Saitama, Japan – 7 Nov 2019
In a sensational fight Japan’s Naoya Inoue sealed a 116-111, 117-109, 114-113 unanimous decision against Filipino multi-weight champion Nonito Donaire to secure the World Boxing Super Series title at Bantamweight and with it the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
In a bout that will no doubt be a clear contender for fight of the year the Japanese star also added Donaire’s WBA world title to his own IBF version.
It was an epic contest with Inoue 19-0-0 (16 KO’s) cut early over the right eye and power punches rocking both fighters throughout. The taller Donaire 40-6-0 (26 KO’s) boxed in an upright stance with a strong jab trying to walk his man down with powerful attacks. Inoue boxed well, but was more open and wreckless, loading up to the head and landing his wide powershots, retaining a high guard to protect his right eye from further damage.
The explosiveness of punches bounced off both fighters throughout the contest as they left themselves open to attacks to seal victory. Inoue ‘snaking in’ with jabs and follow up powershots and the ‘Filipino Flash’ marching forward. The 9th round was action packed with Donaire going to work on the Japanese and visibly shaking him with a big right hand cross mid-round. Inoue however showed his chin matches his ‘Monster’ powerpunching reputation, as he held momentarily and came through the round.
The pivotal round was the 11th. Inoue caught Donaire with a perfectly placed left hook to the body mid-round forcing his opponent to touchdown. The only knockdown of the fight.
How Donaire dragged himself up on the count of nine and got through the remaining half of the round was miraculous, drawing on his vast championship experience and true grit.
This would be only the third time Inoue had failed to secure victory by KO.
Both fighters showed their mutual respect in the build up, at several stages during the fight, and embraced exhausted at the final bell. Later, promoter and WBSS supremo Kalle Sauerland rightly dubbed the fight the ‘Drama in Saitama’.
Although Inoue took all the straps and Ali Trophy, which almost dwarfed him post-fight, Donaire in defeat will for sure be a first ballot entry to the International Boxing Hall of Fame if he now decides to retire.
The Japanese star and Ring Magazine pound for pound #4 will now target France’s WBC champion Nordine Oubaarli who defeated Naoya’s younger brother on the undercard. The older sibling, despite showing defensive flaws for the first time, will start as a big favourite.
Great matches at 118lbs and beyond await for ‘The Monster’ and further spectacular nights are in store for his increasing worldwide fanbase. On this evidence it’s impossible not to be excited by this new explosive star in the lower weight classes.