Inoue A Win Away From Shaking Up Fighter Of Year Race

By Jake Donovan
In a fight that has major Year-End awards - including Fighter of the Year - on pause, precocious Naoya Inoue moves up two weight classes to take on long-reigning 115 lb. titlist Omar Narvaez. Their clash takes place Tuesday in Tokyo, Japan, headlining a loaded card that features two more major title fights.

Narvaez and Inoue did their part to keep the main event intact, as both fighters made weight for their scheduled 12-round bout. Narvaez  (43-1-2, 23KOs)   tipped the scales at a fighting-ready 114.4 lb, while Inoue - who moves up from junior flyweight - came in just under the limit at 114.8 lb. 

The bout marks Narvaez' attempted 12th defense of the title he won in May '10, following a lengthy alphabet title reign at flyweight. The 39-year old southpaw has fought just six previous times outside of his native Argentina, with his record at 4-1-1 when away from home. Included among the lot is the lone loss of his career, dropping a 12-round decision in an embarrassing showing versus Nonito Donaire in a failed bid at a bantamweight belt in Oct' 11 at Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City. 

Overall, Narvaez boasts an incredible mark of 28-1-1 in major title fights. His last defense came in September, scoring a majority decision over Felipe Orucuta in a rematch to their far more debatable first affair last May, in which Narvaez escaped with a highly disputed split decision. 

Inoue (7-0, 6KOs) has wasted no time in moving from newcomer to prospect to champion since turning pro just over two years ago. His first title win came just days before his 21st birthday, slaughtering Adrian Hernandez inside of six rounds to claim a 108 lb. title. 

Just one defense followed, an 11th round stoppage of Samartiek Kokietgym in September, before deciding he can no longer squeeze into a junior flyweight costume. Shortly thereafter came the decision to pencil in one more fight in 2014, leapfrogging the flyweight division to challenge an incumbent titlist who was entering his 25th title fight by the time Inoue turned pro in Oct. '12. 

A win by Inoue - especially one of the decisive (or better) variety - will garner the 21-year old major consideration for 2014 Fighter of the Year, a race that currently also includes unbeaten lightweight king Terence Crawford and undefeated super flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng among the short list of frontrunners for the award. 

Also on the show: 
- Former two-division champ Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10KOs) takes on Mexico's Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15KOs) in a 12-round bout for the 108 lb. belt vacated by Inoue in order to challenge at a higher weight;
- Jorge Linares (37-3, 24KOs) - also a former two-division titlist - takes another swing at a lightweight belt as he faces Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18KOs) for a vacant title. 
- Takuma Inoue and Nestor Narvaez - the younger siblings of the main event players - square off in a scheduled eight-round flyweight bout. Inoue (3-0, 1KO) turned 19 on Friday, while Narvaez (20-2-2, 9KOs) celebrates his 33rd birthday on Monday by making weight.
- Rising super flyweight prospect (and perhaps ready for contention) Ryo Matsumoto (12-0, 10KOs) looks to capitalize on the biggest win of his career - a two-round drubbing of former titlist Denkaosan Kaovichit in September - as he faces Thailand's Rusalee Samor (25-5-2, 11KOs)
- In perhaps the lone mismatch of the card (on paper), 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Ryota Murata (5-0, 4KOs) faces American journeyman Jessie Nicklow (24-4-3, 8KOs)

The show airs live on Fuji TV in Japan, and on TyC Sports in Argentina and the United States. 
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Babalu11 on 12-29-2014

Adrian Hernandez is one of my favorite little favorites and this kid Inoue took his belt pretty easily. He's fast, accurate and has power, but moving 2 divisions to fight a veteran is a big risk. I see it a…

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