rather poor at times, such as in the first Kameda fight and first bout with Liborio Solis. In those bouts he showed he can be out fought, he can be hurt and he can be beat, even if McDonnell picked up the wins in both bouts.
At his very best McDonnell could be a nightmare for any Bantamweight, just due to his size and stamina. He seems to put on his best performances when facing his best opponents and will know that this is bout against a special talent. Sadly for McDonnell he is going up against a special talent, and Inoue, we believe, will know that McDonnell has struggled to make weight, had been inactive and has a long torso to attack. The Inoue body attack is devastating and we think that it will be the key here. Although moving up in weight Inoue is still expected to carry dynamite in his shots, and we suspect we'll see that dynamite in action with the “Monster” taking out the Englishman in 7 or 8 rounds.
In the last 12 months we've seen the Super Flyweight division get a significant amount of international attention, with notable fights in the division taking place outside of the usual countries for “the little men”. This has included Super Flyweight world title bouts taking place in Australia, England, Northern Ireland and the US, and the huge success of the “Superfly” show on HBO. Sadly though that success hasn't made life easy for Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12). The Japanese fighter as defended his WBO title twice this year, and will make his 7th total defense on December 30th, but has seen top contenders rule themselves out of bouts with him in early 2018.
Rather than continue to battle the politics of the sport Inoue has stated he is after big challengers, and this coming Saturday he will likely fight at 115lbs for the final time. That bout will see him face French challenger Yoan Boyeaux (41-4-0-1, 26), with the visitor looking to secure a career best win, and Inoue looking to bid farewell to the division in style.
For those who have lived under a rock the last few years Inoue is the new face of Japanese boxing. He's a fighter who combines elite skills with frightening power, lighting speed and a desire to both put on a show and challenge himself. He raced through the rankings at break neck speed, winning a Japanese title in his 4th fight, an OPBF title in his 5th and his first world title in his 6th bout. After just a single defense of his first world title he jumped up 2 divisions and blitzed Omar Narvaez to become a 2-division champion and has since gone 6-0 (5) in Super Flyweight world title defenses.
Dubbed the “Monster” Inoue is a frightening in the ring. He's a naturally strong and powerful guy but doesn't rely on that natural strength to win. Instead that power and physicality has become part of a fighter who is very highly skilled and incredibly fluid. He throws some of the best combinations in the sport, can throw some great counter shots and although an offensive force he is also able to fight on the back foot, even as an aggressive fighter on the back foot. Every fight he seems to show something new and he has has added things like the ability to switch to his game in recent years.
Looking for flaws with Inoue is hard, but there is some. He is sometimes unable to transition defense to offense, and is sometimes happier to see out his opponents assaults before returning fire, rather than using his counter punching skills. He can also switch off and although he is developing the mental side of his game there are times when he looks bored and frustrated, which included his last bout when he had clearly gotten sick of Antonio Nieves running away from him in round 6. If he can stay mentally sharp there is going to be very,very few fighters who can really test him, which could explain why so many at 115lbs are doing their best to avoid him.
Aged 29 Boyeaux is a bit of a young veteran. He debuted in 2009 but has amazingly racked 46 bouts into his career, and has been a genuine globe trotter. He has fought in France, England, Croatia, Serbia, Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia, Hungary and Morocco. Not only has he fought on the road a lot but he has also adapted his style from a typically European one to a an aggressive one thanks to spending a significant amount of time in Argentina. Not only has he been active but also successful and is riding an impressive 31-0-0-1 run, following an inauspicious 10-4 start.
One thing to note about Boyeaux is his competition hasn't been great. His most notable opponents were those opponents he faced in his early losses, with Carl Frampton and Josh Wale both beating him in the UK and Anthony Settoul beating him in France. That level of competition isn't going to prepare a fighter for Inoue, and instead Boyeaux will have to be hoping that his training camp and natural ability will be able to carry him through the bout.
Watching Boyeaux in action we have a very tall Super Flyweight, who is said to be around 5'7”, he's a fighter with the build to be a good outside fight but instead he has has shown a more aggressive and pressure based style which. He throws a lot of leather and looks to march down his foes, with a nice selection of shots. Sadly for all his aggression and output Boyeaux does seem to have a relative lack of power and will likely have a style that accentuates just how good Inoue is.
We expect to see the challenger take the fight to Inoue, look to put himself in the driving seat, like a number of other Inoue foes. After a round or two however he will realise that he needs to change gameplan, with Inoue counter, and pushing him back. For a few rounds Boyeaux may be able to have some moments, but before long Inoue's power, combinations, body punching and accuracy will be too much for the challenger, who will be stopped, likely in the middle rounds.
