In some countries things are a little bit different. A prospect tipped for the top is pushed hard with the intention of shaking up the boxing world, not merely being managed to a title fight years down the line. It's this fast rising mentality which has been behind Naoya Inoue's (7-0, 6) incredibly 7 fight career. Yes he has only fought 7 times as a professional yet has already achieved more than men with multiple times as many fights as he has.
Not happy with just winning a world title in his 6th bout Inoue will attempting to shake up the boxing world again as he attempts to become a 2-weight world champion in just his 8th professional bout. Again surpassing many fighters who fight their whole career in the hope of just fighting for a world title. Not only will Inoue be hoping to become a 2-weight champion in his coming bout, on December 30th, but he will be taking on the longest reigning champion in the division, Omar Andres Narvaez (43-1-2, 23).
For those who don't know about the 21 year old Inoue we really need to ask where have you been the last couple of years? The youngster was tipped for stardom from the moment he partook in his pro-test, bashing up the then Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda. In his first bout he stopped Filipino national champion Crison Omayao, then took out Thailand's Ngaoprajan Chuwatana. After those 2 fights it was so obvious he was on the fast track to the top and in fight #4 he won the Japanese national Light Flyweight title, beating the then world ranked Ryoichi Taguchi by 10 round decision. A fight later he had added the OPBF title and announced his intention of winning a world title in very next fight.
Inoue, unlike many fighters who talk of grandeur, wasn't just talking the talk and in fight #6 he stopped Adrian Hernandez to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title. Whilst some fighters may get “cheap” stoppages this certainly wasn't one, this wasn't the referee interjecting to be part of the fight, instead Inoue had broken Hernandez and made the Mexican quit. The physical strength, power, speed and technical ability of Inoue was just too much for Hernandez, despite the fact Inoue was himself suffering from cramps due to excessive weight loss.
It was expected that Inoue would move up to 112lbs immediately after the win over Hernandez. Instead he did what champions should do and sealed his reign with a defense of the belt, stopping Thailand's Samartlek Kokietgym in the 11th round of their bout. It was the least impressive performance of Inoue's career though was still a dominant one.
Now the youngster will be skipping Flyweight to battle against Narvaez at 115lbs. A weight that his team, including father-trainer Shingo Inoue, believes is his natural fighting weight. The step up in weight class is a major one as is the step up in quality. Hernandez was a credible world champion however Narvaez is a 2-weight world champion who has ruled at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight amassing a huge number of defenses. Not only is Narvaez a real champion but he is a man who's only loss so far has come against a much bigger man in Nonito Donaire, and even Donaire failed to ever really hurt the significantly smaller Narvaez.
The reason Narvaez has gone so far in the sport is that he is very well schooled, very fit, physically strong and surprisingly fast. He's not a big puncher or the most imposing fighting in the division but he is one of the best out there. Defensively he can be as tight as anyone giving next to no target for a fighter, as shown in his bout with Donaire, whilst offensively his fast hands and careful counter-combinations can be grinding and chip away at an opponent. Worse yet for opponents is the fact that he's a southpaw, making him tricky as well as skilled, tough and fast.
For many Japanese fans this will be the first time they've gotten to see Narvaez however it's not the first time he's fought a Japanese fighter. Just last year he became the first man to stop the tough Hiroyuki Hisataka, who visited Narvaez's homeland of Argentina and was halted in 10 rounds. That was one of 3 stoppages Narvaez has in his last 4 bouts however he's really not a puncher and looking at those results in isolation do give a misleading image of the Argentinian fighter.
Aged 39 Narvaez is incredibly old for a Super Flyweight. He has been in world title fights since 2002 and has to be on the slide physically. That however wasn't seen last time out when he defeated Felipe Orucuta. The result might have been a majority decision on paper but what Pat Russell was watching is a mystery to us as it seemed a clear, yet competitive, win for the Argentinian who struggled for a few rounds before adapting and taking a clear win.
Going into this bout there are a lot of questions for both men to answer. For Narvaez we do have to wonder what his 39 year old body is capable of, whether he is travelling to Japan for a payday and how he can cope with a fast, strong and powerful youngster. On the other hand we need to wonder how Inoue copes with a man capable of frustrating him with a shell like defense, how he copes with the new weight division and how he copes with a fighter who is as good as Narvaez.
If Inoue is as good as he has looked so far, and as good as we think, we suspect he will manage to out work and out muscle the Argentinian. If Inoue isn't as sharp at Super Flyweight as he's looked in his Light Flyweight bouts, or if he lets his defense slip, as he has done at times in the past, he may be in trouble. We suspect Inoue is the real deal and will show it by using his fresh legs to keep the shorter fighter at range early on, racking up the rounds and making Narvaez move to plan B. When Narvaez falls behind we suspect he'll become more offensive and that will suit Inoue who would likely love a tear up with Narvaez believing himself to be the stronger and more powerful fighter.
We think if Inoue gets the better of the action up close Narvaez will then turn to plan C, one based on survival and allow Inoue to take the win without running a risk of being stopped by the Japanese youngster.
Our guess on the result, Inoue UD12. And with that win he'd have to be the front runner for the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
(Image courtesy of http://www.ohashi-gym.com)