It is not often that such a highly regarded campaigner as Nonito Donaire is matched with an opponent so fearsome that we are all wondering how on earth the Filipino legend can possibly survive the 12 rounds let alone win, but that is the case when he meets Japanese knockout machine Naoya Inoue at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on November 7th in the final of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight (WBSS) final.
It’s now 12 years since Donaire, nicknamed ‘The Filipino Flash’ first became a world champion, taking the IBF and IBO Flyweight titles from Sydney, Australia based Armenian Vic Darchinyan in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He went on to hold world titles at Super-flyweight, Bantamweight, Super-bantamweight, and Featherweight to become a four weight world champion.
After a 2018 points defeat to Carl Frampton, Donaire made the surprising move back down to the 118lb Bantamweight division to enter the WBSS event. In his quarter-final, Donaire drew WBA Super champion Ryan Burnett and went through when Burnett suffered a freak back injury that saw him leave the ring on a stretcher. Donaire then met American Stephon Young in the semi-finals due to pull-outs by Zolani Tete and Mikhail Aloyan.
Donaire, now 36-years-old, rolled back the years and scored a superb left hook finish in the 6th round to book his final spot and a crack at the unbeaten Inoue.
In Inoue’s 3rd pro bout, he moved up to 10 rounds and scored a 10th round stoppage. It is not often that a young professional is moved along so quickly. In his next bout, Inoue was forced to go the full 10 rounds while winning the Japanese Light-flyweight title. In only his sixth fight, Inoue became WBC world Light-flyweight champion and 2 fights later he added the WBO Super-flyweight title to his collection. After 7 defences, the man known in Japan simply as ‘Monster’, moved up again and tore the WBA world Bantamweight title from Britain’s Jamie McDonald in 1 round.
Inoue started his WBSS campaign with a 1st round Ko of Juan Carlos Payano, a former world champion at Super-bantamweight, before adding the IBF crown to his WBA strap with a destructive 2nd round Ko of Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez, this setup the final between Inoue and Donaire.
The Japanese ‘Monster’ is 26-years-old, ten years younger than Donaire and only two opponents have managed to hear the last bell, and although Donaire has looked back to his best in his two bantamweight fights, I’m not sure he has ever faced a puncher of the Japanese fighter’s stature.
Inoue will stop Donaire within six rounds, possibly less.