What a beautiful fight this was, between two esteemed boxers who openly hoped to face each other in the 🎥World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Final once the Tournament was set up in the division, and the participants were announced. The Bantamweight Champion of the World and Tournament #2 seed 🏆♛🇯🇵Naoya “Monster” Inoue (19-0-0, 16KO👊) through grueling back and forth action in spots became the Unified RING/WBA/IBF Bantamweight Champion, and now has the Muhammad Ali Trophy in his possession as a reward for going through his toughest fight with one of the true legends of the sport in Tournament #8 seed 🇵🇭Nonito “Flash” Donaire (40-6-0, 26KO👊), who proved once again why he is a First-Ballot Hall-of-Fame worthy by making a real contest of it.
The fight was fought in a multitude of ways, with both fighters interchanging game plans and switching styles for a cerebral affair to start the contest. In the second half of the first round, Inoue opened up a bit to land some quality combinations on Donaire, who was looking for opportunities through the punches. Inoue hurt Donaire in the 2nd round with a left hook. As payback Donaire also landed a good left hook of his own and opened a pretty nasty cut over Inoue’s 👁️right eye that started to bleed out. At no point in this fight did Inoue appear deterred from the blood pouring in his eye, or bothered by the challenges presented in fighting against a boxer with a quality lead hand like Donaire to continue peppering at it. While Inoue was establishing his jab, and belting Donaire with the check-hook on various occasions coming in, Donaire landed a great shot in the 4th round with a quick power cross over the jab, but Inoue took the punch rather well and continued using angles to try to outmaneuver the legendary Filipino fighter through activity.
Towards the end of the 5th round, Inoue wobbled and hurt Nonito badly with a 🪒razor sharp cross and punished him to the bell with left hooks, crosses, both downstairs and up top, but somehow while severely hurt, Donaire endured to get to the bell to end the round – a mass amount of credit to Donaire for surviving that onslaught. Donaire came back in the middle rounds to string together some quality action, and Inoue was eager to return the favor, making for some very interesting exchanges between the two in sequence. A big moment in the fight came in the 8th round when Donaire snuck in and landed a stiff right hand to re-aggravate the cut over Inoue’s right eye that up to that point was coagulated very well by his Cutman. From this point on is where the fight became really interesting.
A big time, rare moment surfaced in the 9th stanza when Donaire landed a laser-quick right hand on Inoue’s chin and staggered him at the knees. With nervous energy in the crowd at the 🏟️Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, Inoue showed a lot of poise and know-how in order to hold, and move well enough to preserve himself to get his legs back under him, while Donaire was trying his best to capitalize on the massive opportunity that he had just created. The 10th round was maniacal, with Nonito landing a nasty, quick right hand that hurt Inoue again, and a fight broke out. Inoue returned fire by crunching him with his own right hand to stagger Donaire, both looking like the Champions they were down the stretch of the round. The 11th round, it looked like everything was ready to fall apart for Donaire, who was crippled with a ridiculous 💥body shot (left hook to be specific) that must’ve been conjured up from HELL.
Nonito doubled over in excruciating pain, and turned his back to the action to walk over to the ropes and take a knee, and barely got up before the count of 10 from Referee Ernie Shariff. Inoue tried to end it all by throwing monster power punches in combinations looking to break the old war horse down, and looked to have him out of there, but Donaire landed a great counter with his own immense power to slow Inoue’s desire down to push the action. Both went after it in the 12th and final round, and the fight had reached its end, hearing the 🔔final bell go off. There were no debates as to who won it, but what superseded the official scorecards was the type of action that was put forth by both boxers, and the many moments that were authored up.
The scorecards went to the right man though one of the Judges had it too close, nonetheless, the incoming favorite to win the WBSS Tournament (was still the favorite despite 🇬🇧Ryan Burnett being the #1 seed, awarded that out of respect for unifying Titles) had fulfilled his quest, to pair the 🏆Muhammad Ali Trophy and WBA Bantamweight World Titles with his ♛RING & IBF Titles to further bolster his credentials as the best fighter in the division, and one of the best fighters throughout all of boxing. It was a great gesture to see all-time Japanese legend 👑🇯🇵Fighting Harada (who is pictured above to the left) present Inoue the trophy, a snapshot of 2 of the greatest boxers in Japan’s history.
A SALUTE TO A LEGEND 🚩 You could never say enough about Nonito Donaire’s performance, who was as game as you could be, with him coming into this fight fully motivated by fighting his best opponent in his career, and with his personal performance, and he outdone himself. Upon Donaire’s entry back to the Bantamweight division, it got me thinking…🤔perhaps Donaire wasn’t way past it as what seemed to be the case when he ventured north in weight. At Super-Bantamweight, his feet began to get sluggish, and he never looked the part of a Featherweight, artificially putting on the pounds to compete there and looking slow as a result of the physique. It makes me wonder how differently some people would perceive him if he were to just win a belt at 122 and 126, then quickly bounce back to 118 where he had always fought best at. Donaire always dared to be great, which is why he is of legendary status in this sport, but him parking away at 126 for those years may have took a couple years of optimal performance away from him.
Luckily for the sport of boxing, Donaire noticed the opportunity presented with the Tournament style setting, and concluded that he could still drop down and make the ⚖️weight to offer up the best of Nonito Donaire, and he had done so throughout the tournament. Inoue has made it clear on many occasion that he idolized Donaire, and now after his idol offered up his most difficult fight to-date, with scintillating action, they now have a 📎link in history that should make the bond between the 2 fighters stronger as time progresses.
Here are how the official judges scored the fight, and here is how we scored this contest at Project Combat.
🤜 Naoya Inoue = 227/628, 36.1% Landed.
🤜 Nonito Donaire = 141/605, 23.3% Landed.
OFFICIAL SCORECARDS ✎🗒️
✎ Luigi Boscarelli= 116 – 111 for NAOYA INOUE
✎ Octavio Rodriguez = 117 – 110 for NAOYA INOUE
✎ Robert Hoyle = 114 – 113 for NAOYA INOUE
PROJECT COMBAT SCORECARDS ✎🗒️
✎ Tré Berry = 117 – 110 for NAOYA INOUE
✎ Jon Uddin = 117 – 110 for NAOYA INOUE