By Lyle Fitzsimmons
A 6-foot-7, 255-pound man was reduced to a flopping fish by a single punch.
And somehow, it was only the second-best moment of the best boxing Saturday of the year.
Of course, when Japanese stud Naoya Inoue joined the three-division club with a blitz of previously unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez, he not only made a violent lunge for the apex of worthwhile pound-for-pound lists – he also set a bar so high that even a highlight-reel heavyweight KO couldn’t jump it.
Yes, the kid’s that good. And yes, the buzz around him is that strong.
It’s reminiscent of seismic chatter that emanated from General Santos City a decade or so ago, when future senator – and somehow still relevant – Manny Pacquiao was in the midst of a ladder climb that boosted him from flyweight to junior middleweight with only an occasional competitive hiccup.
The 26-year-old Inoue hasn’t yet encountered his own professional indigestion yet, and, based on the relative ease with which he dispatched a champion who’d entered with 12 KOs in 19 wins, it may be a few years – or at least a few more pounds – before it seems remotely possible.
No offense to Nonito Donaire.
But it’ll be a moral victory of heavyweight proportion if he survives even nine minutes.
In fact, no 118-pounder this side of Luis Nery seems even a plausible match for the streaking “Monster,” and even the likes of Emanuel Navarrete – fresh off a second straight evisceration of Isaac Dogboe at 122 – would find himself on the short end of the odds-maker stick should he reach the radar.
It seems a ridiculous ask at this point to suggest Inoue carry his 5-foot-5 frame up to featherweight, but it may warrant another eight pounds and a fourth title before the sort of fight that converts a hardcore fan buzz into a mainstream attraction is makeable. PBC stalwart Leo Santa Cruz is that division’s reigning mainstay and stands a lanky 5-7 1/2, but fellow Haymonite Gary Russell Jr. is a recognizable name with a recognizable belt and a more realistic body type – not to mention a compelling level of athleticism.
If he and LSC can’t hammer out the deal they both claim to crave, perhaps he’d be interested in a role as domestic dragon slayer if Inoue’s handlers turn their post-WBSS attention to a return U.S. visit in 2020.
Given the box office zeal created by superheroes, the market for high-end monsters is obviously hot.
And if you’ve got to emulate the path of a paradigm-wrecking fighter, Pac’s is about as good as it gets.
Meanwhile, a mere seven-hour flight away, Brooklyn found itself in awe of similar destruction.
And while Dominic Breazeale may go down in history as only the best heavyweight with his own first name – it says here he edges out Dominick Guinn – it’s no less memorable that he was rendered useless by what’s evolved into the single most exciting punch in boxing, Deontay Wilder’s right hand.
Does it mean the American can do the same to Anthony Joshua, or do it decisively in a return with Tyson Fury? Not hardly. But the re-introduction of his one-shot thunder was mass marketable thanks to Breazeale’s sheer mass, and the state of sheer helplessness he’d entered upon crumbling to the floor.
It’s one thing to lay out Artur Szpilka.
It’s another to take down a tree weighing an eighth of a ton with a single swipe of the axe.
Another log on the promotional fire, if you will – and, as Ralph Wiley used to say, more evidence that lust for the big punch comes from the primordial ooze.
And make no mistake, Joshua insists he’s relishing the build-up, too.
“All the hype is good for everyone in boxing,” he said. “They’ve been calling me out (since 2015). I’m going to keep grinding, keep working. When I step into the ring, I’ll be ready.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBO junior lightweight title – Kissimmee, Florida
Masayuki Ito (champion/No. 11 IWBR) vs. Jamel Herring (No. 9 WBO/No. 33 IWBR)
Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO): Second title defense; Won championship in only career U.S. fight (1-0, 0 KO)
Herring (19-2, 10 KO): First title fight; Will be fighting in his 10th state, plus Washington, D.C.
Fitzbitz says: Herring is a veteran of the road and arrives in Florida with a respectable resume, but Ito is probably a little closer to the top of the heap at 130 pounds. Close, but no cigar. Ito by decision (75/25)
This week’s garbage title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” featherweight title – Fuzhou, China
Can Xu (“champion”/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Shun Kubo (No. 10 WBA/No. 16 IWBR)
Why it’s garbage: Of all the fighters nicknamed “Monster,” it’s clear that Xu isn’t anywhere near on Naoya Inoue’s level. And when it comes to the WBA’s 126-pounders, he’s surely nowhere near the stratosphere occupied by Leo Santa Cruz. Thus, this title fight isn’t worth the marquee it’s listed on.
WBA “world” light flyweight title – Fuzhou, China
Carlos Canizales (“champion”/No. 11 IWBR) vs. Sho Kimura (No. 2 WBA/Unranked IWBR)
Why it’s garbage: Kimura isn’t far removed from a brief run as the WBO’s top man at 112, so he’s got plenty of street cred when it comes to a spotlight event at 108. Problem is, he’s aiming at a lower target than the WBA has assigned to Hiroto Kyoguchi, which makes this a waste of championship jewelry.
Last week's picks: 4-1 (WIN: Taylor, Inoue, Wilder, Russell; LOSS: Konishi)
2019 picks record: 43-6 (87.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,054-349 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.