Can the 'Filipino Flash' halt 'The Monster'? Inoue vs Donaire preview
Tom Craze & Luke G. Williams
Luke G. Williams and Tom Craze preview the mouthwatering World Boxing Super Series bantamweight final between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire, while Kalle Sauerland weighs in on Prograis vs Taylor and tomorrow's showdown in Saitama...
The World Boxing Super Series serves up another enticing showdown on Thursday in Japan as home country sensation Naoya Inoue faces four-weight world titlist and Filipino legend Nonito Donaire in the final of the bantamweight tournament.
The eagerly awaited showdown at the Super Arena in Saitama follows hot on the heels of the WBSS super lightweight final, which saw Josh Taylor lift the Muhammad Ali trophy after a pulsating fight of the year contender against Regis Prograis.
"We saw the best against the best when Taytor fought Prograis," WBSS chief boxing officer Kalle Sauerland told BM from Japan today. "We crowned Taylor as the Muhammad Ali trophy champion and I believe that in doing so he cemented his legacy.
"Prograis showed us, I think, that he will go on to cement his own legacy further down the line. I think once the dust has settled in the future we will see a rematch between therm at some point. It was that tight. That's what you get when you put the best against the best – you get the best the sport of boxing has to offer.
"Too often in boxing today champions take easy defences and this was exactly what the sport should set out to do. It’s a beautiful sport when done correctly. At the O2 we witnessed a fight that will stay with those who watched it in the arena or on TV for the rest of their lives. It was quite simply a fight that was unforgettable."
Can Inoue vs Donaire live up to the high standard set by Taylor and Prograis?
As far as storybook swansongs go, a Hall of Famer like Donaire flying into Japan, knocking out arguably the world’s P4P #1 fighter, and taking home the Ali Trophy – all with one signature left hook – would be as good as it gets.
It’s very difficult to pick such an outcome here, though.
‘The Monster’ might be the form fighter across any division, and it’s going to take a truly special fighter to beat him. As it stands, he’s proven himself to be one of the most special we have.
Sauerland argues that, right now, Inoue should be regarded as the best boxer on the planet.
"You can argue for others - the Lomachenkos, the Usyks and many other contenders - but for me there is no one at this level who has performed like Inoue over the last 18 months. I don‘t think you can have any argument that he’s the pound for pound number one.
"You strip it all down with the pound for pound list and there’s no world champion, no former world champion, no superstar or megastar who has done what he’s done in absolutely disposing of a weight class in such breathtaking fashion against top, top people in Juan Carlos Payano, Jamie McDonnell, and then Emmanuel Rodriguez."
Sauerland is also confident the fight will deliver. "It will be a great final. Size-wise Donaire is by far the biggest opponent Inoue will have ever faced and definitely the hardest punching opponent he’s ever faced. Donaire will take something from the [Emmanuel] Rodriguez fight because Inoue did get caught by Rodriguez, although he seemed to walk straight through it! Will it be different against Donaire? It will exciting to find out and a very exciting final."
BM doesn't expect Donaire to be blitzed inside one or two rounds like Rodriguez, Payano, and McDonnell before him it would take a brave man to confidently rule that possibility out.
Donaire might have his moments – and it’s possible he only needs one – but he’ll be outgunned.
Our pick is Inoue by body shot stoppage, somewhere between rounds 5 and 7.