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.
Of all the world title fights taking place this coming weekend perhaps one of them stands out as a horrible mismatch, where the champion is so strongly expected to retain his title that fans may not be excited by the match in question. Saying that however those same fans are likely to be excited by the favourite, simply because he is such an exceptional talent, and it's hard not to be excited about the fighter, even if the bout is likely to be a mismatch.
That bout will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10) return to the ring to make the 5th defense of his title, and take on WBO #2 ranked contender Ricardo Rodriguez (16-3, 5), who is getting his first world title fight. Rodriguez will be widely viewed as a man being thrown to the slaughter, and typically that's a type of fight fans don't like, however when a fighter is a good as Inoue then fans are happy just to see someone like him fight.
The Japanese youngster was ear marked for success from way back in the amateurs, which he dominated domestically. That talent saw him being snapped up by Ohashi gym as a teenager and being guided quickly through the rankings. The rise saw Inoue claim a Japanese title in his 4th fight, an OPBF title in his 5th bout and a world title in his 6th bout. During that rise the showed tremendous speed, skill, accuracy and scary power. Those traits allowed him to jump from Light Flyweight to Super Flyweight, and destroy Omar Andres Narvaez to become a 2-weight champion in just 8 career bouts.
As a Super Flyweight champion Inoue has been impressive without really showing how good he actually is. He ended a year long break from the ring, due to hand injuries, by dismantling Warlito Parrenas in 2 rounds, then re-injured his hand a bout later in a 1-sided 12 round decision win over David Carmona. A 1-sided win over Petchbarngborn Kokietgym followed but again didn't show Inoue shine, in fact he showed some ring-immaturity in that bout. Most recently he stopped the teak tough Kohei Kono, in probably his best performance since winning the title.
Although Inoue hasn't looked his best recently, he's still been head and shoulders better than anyone he's faced and has shown all sorts. He can box, he can bang, he can brawl, he can move and he can counter. There are flaws, mostly defensive ones, with Inoue but he's so destructive and looks so physically tough that a fighter will have to not only exploit his flaws, and there are very few, but also avoid being tagged themselves.
Whilst Inoue is regarded as one of the best little men in the sport, with wins over 4 men who have held world titles, less is known about Rodriguez. The 27 year is an American based Mexican born fighter who debuted in 2011 and has mixed in decent company, but never really shown that he belongs in the ring with someone like Inoue. In fact it's fair to say that his most notable results have been two competitive losses to former Inoue foe David Carmona. His best wins have been over Jonathan Vidal, Miguel Cartagena and David Quijano and Carlos Narvaez, contender types but not champion level fighters.
Known as "Meserito" the 27 year old has spent his time fighting between the US and Mexico, having gone 9-0 in the US and 7-3 in Mexico. This will be his first bout outside of those two countries and he comes into it in good form, having won his last 4 bouts. From the footage he's an aggressive fighter with nice body shots and a good output, but nothing sensational, and his defense doesn't seem to be the tightest, with his foot work looking slow and his power being less than imposing. Arguably his most impressive attribute looks to be his hand speed and he does throw some lovely flash combinations.
Although he's faced some good opponents this is a huge step up in class for Rodriguez and it's clear that with the travel and the top class opponent that he's up against he's going to be the under-dog. He's a decent fighter, but this really is a whole different level to what he's been competing at. Hee's in with someone who will out manoeuvred him, out speed him and out punch him, and the flurries he has had success with will be countered here.
What we're expecting is for Inoue to invite the pressure, and look to land some vicious counter shots, looking for a finish in the middle rounds ahead of his US debut in September. Rodriguez will come to fight, and will have his moments, but simply won't be able to cope when Inoue goes through the gears. Rodriguez has never been stopped before, but it's hard to see him last 12 rounds here with the Monster.
On the final two days of 2016 Japanese fight fans will get a series of world title bouts, ranging from intriguing rematches to complete mismatches. One of the most anticipated of those bouts will see WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (11-0, 9) return to the ring to seek his 4th defense of the title, as he takes on former 2-time WBA champion Kohei Kono (32-9-1, 13), and looks to secure one of the most notable wins of his career.
