Naoya Inoue – The Modern Salvador Sanchez.
Salvador Sanchez is a fighter of folklore, not unlike Ritchie Valens, who tragically died premature after his hit “La Bamba”, Sanchez defeated Wilfredo Gomez, Azumah Nelson, Danny Lopez, amongst others before people understood how good those fighters were, and at only 24-years-old, was taken from us.
When mentioning Sanchez the tragedy will always overshadow the in-ring talent, because let’s be honest, his story is extremely uncommon, and that will always be what people remember first. Yet, one thing persists, a cult-like following. Before the glory days of Mexican boxing with Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and even Canelo Alvarez – Sanchez was one of the first Mexican fighters to be seen as a world-level fighter in the modern era, and paved the way for all.
This might be were this clickbait article beginnings.
Meet Naoya Inoue, a man who has faced decorated world champions and made them look like novices, and in only 22 fights – holds world titles in three divisions. Inoue is so good that his first-round knockout of world champion, Jamie McDonnell looked effortless, as well as stopping Juan Carlos Payano in the first round.
Today, it was announced his only match that has drama yet against future hall-of-famer Nonito Donaire, will get the long-awaited rematch on June 7th. The first bout won the honors of Fight of the Year by most publications in 2019.
Not unlike Sanchez, Inoue’s greatness, in particular his timing and speed which creates his highlight reel KO, are elite traits only seen often in superstar fighters, and it appears people will not understand what he accomplished in the beginning of his career until later, as Inoue skipped the line to become a generational fighter, and challenge himself – but in doing so, might have set his own standards so high, people don’t understand who he is as a fighter.
Inoue started at light flyweight, he is currently viewed as the best bantamweight, and many view his ceiling as featherweight, if he were to think of moving up yet, again.
What makes Inoue also interesting is, he is the ambassador of Japanese boxing on the world stage, not unlike how Manny Pacquiao was the face the Philippines, and despite Ryota Murata having an Olympic gold medal, I think all hardcore fight fans look at Inoue as the guy from Japan. Yet, as the world shutdown, his co-promotional agreement with Top Rank Inc., seemed rough, as it was hard for him to stay active. In fact, Inoue’s last bout against Aran Dipaen had no official U.S. distribution, and according to Jake Donovan, the U.S. feed of Inoue vs. Donaire II has not been set.
At the the tail-end of HBO Boxing, Inoue looked to be the next guy, as HBO was all-in, on non-Americans who knocked people out, yet he fell under the radar, as new services emerged. Inoue is a transcendent talent, a true puncher, one who has flaws, and will get knocked out at some point based on his love affair with his power – yet that is what makes a lot of the drama in his fight. Can he get built up to the point where he impacts culture to a large magnitude, I am not sure, but I hope so.