This past weekend the legend known as Omar Andres Narvaez continued his reign atop the super flyweight division with a dominant victory over Hiroyuki Hisataka. Hisataka may have only been a fringe contender but he does have wins over Hussein Hussein, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, and Sonny Boy Jaro. Jaro was recently the lineal flyweight champion and the only other man to defeat Panomroonglek is Koki Kameda (which is debatable to say the least). While Kameda escaped with a split decision, Hisataka widely outpointed and stopped Panomroonglek inside 8 rounds.
But I digress. Narvaez, utilizing a high guard and great timing, picked Hisataka apart from the opening bell. Seemingly aware he was being out classed and needed to do something drastic, Hisataka came out guns blazing at the start of round 4 and did his best to break through Narvaez's defense. Some shots did partially get through, but the damage was minimal. Then, once Hisataka finished unloading his clip, Narvaez made him pay. Hisataka's defense was already poor to begin with, so, after additionally punching himself out, it just became target practice for Narvaez. Hisataka struggled to mount a sustained attack for the remainder of the bout and took a heavy beating as early as round 6. Eventually referee Julio Cesar Alvarado took mercy on Hisataka and waved it off in round 10. Thus a man barely 5ft tall and pushing 40 years of age retained his WBO super flyweight title. But who are the other old world champions in the history of the 115lb division? Let's take a look (cutoff age 35):
1999-07-31 Jesus Rojas - WBA - 35 years, 6 months, 0 days
Rojas dethroned Satoshi Iida the year before to capture the title, had a technical draw in his 1st defense against Hideki Todaka, and then lost the rematch to the same man. Rojas was previously the WBA flyweight champion a decade earlier.
2009-09-04 Jose Lopez - WBO - 37 years, 5 months, 6 days
Lopez won the vacant title by defeating Pramuansak Posuwan earlier in 2009 then immediately lost it to Marvin Sonsona in his 1st defense. However, what's more remarkable is the fact that Lopez was 0-4 in world title fights prior to becoming champion and finally capitalized on his 5th shot 8 years after his last opportunity.
2001-03-11 Leo Gamez - WBA - 37 years, 7 months, 3 days
And then there was legendary Leo Gamez. Gamez was the 2nd Latino fighter to hold recognized world titles in 4 weight classes and only a few more have accomplished the task since (Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, and Jorge Arce). The first Latin fighter to pull it off is generally considered as the greatest of them all, Roberto Duran. But while he's the only current IBHOFer in this group, Marquez and Morales are guaranteed induction while Arce and Gamez have strong cases as well. Moving back to Gamez, he lost the WBA super flyweight title he won from Hideki Todaka to Celes Kobayashi in his 1st defense.
2013-08-24 Omar Andres Narvaez - WBO - 38 years, 1 month, 14 days (and counting)
And finally we come to the man of the hour. This was Narvaez's 8th defense of his super flyweight title in a career that's 25-1-1 in world title fights from flyweight to bantamweight. It's rather unfortunate that the lone loss may be what most people outside of Argentina will remember him for, an uninspiring performance against Nonito Donaire at bantamweight. Personally I had the fight a lot closer than the judges had it (a shutout) but that's just me. I have this foolish notion of scoring fights primarily based on clean punching. Be that as it may, Donaire was supposed to win. He had EVERY physical advantage and was the next big thing from the Philippines. He was also supposed to knock Narvaez out. Most Nonito fans gave their man a pass because Omar "fought to survive," but in reality that was just his usual fight against a much more difficult opponent than he's accustomed to facing. It's nearly impossible for a counter puncher to beat another counter puncher that's much bigger, faster, stronger, and younger (yet simultaneously more experienced as a professional). Omar didn't even have a puncher's chance.
2010-07-31 Simphiwe Nongqayi - IBF - 38 years, 5 months, 13 days
In a shocking upset the previous year, Nongqayi picked up the vacant title by giving Jorge Arce his first non-descript defeat since, well, ever. Everyone else Arce has lost to won at least 1 world title without fighting Arce to get it. Anyways, Nonqayi lost his crown to Juan Alberto Rosas after being stopped in 6 rounds. In his sole successful title defense he had to settle for a draw against unheralded Malik Bouziane. Honestly no one outside of South Africa ever heard of Nongqayi until the year he beat Arce. He came out of nowhere and by the time he arrived he was already an old man, although his unique hair style suggested otherwise...
Honorable Mention: Zolile Mbityi, the nearly 38 year old IBO champ. I would have listed him officially with an asterisk, because I like the IBO, but this vacant "world title fight" with Masibulele Makepula was a joke. I doubt even the IBO would claim otherwise.
So, 1 or 2 more title defenses to go and Omar Narvaez will be the oldest super flyweight champion of all time. Will he be the greatest? No, but he'll surely make the top 10. Why is his age so important? Simply put, speed and reflexes mean a hell of a lot more for 115lb fighters than for guys weighing double that. Add 5-10 years to his age if you'd like to compare his accomplishments to the big boys.