Naoya Inoue made a massive statement today in Japan, knocking out Omar Narvaez in the second round to claim the WBO super flyweight title, and make arguments both for Fighter of the Year, and for serious consideration on the pound-for-pound list.
Inoue (8-0, 7 KO) was taking a dangerous step up from the junior flyweight ranks, where he'd already won a world title, and facing the cagey veteran Narvaez (43-2-2, 23 KO) was no easy fight. The Argentine southpaw was rightly considered the division's best, and has been among the more underrated technicians in the sport for some years now, while defending titles at flyweight and super flyweight.
But this one was never even close. Inoue dropped Narvaez 26 seconds into the fight on a right hand which mostly hit glove, but had come after a shot that landed clean. 34 seconds later, Narvaez was down again, wobbled by a series of shots, having never totally recovered from the first knockdown, and down when he was clipped on a left hook to the side of the head.
Narvaez did get his legs back and close the first round pretty well, but he was in a fight that wasn't fit for his style, too. The 39-year-old chose to fight more aggressively, having felt the serious power of Inoue, whose activity level made him a constant danger, with power in both hands.
While Narvaez looked for power shots of his own, Inoue patiently waited for an opening, and found one halfway into the second round, dropping Narvaez a third time on a pretty counter left hook. From there, the heavy shots kept coming in, and Narvaez just couldn't get a breather. He was floored a fourth time on a body shot with 20 seconds left in the first round, and was down for the count there.
Inoue, 21, did what a bantamweight Nonito Donaire could not with Narvaez in 2011. Donaire struggled to find range on a smaller man, to land clean shots, and to produce any action at all, as Narvaez was able to get into his comfort zone and essentially cruise to a payday loss without taking much damage. Inoue took the initiative immediately, and was effective as the aggressor, enough so that he brought Narvaez out of his preferred tempo and into the firefight that benefited Inoue.
Is Naoya Inoue a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter now? And does he deserve serious consideration for Fighter of the Year?