Special Report: The Legend vs. The Monster; Donaire and Inoue dazzle in Japan-
Five days removed from what was a seemingly lackluster main event “mega-fight” that saw boxing’s biggest superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez successfully navigate a fourth weight division by beating a listless (and older) Sergey Kovalev, whilst getting overshadowed by MMA Fighters Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz for the make believe “Baddest Motherf***er” title in New York City, I couldn’t help but feel a little exasperated.
We didn’t get Canelo-GGG 3 this year, we didn’t get Wilder-Joshua, or Wilder-Fury 2, we made no progress in getting to Spence-Crawford, and Gervonta Davis and Jermall Charlo remain fighting hardly credible opposition while harking on other people’s names for notoriety.
Looking forward a few hours to Saturday evening, two multimillionaire YouTubers are going to appropriate and make an embarrassment out of the sport (a sport that is still grieving the tragic demise of three youthful boxers in recent months) all the while lining their, (and Matchroom Boxing/DAZN’s) pockets in front of a worldwide audience in Los Angeles.
2019 hasn’t been a brilliant year for the sport.
If you’ve been following the sport close enough over the past 365 days- you know there’s been some glimmers of hope here and there. Perhaps, none more radiant than The World Boxing Super Series. Despite numerous payment issues, injuries, legal battles, and nearly the implosion of the entire tournament- the tournaments’ survived through its sophomore year bringing us the best boxing we’ve gotten all year long. From the fiercely “Fight of the Year” contender contested super lightweight bracket that delivered us last weekends twelve- round thriller in London between Louisiana’s Regis Prograis and Scotland’s Josh Taylor, to the little talked about slobber-knockers 60-pounds north at cruiserweight, and then all the way back down 82-Pounds to bantamweight, which will be discussed at length in this article- The World Boxing Super Series has brought something great to the sport- it is a competition so pure not even the dirty underbelly of boxing’s politics could smudge it’s grimy hands over it- The WBSS has brought us the very best vs. the very best in three diffrent weight classes- and boxing is better for it.
The Monster vs. The Legend, The Hall of Famer vs. The Future, call it what you want- Nonito Doanire and Nayoa Inoue delivered:
“This is happening. This is what boxing is all about- the best vs. the best.” – Nonito Donaire
On Thursday morning, if you had your ear to the streets, you got up at 5 A.M. to witness what was one of the most intriguing bouts of the year- The World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Finale- a 118-Pound unification bout for the RING, WBA, and IBF World Bantamweight Championships between future First-Ballot Hall of Famer Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (right) , and, the most destructive force in professional boxing today- Nayoa “The Monster” Inoue (left).
Nonito Donaire is one of the greatest fighters the lower weight divisions has seen; 11 years undefeated, a four division world champion, he single handedly carried the lower divisions to prominence throughout the early 2000’s without any help from any other big name Americans operating under featherweight. Recently, Donaire had spent the later portion of his career fighting bug names at his highest division he climbed featherweight- most notably losing bitterly contested bouts with highly credentialed opponents Nicolas “The Axe Murder” Walters, and, Carl Frampton. He made it to the finals in somewhat of a miracle- his quarterfinal matchup with WBA (super) Bantamweight Champion Ryan Burnett saw the champion retire from the contest after suffering an injury to his right shoulder in round four and retiring from the fight. His semi-final matchup was expected to be 5-foot-9-inch WBO Bantamweight Champion Zolani Tete who was riding a six year undefeated streak- but he removed himself from the fight after suffering a similar shoulder injury just days before the fight (there’s enough evidence to form a conspiracy theory there), so Donaire blasted his way through the unknown replacement of Stephon Young who was put to sleep in round three. Nobody- NOBODY, would have expected Donaire to get to the finals, and nobody expected him to win- but this is boxing, and Nayoa Inoue hasn’t fought anyone like Nonito Donaire. Nayoa “The Monster” Inoue is boxing’s newest international pound-for-pound sensation, raised through boxing under the tutelage of his father- Inoue amassed an amateur record of 75–6 (48 KOs), one that caught the eyes of a few boxing scouts- He made his professional debut in 2012, winning his first world title less than two years later, and going on to finish 16 out of his 19 professional victories- doing so in particularly violent fashion. Inoue was riding a nine-fight kayo streak going into the final, with his last two exclaiming his moniker of “The Monster”, An offensive maestro, the brutality to which Inoue fights can not be conveyed- which is why I have both his first-round quarter final knockout over Juan Carlos Payano, and his second round trouncing over Emmanuel Rodriguez embedded below:
Immediately, from the fervent crowd reaction when Inoue gets announced, to the buzz, love, and admiration Nonitio Donaire had been getting from stateside all week- it was apparent this fight was something special, something greater. The 22,000 on hand didn’t have to be given free tickets to come to the fight- nor did they need ridiculous trash talk to sell the fight, they cared about seeing their countryman in the fight of his career against the rivaling Filipino legend in Nonito Donaire. This was boxing at it’s purest.
