Only eight fights into his professional career, Japanese prodigy Naoya Inoue claimed his second world title in eight months on Tuesday as he scored four knockdowns and blew away junior bantamweight titleholder Omar Narvaez in the second round at Metropolitan Gym in Tokyo.
The fight headlined a card featuring three world title bouts, and the 21-year-old Inoue (8-0, 7 KOs) stole the show.
Although Narvaez, the long-reigning titleholder, fought predominantly at home in Argentina throughout his flyweight and junior bantamweight title reigns, the 39-year-old southpaw was no stranger to going on the road, having made title defenses in Italy, France and Spain and also unsuccessfully challenged then-bantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire in New York in 2011.
The aggressive Inoue knocked Narvaez (43-2-2, 23 KOs) down twice in the first round, flooring him for the first time with clean right hand to the head just 30 seconds into the fight. Thirty seconds later, he dropped Narvaez again with a short left hook to the temple.
Inoue applied heavy pressure for the rest of the round, but Narvaez made it to the bell. He was quickly in trouble again as Inoue dropped him to a knee with a quick counter left hook midway through the second round and then delivered a hammering left hook to the ribs to knock him down for the fourth time. Narvaez dropped to his knees, and referee Lou Moret counted him out as the round was ending, sending Inoue and his corner into a wild celebration.
Inoue, a seven-time Japanese amateur national champion who turned pro in October 2012, won his first world title in April in just his sixth pro fight. He challenged highly regarded Mexican junior flyweight titlist Adrian Hernandez on April 6 in Tokyo and won the 108-pound belt by sixth-round knockout.
After making one defense, an 11th-round knockout of Thailand's Samartlek Kokietgym on Sept. 5 in Tokyo, Inoue, who said he could no longer make weight, jumped up to challenge Narvaez for his 115-pound title.
The loss very well could spell the end of Narvaez's career. A 1996 and 2000 Olympian, Narvaez turned pro in 2000 and won a flyweight world title in 2002. He made 16 defenses before relinquishing the belt in 2009 to move up in weight. In 2010, he claimed a vacant junior bantamweight title and made 11 successful defenses before losing to Inoue. Overall, Narvaez is 28-2-1 in world title bouts.
Also on the card:
• Pedro Guevara knocked out former two-time world titleholder Akira Yaegashi with a body shot in the seventh round to win a vacant junior flyweight title.
Guevara (24-1-1, 16 KOs), 25, of Mexico, won his sixth fight in a row since losing a split decision challenging Johnriel Casimero for another version of the 108-pound title in August 2012.
In the closing seconds of the seventh round, Guevara floored Yaegashi (20-5, 10 KOs), 31, of Japan, with a left hook to the gut, and referee Vic Drakulich counted him out at 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
Yaegashi, a former strawweight and flyweight world titleholder, had dropped down in weight to face Guevara after having lost his flyweight title by ninth-round knockout to Roman Gonzalez on Sept. 5.
• In his second shot at a lightweight title, Jorge Linares knocked out Javier Prieto in the fourth round to win a vacant 135-pound belt.
In the fourth round, Linares flattened Prieto (24-8-2, 18 KOs), 27, of Mexico, with a left-right combination, and referee Hernan Guajardo counted him out at 1 minute, 50 seconds.
Linares (38-3, 25 KOs), 29, a native of Venezuela based in Japan, has won world titles in three weight classes -- featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight -- although he has won vacant belts each time.
Linares and Prieto were meeting for the title recently stripped from Omar Figueroa, who is sidelined for several months because of a hand injury. Linares is obligated to defend against Figueroa upon his return should Figueroa want the fight.
• Japanese middleweight Ryota Murata (6-0, 4 KOs), 28, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, routed Jessie Nicklow, 27, of Baltimore, in a shutout 10-round decision. The judges scored the fight 100-91, 100-90 and 100-90.
• Flyweight Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1 KO), the 19-year-old brother of Naoya, scored an eight-round shutout decision against former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaez (20-3-2-1 NC), Omar Narvaez's 33-year-old brother. The quicker Inoue won 80-73, 80-72 and 80-72.