by Cliff Rold
A single combination was all it took.
Boxing followers can be a cynical lot. There may be some who find reasons to be less than impressed with what Naoya Inoue did on Sunday in Japan. He was supposed to win and did.
Sometimes, it’s okay to be impressed even by the expected.
Juan Carlos Payano is a two-time Olympian and former WBA titlist with wins over Anselmo Moreno and Rau’Shee Warren. He’s a proven a solid, capable professional who had never been stopped.
Left jab, right hand, showers…70 seconds.
This is the second time Inoue has done this in 2018 and really the third overall in his career.
In 2014, he shelled two-time Olympian Omar Narvaez in two rounds. Like Payano, Narvaez was a two-time Olympian and as a professional he had double-digit title defenses in two weight classes. He’d never been stopped and no one has done it again since. Earlier this year, he dismantled Jamie McDonnell in the opening frame. McDonnell was a former IBF bantamweight titlist with wins over four other men who had held a major title in the division. He had also never been stopped.
These aren’t easy men to beat. To devastate them is impressive. To act like anything else is the case is an exercise in cynicism for the sake of it. It’s one of the things that marked the early career of Roy Jones Jr. Guys like Glenn Wolfe and Thomas Tate were tough outs for others, or at least went rounds, and didn’t get stopped. Roy went through them like they weren’t there.
The one thing missing for Inoue right now is showdowns with other prime, hungry men at the title level who also don’t know how to lose. That missing piece will begin to be addressed immediately.
The World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament has begun. Naoya Inoue is seen in many corners as the favorite to win it all. One thing is for sure: he’ll be well rested for the semi-finals.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Inoue: In two weeks, the world will find out who Inoue faces in the WBSS semi-finals. Puerto Rico’s 26-year old IBF titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KO), the four seed in the brackets, faces Australia’s 27-year old Jason Moloney (17-0, 14 KO). Moloney has a light resume so far as a pro but he was a good amateur and had a stoppage of veteran Kohei Kono in his last fight. The Rodriguez-Moloney winner, assuming there isn’t a draw, will be the first undefeated opponent of Inoue’s career. There is no need to speculate beyond that fight. The future for Inoue is set.
The Future for Payano: Payano hasn’t had optimal career activity over the years and now, at 34, it’s hard to see many places to go. He can continue to fight for a living but the bantamweight title picture is out of reach for now and likely for good. How he responds going forward to the sort of concussive shot he suffered Sunday could be interesting. Some guys are more susceptible to knockouts after a right hand like that. If there is a silver lining, it is that Payano didn’t suffer a protracted beating. No matter the result in the WBSS, Payano has plenty to be proud of in his boxing life.
Kiryl Relikh took care of business against Edouard Troyanovsky in his WBSS opener at 140 lbs. The WBA titlist will face the winner of Regis Prograis-Terry Flanagan in the semi-finals…Ken Shiro continues to impress as a Jr. flyweight titlist. He looked good against veteran Milan Melindo and would match well with division leader Hekkie Budler…Anyone who missed Jessie Vargas-Thomas Dulorme should cue it up. That was a gem this weekend and as fair a draw as you’re likely to see.
Rold Picks 2018: 37-15 (Including picks in Vargas-Dulorme, Beterbiev-Johnson, Roman-McDonnell, Shiro-Melindo, and Relikh-Troyanovsky)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]