If you ask a typical western boxing fan right now what Japanese fighters they could name Inoue will be one of the few names on their lips, a sad fact in many ways but one that shows the appeal of the “Monster” who has been named dropped across Western boxing media, including by HBO. The 23 year old Kanagawa fighter isn't just a name who has been dropped by Western media but also by every hardcore fight fan, many of whom have seen Inoue fight either live on Fuji TV or on Youtube, and understandably they have been impressed by a youngster who combines exceptional skills, power and speed.
Inoue burst out in 2014 when he claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title, stopping Adrian Hernandez in 6 rounds, and then went on to claim the WBO Super Flyweight title with a stoppage against Omar Andres Narvaez. Those bouts saw Inoue prove he was the monster and saw him claiming world titles in his 6th and 8th bouts as a professional, with the win over Narvaez exciting people to a potential show down with Roman Gonzalez.
Although Inoue hasn't looked his best in recent bouts, wins over David Carmona and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, he has been plagued by issues including over-training and over-looking his opponents. Coming in to the bout with Kono however he has cut back his training and will have taken Kono seriously, knowing this is a huge chance to remind fans just how good he is, how fast he is and how destructive he is.
During a 42 fight career Kono has been one of boxing's true over-achievers. He lost on debut back in November 2000 and suffered his second lost in his 10th bout to fall to 8-2 (2). He again fell to a loss in 2005 as his record fell to 14-3 (4). At that point his career could easily have fallen by the way side but instead he took lessons from those losses and avenged that third defeat less than 2 years later as he claimed the Japanese Super Flyweight title, his first professional title. He would later unify with the OPBF title in 2008 but failed to claim a world title in his first attempt, losing in a thriller to Nobuo Nashiro. A second loss at world level occurred in 2010, to Tomas Rojas, before he suffered losses to Yota Sato and Yohei Tobe, falling to 25-7 (9).
Amazingly since the start of 2012 Kono's career has gone 7-2-1 (4) with wins against Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, Tepparith Kokietgym, to claim his first world title, Denkaosan Kaovichit, to claim his second title, Koki Kameda and Inthanon Sithchamuang whilst losses have come in close decisions to to Liborio Solis and Luis Concepcion.
In the ring Kono is an incredibly tough man, he has been down several times during his career, and has been hurt even more often, but has never stopped coming forward and trying to fight. Although tougher than old boots Kono is technically limited, a bit slow, and likes to walk forward before letting his hands go. He's solid with a high work rate and a great energy level but he doesn't really work to get his way in and instead applies often clumsy pressure, allowing fighters to out work and out move him.
Whilst Inoue's last few opponents haven't been exceptional it's fair to say Kono is genuine world class. Sadly though Inoue has been better against top opponents than against the lesser foes and his father has set a more relaxed training regime this time, to help prevent injuries. With that in mind we're expecting to see the best Inoue to date, and we're expecting to see him use his speed and power to dismantle a tough, and brave, Kono within 9 rounds.
For a second day running we get the chance to see a Super Flyweight world title fight, essentially giving us lower weight fight fans a brilliant one two, and in fact it will be third bout in the division in less than a week.
This time we see Japanese star, and current WBO champion, Naoya Inoue (10-0, 8) defending his title against Thai veteran Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-7-1, 18). The bout, the headline bout of a card at the Sky Arena in Zama, sees Inoue returning to fight at home for the first time since he took the Japanese title in the same arena more than 3 years ago. The bouts in between have all taken place in Tokyo. For Petchbarngborn sees him returning to Japan for the first time in almost 3 years, following a 2nd round TKO defeat to Sho Ishida in Osaka.
For the champion this will be his third defense of the title that he won in incredible fashion at the end of 2014, when he demolished Omar Andres Narvaez in 2 rounds. Since that win he has been plagued with hand injuries however he has still light up the boxing scene when he has fought, with a particularly impressive return to the ring last December against Warlito Parrenas.
Despite looking impressive against Narvaez and Parrenas Inoue was made to look human last time out, at times, as he went the distance with mandatory challenger David Carmona. Although he went the 12 round distance for the first time Inoue showed that he had the stamina to do 12 and came close to scoring a stoppage in the final seconds.
At his best Inoue is nothing short of breath taking. He's lightning quick, incredibly fluid and makes the sport of boxing look natural. He's incredibly calm in the ring, controls range with easy and make offensive boxing an art form with combinations that many fighters can only dream of. Not only does he have the speed and skill to do magical things in the ring but the power, with both hands, to really hurt fighters.
The Thai, who boxrec now list by his birth name of Karoon Jarupianlerd, is a bit of an under-whelming challenger for Inoue, though in many ways is a man who knows he has a great opportunity. That opportunity however has arisen mostly on the basis that the top fighters in the division are all booked up with other fights, mostly mandatory title bouts. He has also gotten this opportunity following Paul Butler's inability to make weight, with Butler having had to pull out of an eliminator with the Thai earlier in the year.
