Naoya Inoue Crushes Adrian Hernandez

By Matt McGrain on April 6, 2014
Naoya Inoue Crushes Adrian Hernandez
Inoue may be on his way to becoming one of the very best fighters in the world. (KYODO)

Hernandez struggled to his feet – then turned his back in the universal signal of surrender. He had had enough. Naoya Inoue had broken him…

Today’s deeply stacked Ring Diamond card from Tokyo, Japan, did not disappoint. Ring giant Roman Gonzalez (now 39-0) crushed Juan Purisma (drops to 11-5) in just three rounds whilst Akira Yaegashi (20-3) was less dominant in using his punishing left jab and stinging, flicking left hook to see off Odilon Zaleta (15-4) in nine. Zaleta provided surprisingly stiff resistance, and although he remained available to the body throughout he showed good mobility and two-handed punching of a high order that kept Yaegashi on his toes and resulted in several hot exchanges in an entertaining fight. Zaleta succumbed in the end to a combination of pressure, a ruthless body-attack and the savage right cross that deposited him to the canvas and saw him waved off on his feet. It is the third successful defense of the legitimate and lineal flyweight title by Yaegashi, and it keeps him on target for a monumental summer showdown with Roman Gonzalez in what will likely be a fight of the year contender. The two shared a friendly hug in the ring after the fight. Things will be less cordial come August.

So all according to plan then, something that can be said of the main event, too, although Naoya Inoue- Adrian Hernandez was deeply shocking in one way, not because the result was unexpected, but because of the ease with which Inoue triumphed.  Even at 5-0 Inoue arrived at the ring a favorite versus light-flyweight #1 and 29-3 Adrian Hernandez, but “The Confessor” was expected to provide the twenty-year old-Japanese with a stern and difficult test. He was dispatched in six rounds, and with greater ease than Inoue has displayed against his domestic opposition. Make no mistake: Naoya Inoue is for real, and may be on his way to becoming one of the very best fighters in the world.

As I wrote in my preview, Hernandez is a destroyer of prospects and a tight technical puncher, an owner of a genuinely intimidating countenance. This last bothered Inoue least of all and he began as he was to go on, confidently and fearlessly, apparent pre-fight nerves evaporating with bell. 

He hurt Hernandez as early as sixty-five seconds, a one-two to the body driving the Mexican back to the rope. A fresh jab to head and body opened up opportunities for the right and short left and a body-attack of staggering maturity evolved out of a naturally occurring space advantage. Hernandez is a slow starter, but here he was dominated rather than careful. Outworked, out-countered and outfought in the second he was a man cut adrift of his own plan by a fighter nine years his junior with less than a sixth of his professional contests. Inoue’s confidence was almost eerie, as was the counter-left hook he hit Hernandez with at the beginning of the third. It was a perfect punch in that it destroyed the Mexican’s confidence in leading. He spent the rest of the round in an inadequate defensive box, being brutally punished by fluid combinations whenever he stepped out of it. By the end of the round the doctor was looking carefully at a bad cut above his left eye, waving the fight on but clearly concerned. An Inoue right-hook from a square stance seems to have been the culprit. The boy has every punch in the book and plenty that aren’t.

The cut forced Hernandez forwards and he had his best moment thirty seconds into the fourth, throwing two-handed at the Japanese who responded by holding his ground and covering up well before responding. A short right hand to Inoue’s face seemed to momentarily trouble him, but he won the round regardless, simply outlanding the Mexican even at his most aggressive.

A savage up-jab assumed the role of the left-hook Inoue landed at the beginning of the third but Hernandez fought the fifth bravely and two-handed, swallowing the punches that came the other way whilst trying to lay down a body-attack. Inoue was moving then stopping, returning fire before pushing Hernandez off with an elbow, an old-pro trick this box-puncher seems to have picked up in just six fights. Nevertheless, I thought Hernandez poached the round based upon sheer guts and determination. Inoue needed to make a statement over the next three minutes to re-assert his control of the fight. Hernandez came out looking for war. This, he found, in abundance, as Inoue ate or picked off jabs before lashing back with hooks to body and head. Bleeding profusely, Hernandez kept coming and scored repeatedly but leaving himself open for brutal counters in the process A huge overhand right sprayed blood and dropped the Mexican to the canvas. Inoue watched as Hernandez struggled to his feet – then turned his back in the universal signal of surrender. He had had enough. Naoya Inoue had broken him.

It was an astonishing result and a brilliant performance. Japan has produced some outstanding prospects in recent years: Inoue is the best of them. When I named him the world’s brightest prospect in early 2013, I expected to perhaps write these words in 2015 or 2016; today, Inoue has justified my writing them now.

Next up, the world. I would like to suggest that he isn’t rushed, but he will be. Whether he steps up to the world’s best division, flyweight, or remains for a time at light-flyweight is what will determine whether he mixes next with the absolute elite or just the world-class. They call him “Monster.” It is fitting.

A strong supporting card was earlier crowned by Naoya’s younger brother, Takuma Inoue (now 2-0), a fighter who delivered on his hype in outpointing the much more experienced and occasionally devastating Fahlan Sakkreerin (now 23-3) over eight rounds in one-sided fashion. 

As the Klitschko brothers begin the inevitable unwinding of their dominance of the heavyweight division, it seems these two brothers may come to dominate the lower weight divisions. Hopefully the narrow separation of the classes at the lower end will mean their likely reluctance to face one another will do little harm to the titles they seem sure to hoard.

Watch this space.

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  1. Matt McGrain 02:18pm, 04/06/2014

    And you were right my dude, you were right.

  2. Koolz 10:36am, 04/06/2014

    Naoya Inoue!!!!
    It seems there isn’t a punch he doesn’t know!  Man what a display!  What can’t he do?  So Natural.  I never thought Hernandez was going to win this fight.