The World Boxing Super Series threw up another classic encounter when Naoya Inoue captured the Ali trophy at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan from Filipino legend Nonito Donaire who survived the 11th round knockdown to hear the final bell in the bantamweight final.
Both boxers were hurt in a fight that most thought would be decided in the early stages by the power of the Japanese fighter known simply as "Monster", but Donaire showed why he is one of the greatest boxers to come out of the Philippines with a defiant display that on a couple of occasions saw Inoue's legs wobble from the Filipino's explosive counters. Inoue had never been tested to this extent before and he savoured the exam, taking Donaire's power shots and coming back with his own.
Donaire was the bigger man naturally but Inoue's superior speed saw him start the fight brightly, winning the early rounds even though Donaire backed him up at times and was able to take punches that had seen the Japanese fighter's previous opponents knocked out. It was Donaire's chin that kept him in the fight before he started to catch Inoue with his own heavy artillery. Never before had we seen Inoue caught flush by such powerful punches, but he came through them and showed why he could go on to be the No1 pound for pound boxer in the years to come. He simply would not be beaten.
Inoue was cut over the right eye in the 2nd round and the cut hampered him throughout the remaining 10 rounds, but it was easy to see that Japan has a boxer who enjoys the heat of a tough battle. After each round, Inoue came back to his corner and chatted away as if he was excited and couldn't wait for the next round to begin.
In the middle rounds, Donaire came on strong and brought the scorecards very close. Although I always had Inoue in a slight lead, it looked as if the "Filipino Flash" was getting stronger as the fight entered the championship rounds. But this is where Inoue's youth and speed took over, as he floored the four-weight world champion with a perfectly placed left hook to the body. Only Donaire knows how he made it to his feet, let alone found his way to the final bell, but it was all Inoue and this was where he pulled away to win by a unanimous decision.
Boxing is going through a real golden period at present and some of that is due to the WBSS. We keep watching world champions face one-another and producing fights that could be called 'fight of the year' candidates each time they contest these final's. Credit must go to the Sauerland brothers who run the WBSS.
Just two weeks ago we saw Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis In a tremendous battle for the super-lightweight WBSS final and now Inoue and Donaire have treated us to this classic. It is November, so we still have Wilder vs Ortiz, Ruiz Jr vs Joshua, etc.