The eyes of the combat sports world are pretty squarely on UFC 229 this weekend, but that’s not the only action worth your time. This Sunday, the World Boxing Super Series returns with their second season of tournaments. Up this year will be two 8-man tournaments in the Bantamweight (118 lbs.) and Super Lightweight (140 lbs.) divisions, and Sunday, both kick off with their first opening round match-ups. Perhaps the best news for WBSS fans – the entire tournament is slated to air on DAZN. This weekend’s fights stream live this Sunday, October 7 with a fight time of 7:00 a.m. ET. Yes, that’s 7:00 in the morning for those in the US, as the fights are live in Japan. Let’s take a look at what to expect.
Naoya Inoue (16-0; 14 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Payano (20-1; 9 KOs) – Bantamweight Quarterfinal
Probably the most exciting fighter in either field this year is 25 year old Naoya “The Monster” Inoue. After some seriously impressive work in the 115 pound division, Inoue moved up to 118 this year, and is poised to estaslish his dominance in this tournament. Though he’s only a 6 year pro with 16 fights, he’s already ranked #6 on the Ring pound for pound list and considered by many to be one of the very best in the world. His opponent is the more established former WBA champion Payano, a 34 year old ranked at #5 in the division. Payano suffered his lone career loss in 2016, going 1-1 in a pair of close match-ups with Rau’shee Warren – he’s 3-0 since, though none of those 3 wins have come against particularly impressive opposition. Payano is the +1200 underdog here, with Inoue at -3500, and that tells you what you need to know. Inoue may get tested in this tournament, but it probably won’t be here. Instead, use this as a chance to get more of a read on the odds-on favorite.
Prediction: Naoya Inoue, KO
Kiryl Relikh (22-2; 19 KOs) vs. Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1; 24 KOs) – Super Lightweight Quarterfinal
The Super Lightweight tournament opener doesn’t have the flash of Inoue (largely because this just isn’t a very high profile division), but it’s the considerably more evenly matched fight Sunday. Relikh is the WBA champion and is ranked #4 in the division, with Troyanovsky just a bit lower at #6. It will be interesting to see Relikh here, as he deserves his high placement, but has also not had the easiest road as of late. He’s relatively recent to the major international scene, and is just 1-2 in his last 3. Those 2 losses are to very good opponents in Ricky Burns and Rances Barthelemy (who Relikh then avenged himself against), but it’s telling that when he has stepped up, the results have not been stellar yet. Troyanovsky is an accomplished and seasoned pro with a lot of experience, though like Relikh, his recent fights are not flawless. He’s just 2 fights removed from what at the time was an upset loss to Julius Indongo. So neither man is riding a particularly huge wave of momentum. One difference maker could be the age – Troyanovsky is 38, so probably does not have as much in the tank. I’m not sure I like either man’s overall chances in the tournament, but both come in here evenly matched and with something to prove, which should make for a good fight.
Prediction: Kiryl Relikh, Dec