Petchbarngborn has experience of fighting in Japan with 5 bouts in country prior to facing Inoue. Sadly for the Thai however he is 1-4 in the country, with his sole stoppage loss coming in his last visit to the country, when Sho Ishida stopped him in 2 rounds. It would be easy to write him off given his form in Japan however he ran Kohei Kono incredibly close 4 years ago and blasted out Tomoya Kaneshiro at the end of 2012.
Coming in to this one the Thai is riding a 16 fight winning run, with 9 wins by T/KO, they may not have come against great opponents but his confidence will be high thanks to that run. He is also an improved fighter to the one who fought Ishida and looks like a fighter who has developed some solid skills. Despite having solid skills he is, all honestly, a long way from having any world class ability, and to beat Inoue a fighter needs to be world class in a lot of areas.
For Inoue the bout really should be a showcase defense, a quick blow out and a chance to test out the hands, both of which were bruised last time out against Carmona. However the pressure is on him to look good with all the attention being on him moving towards a bout with the winner of next weekend's WBC title bout between Carlos Cuadras and Roman Gonzalez. Petchbarngborn will be looking to play the spoiler to Inoue's potential mega-fight however we suspect the Thai's best hopes would be to put on a brave effort in a loss rather than look to score the upset of the year.
Over the last few months we've seen the Japanese boxing scene change drastically. We've seen a number of retirements, a number of title changes and we've seen several of the top fighters begin to look their age. Whilst that sounds bad for Japanese boxing the truth is that the new wave of fighters already appear to be here, lead by WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (9-0, 8) [井上 尚弥] who returns to the ring on May 8th to defend his title against mandatory challenger David Carmona (20-2-5, 8).
The Japanese 23 year old looks not only like a genuine star but looks like one of the most complete fighters on the planet, and a man who may well go one to not only “break America” but become a genuine sporting star. Out of the ring he's naturally charismatic, charming and in the ring he's exciting, aggressive and and a genuine phenomenon. It's easy to just look at his record and claim he's a novice but the reality is that he's a very special fighter and already holds notable wins over Ryoichi Taguchi, Adrian Hernandez and Omar Andres Narvaez, with the win over Narvaez being the win that really generated an international buzz about the “Monster”.
In the ring Inoue combines frighting power with lightning speed and incredible boxing ability. Looking for a flaw in Inoue's boxing is next to impossible right now and almost everything he does looks incredibly fluid, as if he was a well oiled, perfectly designed fighting machine.
For those who haven't followed Inoue they may have only seen a couple of his fights, perhaps only his destruction of Narvaez from late 2014, and his most recent bout against Warlito Parrenas. If they are the only two bouts you've seen you'd perhaps think he was just an incredible seek and destroy fighter. The reality however is that he's a brilliant pure boxer who can box on the back foot, as he did in his second bout against Ngaoprajan Chuwatana, and he can box and move, as he did against Yuki Sano, in a bout that he fought mostly 1-handed.
He has become a seek and destroy fighter, but the reality is that he has a lot in his locker and we suspect he can pull what he needs, when he needs, if he needs. The fact he has shown an ability to box, bang, brawl and counter really is a worrying thing for his opponents, as is the fact the he appears to be getting better and already seems to have some of the best body punches, and combinations in world boxing.
When it comes to the challenger there is, unfortunately, little that really stands out about the 25 year old Mexican. In fact in many ways he appears to be a man who really has done very, very, very little to deserve a mandatory title fight. His first bout of note came back in 2013, when he narrowly beat Danny Flores for the WBO Youth title, and after two defenses he was given his first world title fight. That world title fight ended with Carmona being stopped in 7 rounds by Narvaez back in December 2013, in what was impressively Carmona's 5th bout of the year.
Since losing to Narvaez we've seen Carmona go 4-0-1, with the draw being a very contentious one against Warlito Parrenas in a bout that Carmona really should have lost. Notably the Parrenas bout was for the WBO “interim” title and the winner was supposed to face Inoue, instead both men have ended up facing Inoue given that Inoue beat Parrenas at the end of last year and will now be facing Carmona.
Carmona's level seems to have been found out with his losses to Narvae and his draw with Parrenas. Although he has improved, and developed, the fact is that he's genuinely not a fighter who has anything to trouble Inoue with. As a result we suspect he will become the third successive victim to fall within 2 rounds against Inoue who will almost certainly be looking to make his US debut later this year.
