August 19, 2022


BY: Sergio F. Borges

I remember my biggest complex as a fourteen-year-old teenager was that I was “that” kid in high-school that looked like he belonged in middle-school. I was short and skinny, like a bantamweight. I was always the last person picked for a basketball game during PE class. With time though, perceptions changed. My father would always tell me that time solves everything. I’ve come to realize that time also creates an exponential appreciation for what we have taken for granted. Like fine scotch or wine, there are those overlooked fighters that are appreciated as their body of work ages. One of boxing’s greatest little-big men, Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, went under my radar and I only had the privilege and pleasure to catch one of his bouts live, it was also his last bout. I promised myself I would never miss a boxing legend again during my lifetime.

Over the last few decades I’ve seen a shift in perception with the lower-weight fighters. I mean, take Lopez for example. The greatest strawweight and among one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all-time, López didn’t get any recognition by the boxing media until he was in the latter part of his career. 1988 Light-Flyweight Olympic Silver medalist Michael “Manitas De Piedra” Carbajal held the professional light-flyweight title for over eight years and Iván “El Niño De Hierro” Calderón has been overlooked by the International Boxing Hall of Fame over the last two years since becoming eligible. Calderón held-down the strawweight division, post López. There has also been amazing and legendary boxers that have fought in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, yet completely overlooked by mainstream boxing, especially in America. Why has this been the case? I believe mainstream boxing media and casual fans share the bulk of the blame. The casual fan loves the big knockouts produced by the big guys. The heavyweight division has and continues to be the hallmark weight division for casual fans in the United States. Also, it’s about the ‘business’ of boxing, During the last forty-plus years, HBO and Showtime have provided casual fans with what the market demanded. At the end of the day, the casual fan is the one that makes or breaks a boxing event (from a profit standpoint), and launches PPV sales into the millions. Networks understand that the boxing fanatic will watch everything. Why? Because, as Mathew McConaughey’s character in “The Wolf of Wall Street” would say “They are addicted!” The casual fan has, is, and will continue to be the target market for boxing promotional companies and networks. It’s business not personal.

One can also take a look at the current boxing headlines. Last month, Oleksandr Usyk was named The 2018 Fighter of the Year by Ring. Usyk had a remarkable and sensational year. Without any reservations, Usyk earned and deserved to be the 2018 Fighter of the Year. What shocked me wasn’t the 2018 awards and recipients, it was the lack of recognition given to lighter weight fighters such as Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (17-0-0, 15 KOs). The Japanese phenom Bantamweight started his career in late 2012. In 2014, Inoue captured his first world title at light-flyweight and later that year jumped two weight divisions to capture the Super Flyweight crown.

Inoue is a Japanese kamikaze, who never parishes after each victory. Inoue’s body of work produced to end 2017 and through 2018 speaks for itself. On December 31, 2017 Inoue defended his WBO World Junior Bantamweight, 115 pound World Title, for the 7th time when he dismembered Yoan Boyeaux (41-4-0) in less than three rounds. Inoue followed up In May when he moved up to bantamweight to face the WBA Champion, Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1) and annihilated him in 1 minute and fifty-two seconds. Then in October, Inoue entered the World Boxing Super Series and defended his WBA World Bantamweight Title against Juan Carlos Payano (20-1-0). Inoue destroyed Payano in under 70 seconds! McDonnell and Payano were ranked as top ten opponents within their division. 3 quality fights for Inoue against solid opposition and he handled them in less then four rounds total.

I can’t wait to see Inoue’s career continue on its legendary path. I know time will tell, as it always does, when something special is overlooked.

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