Omar Narvaez unfazed ahead of meeting Naoya Inoue in Japan
Argentine boxing has found a great deal of success in Japan, even in its earliest years. The country’s first champion, Pascual Perez, earned his belt in Japan back in 1954, and since those days a number of Argentine fighters have achieved great victories in the Far East, including Nicolino Locche, Horacio Accavallo, Santos Laciar, Juan Coggi and Juan Carlos Reveco.
On Dec. 30, Omar Narvaez (43-1-2, 23 KO) will seek to add his name to this illustrious list in a challenge that, at first, appears to be unbecoming of his status as a long-reining titlist, but which provides instead a chance for him to further establish himself as one of the best men in boxing’s lower weights. He will defend his WBO junior bantamweight belt against 21-year-old, unbeaten boy-wonder Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6 KO).
Inoue’s youth and deceptively short resume as a professional make this fight appear uneven at first, but they say nothing of his 75-6 amateur career. He will be attempting to win a title in his second division after becoming the WBC junior flyweight champion with an upset over highly regarded former champ Adrian Hernandez back in March in what was only his fifth pro fight.
After only one defense of his title, Inoue decided that his tall and lanky physique had already outgrown the division, and he will now be making a rare two-division jump to face Narvaez, a very experienced titlist with almost two dozen title defenses in two divisions.
Narvaez appeared unfazed at the prospect of facing a taller and younger foe in a foreign land.
“I prepared different strategies for this fight, but when I saw him I just knew I am going to beat him,” said Narvaez to the local media after the weigh-in. “I feel terrific at my 40 years of age, very mature and poised.”
Narvaez has had a long career that started with several defenses in Europe against high-profile opponents, with great success, but he later chose to continue his career almost exclusively in Argentina, where he was accused of sheltering himself from the most dangerous men in his division. And even though he defeated a few opponents who would go on to win bigger challenges (such as Carlos Tamara and others), Narvaez continued to be doubted by locals and foreigners alike.
And his image took another blow when he looked absolutely unimpressive, to say the least, in his losing challenge of then-bantamweight titlist and pound-for-pound entrant Nonito Donaire in New York. But Narvaez has accumulated eight more title defenses since that fateful fight with Donaire in 2011, and he now feels ready to make history with the ultimate Argentine boxing rite of passage: a win in Japan that could further cement his legacy as one of the country’s biggest boxing icons.
“I don’t care about my age,” said Narvaez to the Argentine media, prior to his departure. “I always fight the same way. But now I believe young guys respect my career a little bit more. This is something that could play to my advantage. I never feel pain when I step out of the ring. This motivates me to continue fighting.”
Brothers in arms
The undercard will also feature the brothers of both Narvaez and Inoue fighting each other in an eight-rounder, as part of a star-studded undercard. 32-year-old former title challenger Daniel Narvaez (20-2-2, 9 KOs) will be facing 19-year-old Takuma Inoue (3-0, 1 KO) in a flyweight bout. Later, Japan’s Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10 KOs) will be facing Mexico’s Pedro Guevara (32-1-1, 15 KOs) for the WBC junior flyweight crown. Mexico’s Javier Preito (24-7-2, 18 KOs) and Venezuela’s Jorge Linares (37-3, 24 KOs) will also be fighting, with the WBC lightweight title on the line.