It's fair to say that the lower weights have had extra attention in the west over the past year. The leading fighter for that growth has been Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez, who has really helped awaken the US market to the talent in the typically over-looked smaller weights. Whilst Gonzalez has started to become a star in the US he's not the only name on the lips of hardcore fight fans who have been excited by the lower weights in recent years. Another fighter is Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) who has unfortunately had a year to forget with the year effectively written off following hand injuries, injuries that have slowed his meteoric rise.
Thankfully for Inoue, and for fight fans, those hand injuries have healed and on December 29th the youngster returns to make the first defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title that he won last December, when he blew away Omar Andres Narvaez. In the opposite corner will not be a patsy and instead it will be mandatory challenger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21), a heavy handed, aggressive and under-rated Filipino.
As with most of Inoue's bouts so far this is a tough test, though as we've seen through out his career, he's a fighter who is significantly better than most out there, and in fact he could well be a future claimant to the #1 spot on the mythical pound-for-pound list.
Inoue was pegged for stardom from his days as an amateur and and he has been raced to becoming a star. In just his 4th bout be claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title, defeating current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi, a fight later he claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title and then he claimed the WBC Light Flyweight title, stopping Adrian Hernandez. In just 8 fights has become a 2-weight world champion, one of the faces of Japanese boxing and a man who some are suggesting could be the man to finally end the long unbeaten run of Roman Gonzalez. He is, arguably, the leading figure in the next wave of Japanese superstars and is possibly the man to bring western TV cameras over to the east.
At his best Inoue is a boxer-puncher with frightening power, alarming accuracy, blurring speed, an instinctive knowledge of what shots to through and a natural ring awareness. Although he's a boxer-puncher he has shown an ability to be a brawler, an outside fighter and a pure counter puncher. Looking for something that he lacks is like looking for a needle in a haystack, however if being overly critical there are some issues with his defense, at least when he's been a bit too comfortable against some opponents, and of course the hand issues, which hopefully will not reoccur in the future.
Whilst in the ring Inoue is a sensation and one of the most natural fighters in the sport he does, of course, have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders. The 23 year old is viewed as being something special and knows that millions watch him in Japan on Fuji TV. He also knows that he is expected to perform like a star, despite spending a year out of the ring. He will also, perhaps, be worried about re-injuring the hand. The Inoue we see against Parrenas may not be the same Inoue that we saw destroy Narvaez and this is a real worry.
When it comes to Parrenas we know we're talking about a much lower profile fighter than Inoue, but one who is himself incredibly exciting. The Filipino is a monstrous puncher, and has 12 stoppages in the first 3 rounds. He's a danger man early on but also dangerous late and has shown solid punching power late into fights, although he has never scored a stoppage after the 8th round. Not only is he heavy handed but he always comes to fight and has a great engine, as he showed last time out against David Carmona, where he fought at a high pace for 12 rounds.
Whilst Parrenas is an aggressive banger here are certainly some issues with him. He has been stopped 4 times, and his chin is very questionable. He can certainly give it out, but it seems that he's not so good at taking it. Whilst it's fair to say that being stopped by Marlon Tapales and Jonathan Taconing isn't too bad he has also been stopped by Erwin Picardal and Oscar Blanquet, and was also dropped by Atsushi Kakutani, in a memorable 172 second bout. Those chin issues, especially early, could be a problem here, as is the fact he can be rather wild and wide and leaves himself open to counters, something that Inoue will take advantage of.
Whilst Parrenas has been stopped 4 times, and beaten 6 times, he is currently on an unbeaten run of 7-0-1 and has gone 12-1-1 in his last 14. Those runs have shown that he's improved. He's beaten fighters like Kakutani, Koji Itagaki, Tomoya Kaneshiro and Espinos Sabu whilst also fighting to a draw with Carmona, in what seemed to be a very unfortunate result for Parrenas. The improvement in Parrenas has been impressive but it's still a huge step up in class for the Pinoy puncher.
If Inoue is close to the fighter he was a year ago it's hard to see him losing to Parrenas, despite the danger that the Filipino brings. If however Inoue is rusty then Parrenas certainly has a chance to at least chin check the “Monster”. Our guess however is that Hideyuki Ohashi and Shingo Inoue wouldn't let Naoya fight unless they were confident he was fully healed, fully fit and had impressed in sparring. With that in mind we can't see anything but an Inoue stoppage, likely inside 5 rounds.
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.