Round 1: Nayoa Inoue bounds out of his corner to stab Nonitio Donaire in the stomach with his signature power jab. Donaire takes a moment to recalibrate before sending a stiff jab in return that nearly redirects Inoues’ eyes to the lights above the ring. High-paced exchanges lead to both men having great success in round one- this is the first time we’ve ever seen someone take it and give it like that against Inoue, and it was only the first round. Unofficial Score: 10-9 Inoue
Round 2: “The Monster” Inoue opens the round by demanding the center of the ring with his aggressive wide stance, you can just sense the kinetic energy of a visceral knockout punch coursing through his body. The pair trade jabs early- the crowd is reacting to every single punch. Donaire pushes his luck by trying to stand strong and punch with the marauding Inoue, who hammers the elder with a brilliant series of straight rights, and a couple of left hooks (The best punch in Donaire’s own repertoire) as to send a message to the veteran. The message was not well received- Donaire would close the round strong by pressuring his smaller and less experienced competitor, and he lands a stunning left hook of his own that cuts open the hefty favorite. 10-9 Donaire
Rounds 3 &’ 4: Donaire gets warned early for a push and a low-blow, Inoue has been getting unchartristcally backed-up by a bigger and more experienced fighter- he launches a “get off me” three punch combination, but gets slammed in the face with a left hook that sends blood flying out of his nasal cavity. 10-9 Donaire
Round 4 was defined by Nayoa Inoue showing off his technical prelists, he was boxing outside of his skin in this round- this is what he would need to mix in with a high volume attack to get him the win. Great lateral movement, and impeccable timing on his counters. 10-9 Inoue
Rounds 5 &’ 6: Donaire fires off a lunging one-two combination that Inoue sees coming from a mile away. His defense is shining, he feeds the face of Donaire with a slew of jabs before Nonitio wizens up and throws three hard straight rights over the top of Inoue’s jab. Nayoa Inoue hurts Donaire late in the round with a monstrous overhand right, the hometown crowd erupts for their hero- Donaire is stiff-legged but still manages to fire off two wobbly left hooks in defense- he had his back on the ropes for the first time in the fight- but alas, Nonitio Donaire is survived by the bell. 10-9 Inoue.
A cagey start to round six breaks way to even more success for Inoue, he is fighting brilliantly- the ringside announcers eloquently point out that this seeming momentum change was courtesy of Nayoa’s range-finding jab, and it was going to work- you get the feeling that the older Nonito is starting to wear. 10-9 Inoue, halfway, 4 rounds-to-2, Inoue
Round 7: Probably one of the slower rounds of the fight, Donaire had been content to take the round to recover after six previous fought at a hellacious pace- Inoue obliged him, sticking to his backfoot and looking ever so more comfortable with it. Just picking at the head of Donaire like a milky scab. 10-9 Inoue.
Rounds 8 &’ 9: Donaire comes out of his corner in the eighth after having lost the last three, or, four rounds. He needs to pull the rug out from under Inoue who had built a healthy lead. Nonitio applies a safe-and-smart dose of forward pressure, the two men land jabs on each other simultaneously, Donaire lands his patent left hook after an overzealous Inoue plants his feet and tries to exchange bombs, then he gets beamed with a straight right, then a left hook, then an uppercut, Inoue was feeling these shots, and he was acting like it too. Donaire found room on Inoue’s face with more success than any other of his previous opponents, he landed 12-15 power shots slush within the three minuets- the blood was again flowing from the nose and brow of Inoue. 10-9 Nonito Donaire
The success of last round seems to have carried over, Inoue, much on the retreat at the genesis of round 9- Donaire is having remarkable success at following Inoue’s punches back home, it sets up yet another jaw-rattling overhand right off of a lazy jab attempt that forces Nayoa Inoue to clinch in desperation for the first time in his career. Donaire uses the remainder of the round to look for another lead foot counter with his blood soaked right glove. Donaire closes in on my scorecard- 10-9 Donaire.
