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.
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