By Jake Donovan
Naoya Inoue was all of nine years old when Omar Narvaez fought for - and won - his first major title way back in 2002.
Over 12 years later, Narvaez is still an active two-division champ, reigning as a flyweight titlist for seven years and spending the past four with a super flyweight belt around his waist.
Through just 26 months as a pro, Inoue - in his 8th pro fight - looks to add his second major title in as many weight classes. The shot at glory comes at the expense of abandoning the 108 lb. division, as he moves up two weight classes after his brief stay as a junior flyweight titlist.
Naturally, the odds are on the 21-year young Inoue to win going away.
Narvaez has fought and won outside of his native Argentina in the past, but travels to Japan for the first time in his 14-year career in defending against Inoue. The bout headlines a loaded show Tuesday evening at Metropolitan Gym in Tokyo, Japan.
A win on Tuesday will give Narvaez (43-1-2, 23KOs) his 12th super flyweight title defense, to go along with the 15 he racked up at flyweight before moving up in 2010.
The lone loss of his career came in Oct. '11, a foolish attempt at reigning bantamweight king Nonito Donaire as the two stunk out Madison Square Garden Theatre over 12 rounds.
One year later came the pro debut of Inoue (7-0, 6KOs). The precocious teenager quickly moved up the ranks, which tends to happen when you start facing opposition with 20 or more fights straight out the gate.
Just 18 months into his pro career came his first title, as Inoue tore through Adrian Hernandez this past April. A one-sided 6th round knockout announced his arrival at the top stage with authority, confirmed just five months later in his lone title defense, stopping Samartiek Kokietgym in September.
While a win for Narvaez adds another title defense to his incredible career, a victory by Inoue - especially of the decisive variety - could land Fighter of the Year honors in a race that remains wide open heading into fight night.
Will youth prevail? Or will the night prove there's no substitute for experience?
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes Tuesday's super flyweight action goes down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: OMAR NARVAEZ vs. NAOYA INOUE
Ryan Burton (Inoue Dec.): “I don't think Narvaez will engage enough to get stopped but I see Inoue winning at least 10 of the rounds.”
Jake Donovan (Inoue Dec.): “It says a lot about the 21-year old Inoue that in just his 8th fight, he goes in as a 12:1 betting favorite in a fight where he moves up two weight classes to face an incumbent champion whose lone loss was a foolish attempt up the scales. No, Narvaez is that far along in his career. YES, Inoue is THAT good. I expect a more competitive fight than most believe to be the case, but a decisive enough win to cap what will likely be recognized on these pages as a Fighter of the Year-worthy in-ring campaign.”
John A. MacDonald (Inoue Dec.): “Naoya Inoue could highlight why a Fighter of The Year shouldn't be named until all significant fights have taken place for the year. The prodigious 21-year-old goes up two weight classes as he looks at add Omar Narvaez's 115 lbs strap to the 108 lbs title he captured from Adrian Hernandez back in April. The 6 round destruction of Hernandez - arguably the best light flyweight in the world at the time - remains one of the best performances of the 2014. While 39-year-old Narvaez hasn't faced Murderers Row during his long run as a 112 lbs or 115 lbs champion but has always done enough to keep retain his title. He'll need all of his defensive nous and ring craft if he's to stop Inoue becoming a two-weight champion in only his 8th fight, sadly for the champion I believe his run finally comes to an end as the younger man out-works and out-lands him en route to a wide decision.”
Cliff Rold (Inoue Dec.): “Inoue is taking a big bite at the apple. Narvaez hasn't always tested himself the way one would like but he's passed his share of tough exams. Cagey and defensively skilled, he could frustrate Inoue in spots. Still, the feeling is Inoue is picking an aging titlist who is small for 115. It's a tough, but calculated, risk. Inoue's risk will pay off but there may be some debate on the visiting side.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Inoue Dec.): “Inoue show us he is a great fighter vs Hernandez...is a hardest puncher and very skills warrior. At this stage he moving up to tray vs another great counter puncher as Narvaez. If Inoe can impose his style over Narvaez at the first middle of this bout, Inoue should get a close UD in 12 rounds.”
Alexey Sukachev (Inoue Dec.): “I clearly don't think that such fights are made simply for the sake of risk. It doesn't look this way. So Inoue knows something of him, and we all know (and those who doubt - may re-observe his fights against Orucuta) that Narvaez is sliding. In this fight, Inoue will have some rocky moments in the midst - but his power and freshness will win him the start of the fight, and his physical prowess coupled with solid boxing ability will help him at the end. It'll be a rough fight, with the Japanese being much more active, and narvaez - much more precise. At the end, it'll be Inoue's fight with scores like 116-112, or 115-113.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox