Naoya Inoue moving up to 118 after Boyeaux fight
By Jim Dower: WBO super flyweight champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue’s title defense this Saturday night against Yoan Boyeaux (41-4, 26 KOs) will be his last in this weight class, as he reportedly will be moving up to bantamweight to campaign in that weight class in his next fight.
What this means is there won’t be a unification fight between Inoue, 24, and WBC 115 lb. champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40 KOs) in 2018 unless a deal can be made for one of them to move up or down in weight. Rungvisai, 31, obviously would love to fight Inoue (14-0, 12 KOs), because it’s a fight that would create a tremendous amount of interest from the boxing world.
A win for Rungvisai over Inoue would further cement him as the new star for HBO. Rungvisai already beat Roman ‘Chocolatito’ 2 times in a row, and he’s about to add former WBA/WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada to his list, when the two of them face off on February 24 at SuperFly2 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. HBO Boxing After Dark will be televising that fight.
If there’s any criticism that can be leveled at Inoue, it’s the fact that he’s never faced the tough dogs in the super flyweight division since he moved up to the weight class in 2014. Inoue’s toughest fight to date at 115 was against the 40-year-old Omar Andres Narvaez in 2014. Narvaez is a finesse fighter with very little punching power. Inoue never took on any of the real dangerous fighters in the super flyweight division.
Inoue could have fought Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas, Khalid Yafai, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Carlos Cuadras. Inoue didn’t fight any of those guys, and it makes you wonder if his promoters are focusing on making sure he has a nice record by matching him against the lesser fighters. You can’t say that Inoue is a great fighter given the level of his opposition. For whatever reason, Inoue’s management hasn’t made the effort to match him against the best at 115.
Inoue and Boyeaux will be facing each other this Saturday night on December 30 at the Bunka Gym in Yokohama, Japan. Boyeaux, 29, hasn’t lost a fight in 5 years, winning 31 of his last 32 matches.
Inoue moving up in weight to bantamweight means we’ll be seeing him potentially take on the top guys, like WBC champ Luis Nery, IBF/WBA champion Ryan Burnett or WBO belt holder Zolani Tete. It would be great news for the boxing fans to see Inoue take a real risk in facing Tete, who is seen by a lot of fans as being the best fighter in the 118-lb. division today. Tete and Nery are 2 of the best at bantamweight. Burnett isn’t viewed as the best. It’ll be a pity if Inoue sidesteps Nery and Tete and instead goes after the perceived weak link among the champions at bantamweight by facing Burnett. The World Boxing Association also has another champion Jamie McDonnell, who is their WBA World bantamweight champion. He’s not considered to be the best either for the belt holders at 118.
Inoue has a lot of talent, but he hasn’t proven it yet by fighting the best at 115, and now it appears he never will. Inoue will be moving up in weight rather than staying around to right Rungvisai, Carlos Cuadras, Khalid Yafai or Jerwin Ancajas. Inoue previously held the WBC light flyweight title from April 2014 to November 2015. Inoue vacated the belt in November 2015 and moved up to super flyweight. Inoue has held the WBO super flyweight title from December 2014 to the present time.
Since moving to super flyweight in 2014m, Inoue has beaten these fighters:
• Omar Andres Narvaez
• Warlito Parrenas
• David Carmona
• Karoon Jarupianlerd
• Kohei Kono
• Ricardo Rodriguez
• Antonio Nieves