Rounds 10, 11, and 12-
The final three rounds of an incredible twelve round contest between a living legend of the lighter weight divisions- and a very possible future legend. One of the very best bantamweight battles in recent memory.
10- This fight is close, whomever takes home these last three rounds could very possibly be walking home with the title as the best bantamweight walking the planet. Inoue comes out of his corner with a new found urgency, pressuring and landing a barrage of blows to the welted face and body of Nonito. Neither man is willing to give an inch in this contest. Inoue is pushing himself to the limit- throwing and attacking with the virility of a fighter ten years younger, ten years faster. He lands a hard left hook at the end of the round and hoists his arms up to celebrate. 10-9 Inoue
11- Inoue lands a series of high-rise right hands, it doesn’t seem that Donaire has recovered from the previous round, or the adrenalin/cardio dump from rounds 8 and 9. The jam-packed crowd gets louder and louder with every passing unanswered exchange. Inoue finds a home for an organ-smashing left hook to the liver- Donaire’s face displays a grimace of pain as he sprints away from his marauding attacker before taking a knee like a wounded animal. He somehow, finds the will to rise to his feet at the count of nine.
Inoue pounces on the still throbbing body of Donaire- who someway makes it to the final round after nearly becoming knockout victim #17. 10-8 Inoue.
12- the final round of this incredible championship clash sees Nayoa Inoue in full pursuit of another championship winning knockout victory- He had quite simply outpaced and out-fought his courageous older opponent. The ten-second warning came and the two men finished their classic matchup by trading leather- the two come together in hug in a beautiful display of class and sportsmanship- the perfect end to a wonderful 36-minuets.
Unofficial scorecard, 8 rounds to 4, 116-111 for Nayoa “The Monster” Inoue:
Official result: (116-111, 117-109, 114-113) unanimous decision for Nayoa “The Monster” Inoue–
Like in life, in boxing, it is easy to let negative surroundings distract from things that are truly important- the true instantaneous modern classic between Nayoa Inoue and Nonito Donaire was one of those truly important things.
In it, we witnessed one of the most memorable and courageous “last stand” performances from a fighter in many years, certainly the most notable that I have witnessed firsthand. Nonito Donaire did more than just “going out on his shield” or, “passing the torch”, those adages are deceiving to the true effort and quality in which Nonito Donaire fought on Thursday morning. He pushed the now 20-0 IBF, WBA, and Ring bantamweight champion harder than he had ever been pushed before- and Inoue as well as the sport is better for it. This is the perfect sunset for Nonito Donaire to walk-off on, I just hope he does.
As for the victor, even bigger and brighter things lay on the horizon for the dominate, unified “Monster” of a bantamweight champion, what things you might ask? Top Rank/ESPN issued a joint press release featuring the following video in the immediate aftermath of the thrilling main event-
Before the fight with Donaire, Naoya Inoue signed a (presumably) lucrative, multi-year, multi-fight deal with Top Rank Promotions, the following is a direct quotes from the press release; “Inoue has signed a multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote his bouts with Ohashi Promotions on the ESPN family of networks. His first fight under this new, landmark agreement will take place in the United States in early 2020.” Hall-of-Fame boxing promoter and president of Top Rank Promotions, Bob Arum, provided his insight into the massive signing- “Naoya Inoue is a generational talent, the sort of fighter who comes around once a decade, he is already a superstar in Japan, and he will be major star stateside in no time. You are looking at an all-time great who is entering the prime of what will be a historic career.”
If you love boxing, you can’t help but celebrate seeing this, one of the very best pound-for-pound professional boxers on the planet earth signing with the American promotional juggernaut that is Top Rank/ESPN to bring him stateside following his most impressive win to date- signifying the start of what could be one of the most dominate and exciting primes of the 2020’s.
I, for one, cannot wait to see what lies ahead for the 118-Pound superstar.