WBSS preview: bantams do battle

Callum Rudge
12/10/2018 9:00pm

The second season of the World Boxing Super Series kicked off in earnest last weekend when ‘The Monster’ Naoya Inoue knocked out highly rated Juan Carlos Payano inside a round in front of a packed arena in Yokohama, Japan... Callum Rudge previews the remaining bantamweight quarter-finals...

Season 2 of the WBSS boasts three tournaments - bantamweight, super lightweight and a second helping of cruiserweight. All three promise to be fascinating affairs and provide further evidence that tournament boxing is viable in modern boxing.

The bantamweight portion of the WBSS undoubtedly hosts the biggest names and has the most world championships in play. While tournament favourite Inoue was in destructive form last week, the other three quarter-finals promise to be closer affairs with three world titles and places in the semi-finals at stake...

Zolani Tete (27-3) vs Mikhail Aloyan (4-0) – WBO Bantamweight Title
Expo, Ekaterinburg, Russia - 13 October 2018

The second quarter-final sees a name familiar to British boxing fans in Zolani Tete, who became a man to remember when he knocked out the then undefeated Paul Butler in his home city of Liverpool in an IBF super flyweight title fight back in 2015. Since then the South African has been a fixture on these shores, moving up to bantamweight and picking up another world title in the process. Tete has been vocal in terms of his desire to unify and clearly sees the WBSS as the quickest way to do just that.

Aloyan, on the other hand, is a novice in pro terms; at just 4-0 he is a young cub compared to Tete’s old lion but he was an elite amateur beating names like Andrew Selby and Rau’shee Warren in the unpaid ranks. Since turning over he hasn’t wasted any time, beating two undefeated fighters and picking up WBC Silver and WBA International titles to put him in a position for this opportunity for a world title in such quick fashion.

Both men are southpaws so I don’t expect a classic here but I do expect a fascinating first half of the contest with Aloyan doing his best to upset the champion and take him out of his rhythm. During the second half I think Tete will find his feet and use his greater reach and power to force a stoppage somewhere around the eighth round.

Emmanuel Rodriguez (18-0) vs Jason Moloney (17-0) – IBF bantamweight Title
CFE Arena, Orlando, USA – 20 October 2018

In this contest we have two boxers at similar stages of their career, both are undefeated and have spent the bulk of their career fighting at home (in Moloney’s case, all of his career) and are just a year apart in age. While Rodriguez is the world champion going into this showdown, his record isn’t a million miles better than Moloney’s. Like Tete, Rodriguez came into British fight fans' consciousness when he dropped and defeated Paul Butler, this time by wide unanimous decision at The O2 in May of this year to pick up the vacant IBF world title. During the fight he displayed excellent hand speed, great footwork and a very good engine and his display was so impressive that two judges gave him every round.

Moloney is also coming off a career-best win, stopping two-time world title holder Kohei Kono in six rounds in his homeland of Australia to set up his first world title opportunity. The other names on Moloney’s record aren't t anything to shout about but 14 stoppages from 17 wins shows he has some pop and he displayed some nice skills during the win over Kono last time out.

While both men look even matched on paper I see Rodriguez as a dark horse for this tournament and with the fight taking place in Orlando, I expect the Puerto Rican to be well supported. My pick is for Rodriguez to outbox and stop Moloney around the halfway mark.

Ryan Burnett (19-0) vs Nonito Donaire (38-5) – WBA bantamweight title
SSE Hydro Arena, Glasgow, Scotland – 3 November 2018

The line-up for the 118lbs tournament contains three world champions, former titlists and elite amateurs but it was the name of Nonito Donaire that caused the biggest stir when it was announced. Donaire is a legend of the smaller weight classes with championships in four divisions (and an interim title at super fly) as well as wins over heralded names like Vic Darchinyan, Jorge Arce and Fernando Montiel. However, since his highlight reel knockout loss to Nicholas Walters, the Filipino has jumped between 122 and 126lbs in search of some consistency. His most recent outing was against Burnett's countryman Carl Frampton, against whom he put up a spirited effort., although he lacked the energy to trouble the Belfast man. Burnett would have watched that fight and never expected to be Donaire’s next opponent - and yet here we are.

Burnett, unlike Donaire, has been Mr. Consistent, with 19 wins and no losses, having picked up two world titles along the way. While some fans were disappointed he vacated the IBF title, you have to admire his long-term thinking and no doubt he had the WBSS in mind when he decided to pass on his mandatory defence versus Emmanuel Rodriguez.

The key factor in this contest is weight - Donaire hasn’t boxed at 118lbs since 2011 and, at 35, is choosing an unusual stage in his career to go down in weight. At bantam, Donaire was a monstrous puncher and he also managed to buzz Frampton at 126lbs. Should Donaire still carry that power, he could pull off an upset but the pick is for the fresher man in Burnett to retain his title via decision after 12 rounds.