Cleveland's Antonio "Carita" Nieves is going into his first world title fight having grown up watching the kind of damage a movie monster from Japan can inflict.
But he's not scared.
On Saturday, September 9, Nieves (17-1-2, 9 KOs) will challenge two-time world championo Naoya "Monster" Inoue (13-0, 11 KOs) as the chief supporting televised bout of an HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader (10:15 p.m. ET/PT), live from the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Entitled "SUPERFLY," the event will be headlined by the rematch between current WBC World Super Flyweight Champion Wisaksil Wangek of Thailand and Nicaraguan superstar Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez.
Opening the telecast will be a battle of Mexican former world champions, as former WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Carlos "Principe" Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KO's) will take on rival countrymen and former flyweight world champion Juan Francisco "El Gallo" Estrada (35-2-0, 25 KO's) of Sonora, Mexico.
The fight against Inoue is a dream come true for 30-year-old Nieves, a quick-fisted and determined fighter, who has spent his entire boxing career waiting for this, his first chance at a world championship.
Nieves, who has campaigned until now as a world-class bantamweight, will have the size advantage in Saturday's fight, as well as the edge in experience.
That said, it will be no easy task. Yokohama's 24-year-old Inoue is known for his devastating punching power, especially to the body. The Japanese slugger won the WBC Light Flyweight World Championship in his sixth fight and is already making the seventh defense of his WBO World Super Flyweight Title he won the title in his eighth pro fight.
"Training went great," said Nieves, who prepared for battle with career-long trainer Joseph Delguyd at the Old School Boxing Club in Cleveland. "Making this lower weight was no problem at all. I'm about one or two pounds over with a week to go and I haven't missed a meal yet. I always knew it wouldn't be hard to make this weight. I make 118 easily, so a couple pounds more wasn't going to be that difficult."
Nieves says unlike Godzilla movies, he will be bigger than his Japanese opponent.
"We have been watching tapes on him. He's a two-time world champions, quick and strong at the weight. They say he's a monster from Japan like Godzilla, but we will see. I believe I'll be stronger bigger guy at this weight. A lot of his fights were at 108 lbs and then he jumped up in weight. The fact that I'm coming down in weight will help me a lot. I am going to be able to push him around like people haven't done to him before."
Nieves says he knows what a victory would mean over the streaking Inoue, in a division packed with talent.
"I'm taking this fight as my entrance into this division that is loaded with big fights. After this fight I'll be in a position for more big fights. To win the world championship means everything to me. That's why I did all this: to fight the best and now we have that opportunity and that's what we're going to do. We have a game plan and Saturday, we're going to execute it."
"I am very excited for Antonio to get an opportunity to showcase his skills in a world title on HBO," said his promoter, Dmitriy Salita. "Antonio is one of the better-known and most accomplished contenders in the division and I expect a spectacular performance on September 9."
Tim VanNewhouse, Nieves' co-manager, says he and his partner couldn't be happier with their fighter's achievement. "It's very rewarding to David McWater and I to see Antonio get to this level. He will be the first under the Split-T family of fighters to fight for a world title."