Hideyuki Ohashi Q&A: Payano will be aggressive, expect Inoue to win early
TOKYO – Earlier this week RingTV spoke with one of the perennial gym presidents in Japan, Mr. Hideyuki Ohashi, of Ohashi Gym. The former WBA/WBC minimumweight titleholder – who knows a thing or two about big fights, having fought hall of famers Ricardo Lopez and Jung Koo Chang – was at the Grand Palace Hotel to see his star fighter, Naoya Inoue, undergo his medical evaluation.
Inoue (16-0, 14 knockouts), No. 7 in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings, faces former bantamweight beltholder Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9 KOs) on Oct. 7 in Yokohama, the first round and first major fight of the World Boxing Super Series 118-pound tournament.
Mr. Ohashi’s problem of trying to find significant opponents for his formidable fighter disappeared once Inoue entered WBSS tournament. The former 108- and 115-pound titleholder has his next three opponents lined up for him.
Prior to Inoue’s U.S. debut on the inaugural SuperFly card last September, Ohashi had hoped that being affiliated with HBO would help convince a higher caliber of opposition to face his gym’s top attraction.
In fact, a plan had been in place for Inoue to square up against the pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez before the Nicaraguan, who is co-promoted by Japan-based Teiken, was upset by majority decision to current Ring/WBC 115-pound champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. In response, calls were made to Hong Kong star Rex Tso, IBF beltholder Jerwin Ancajas and WBA champion Khalid Yafai, among others, but they largely went unanswered or were nowhere in terms of reaching an agreement (although this writer was told at that time that demands were met with some potential opponents that ultimately decided to go in other directions).
Spurning a second SuperFly installment that again didn’t offer Inoue a promising showcase fight, the WBO 115-pound titleholder elected to take part in the Japanese New Year’s Eve celebrations that have become synonymous in the country with boxing, and easily handled Yoan Boyeaux in three rounds. (The Frenchman hasn’t fought since).
Now the smile is wider than ever for Ohashi as his work and patience has paid off. This Sunday, Inoue will be center stage as the main event in Yokohama, just down the street from the Ohashi Gym, at the Yokohama Arena, which will be broadcast locally on Fuji TV, but worldwide in several counties, including DAZN USA.
Nick Skok: Good to see you again Mr. Ohashi. How does it feel to have this fight in Yokohama and at the Yokohama Arena?
Hideyuki Ohashi: Hello, it’s good to see you. Yes, Yokohama is my hometown and Yokohama Arena is such a big place (17,000 seating capacity). (Former WBC 115-pound titleholder) Katsushige Kawashima, who was the first champion from my gym, became champion there! So, it’s a memorable place for two reasons.
NS: I remember three years ago I was covering you guys when Inoue was facing Warlito Parrenas, and we spoke about you wanting to get him over to the U.S. and on HBO so people could see how great he is. Now, the WBSS is here (filming the event), DAZN USA is showcasing the fight.
HO: I still remember you from back then (laughs). This time the fight will be aired in over thirty countries and I feel it means a lot, but I’d like more.
NS: Inoue-san was on the initial installment of SuperFly on HBO. Now HBO is getting out of the game and SuperFly is looking for a new home. How has the news gone over with you?
HO: In the past it would’ve been unbelievable, but this is the trend of the times. New media such as DAZN appears and the sport keeps moving forward. I heard another outlet in the U.S. will pick up SuperFly.
NS: Inoue’s opponent, Payano, is getting up there in age at 34 and has been through some wars. His body might not be as strong as Inoue’s so…how do you see the fight going and which round do you anticipate it ending in?
HO: I think Payano isn’t thinking about winning a decision and he’ll be aggressive from the first round. The result will be seen in the early rounds (saying with a smile on his face).
NS: What are your thoughts on the other fighter’s in the WBSS tournament?
HO: Rodríguez. Emmanuel Rodriguez is the strongest rival in the tournament.
NS: You’re a part of something that’s still very new in the WBSS tournament. It’s being broadcast all over the world and changing the rules of the sport. How has the experience been so far?
HO: When I was a boxing fan in elementary school, I was watching title fights and thought how exciting it would be to see a tournament of champions. Now it’s happening, and I feel like I’m living my dream.
NS: Takuma Inoue (Naoya’s younger brother) just won a WBC (bantamweight) mandatory fight. There’s a long line to wait in even with the win as Nadine Oubaali has first dibs at the vacant title, followed by Petch Sor Chitpattana, and then Takuma. What’s in store for Takuma?
HO: The [WBC] title situation has been difficult. He might end up getting the title shot but I’m not sure how it’s going to play out yet.
NS: Could we see Takuma on another Naoya undercard in the future, maybe even having both brothers fighting for titles?
HO: Of course! (Smiling with the idea).
NS: Soon, you could have a monopoly of the bantamweight division and have all the belts under your promotional control. Are you excited with this prospect?
HO: It would be a good problem to have.
Inoue watched Payano get checked out by the doctor during the medical evaluation and Payano did the same to him. It was the first time the two had seen each other since the World Boxing Super Series draft last July in Moscow.
Inoue told reporters: “I’m feeling very well and I’m looking forward to how the fight goes.”
Payano: “As always, I’d like to have an aggressive fight.”
The undercard will see WBC 108-pound titleholder Ken Shiro defend his strap against Filipino Milan Melindo.
Ken Shiro: “I’d like to win by KO and prove my strength.”
Milan Melindo: “This rest (ten months since last fight) has allowed me to fully recover my body and so I’m ready for this fight.”
Nick Skok can be reached at @NoSparring on Twitter