QUESTION: What’s that coming over the hill? Answer: It’s Naoya Inoue, and he’s on his way to a spot in the World Boxing Super Series’ bantamweight tournament.
The acquisition of Inoue was announced by the WBSS promoters this morning and provides yet another shot in the arm for a project that seems, on the face of it, to go from strength to strength.
“It is an honour to be able to participate and compete in such a great tournament,” said Inoue, a three-weight world champion and the current WBA Regular titleholder at 118 pounds. “Of course I will win, and as the winner of the tournament I will continue onto the next journey of my boxing career!”
“We are thrilled to have Inoue on board for season two’s amazing bantamweight tournament,” added Kalle Sauerland Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer. “His stage name ‘The Monster’ has proved fitting; Inoue is an extremely exciting fighter and possesses absolutely extraordinary power.
“Inoue has become one of the biggest idols in his native Japan and now gets the chance to showcase his skills in the Ali Trophy tournament, the greatest stage of all.”
Inoue was last seen cutting Jamie McDonnell down to size inside a round in May. Living up to his reputation, the Japanese sensation caught a shell-shocked McDonnell early, put him down, and was then relentless and merciless in his pursuit of the finish. It was the kind of result to put an entire division on notice; the kind of result that made many reassess their pick for the title of best bantamweight in the world.
Indeed, before Inoue’s destruction of McDonnell, many were fancying the likes of IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez, WBO champion Zolani Tete or WBA Super champion Ryan Burnett to walk away with the WBSS’ Muhammad Ali trophy at some point next year. But now, thanks to Inoue’s latest show-stopping performance, nobody has a clue.
The great thing about the WBSS, of course, is that many questions will soon be answered, and we’ll soon know the identity of the best in the world. So long as nobody pulls out, and so long as everything is as it seems, the bantamweight spread will include four (or five, if you count the WBA Regular) world titles on the line, as well as the four best 118-pound fighters on the planet. What more do you want?
Brilliant at featherweight, perhaps even better at super-featherweight and lightweight, and a recent belt-holder as a super-lightweight, Mikey Garcia, we’ve come to realise, has no issue soaring through the weight classes.
He is, however, now back at lightweight, and sounds ready – and excited – to put his WBC title on the line against IBF ruler Robert Easter Jr on July 28 at the Staples Center, Los Angeles.
“This is my natural weight and so far everything in camp has been smooth,” he said. “The weight started coming off right away and now just restricting the diet enough so we get to where we want to be.”
Good enough to roam, Garcia is apparently open to campaigning as a lightweight, super-lightweight and even as a welterweight moving forward.
“Mikey Garcia has the opportunity to dominate at 135 and 140 pounds, plus he even wants to move up in weight and challenge himself against the best at 147 pounds,” said Garcia’s promoter, Richard Schaefer. “It shows the character and strength of Mikey Garcia. No challenge is too big for him.”
As is so often the case when hype runs away with itself, Garcia would do well to first focus on what’s ahead. The immediate. Easter Jr, after all, is no soft touch. A world champion in his own right, the Ohio native is 21-0 (14) and confident in his ability to scupper Garcia’s plans of superstardom.
Garcia, you sense, realises this.
“I know Easter is very tall and has a longer reach than me,” he said. “In the gym, we’ve been working on sparring partners who present different challenges and made adjustments from there. I have to catch him reaching in or put pressure and work my way inside.
“I’m pretty experienced from fighting taller guys in the past, so I don’t think it’s going to make too huge a difference. It’s a disadvantage on paper, but once fight night comes, I’ll be ready.
“This is a big fight for me and I’m sure it’s the biggest fight of Easter’s career so far. I’m glad to hear he’s training extra hard. It shows me that he’s motivated and hungry to show off his very best, just like I am.”