Yesterday we got an unexpected cracker as Japanese star Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) was given a huge test by Filipino great Nonito Donaire. Despite the struggle Inoue got through with a well-earned decision win to pick up the Muhammad Ali trophy and score his biggest, toughest, and most impressive win to date. He was shaken, he was cut, but he was also the clear winner and the well deserved winner of the WBSS.
Following the WBSS win it was confirmed that Inoue had signed a deal with Top Rank, who will be promoting him in the US going forward. With both his win, and Top Rank deal, in mind we've decided to look at "Five For...Naoya Inoue", looking at 5 possible opponents for his next bout.
1-Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12)
The obvious fight to make right now would be a clash between Inoue and French-Morrocan Nordine Oubaali, the WBC champion defeated Naoya's younger brother Takuma Inoue on Thursday. The bout would see the WBA, IBF and WBC titles being unified and would be an easy sell with Naoya looking to avenge his brother's loss, with Oubaali would be looking to get the double over the Inoue family. The bout makes sense, and is one both men were open to following Thursday's bouts, and we all love to see titles being unified. However both men do have mandatory defenses to make which may hold up this show down, unless the WBC and IBF are both willing to delay the mandatory schedules.
2-Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20)
Talking about mandatory defenses Inoue's IBF mandatory defense is against Filipino fighter Michael Dasmarinas, who was actually sparring with Takuma Inoue in the build up his bout this past Thursday. Dasmarinas wouldn't be expected to pose much of a threat to Inoue but would mean the "Monster" would get rid of his mandatory obligation, and keep his unified titles intact, and would potentially serve as an interesting first assignment under Top Rank. The bout could be sold as Dasmarinas trying to avenge Donaire's loss for the Filipino people, whilst Inoue would clearly be coming into the bout to retain his title. Dasmarinas hasn't looked great in recent bouts, and would likely be taken out by Inoue, but would look good enough on paper to interest American fans.
3-Luis Nery (30-0, 24)
On paper a harder bout to make, as Luis Nery is very much a PBC fighter, a bout between Inoue and Mexican fighter Luis Nery is an easy sell. If it can be made. Nery is public enemy #1 in Japanese boxing circles due to his two tainted wins over Shinsuke Yamanaka, and a bout between Nery and Inoue would give Japanese boxing a chance to right the wrong of those Yamanaka losses, it would also give Nery a chance to face the new Japanese Bantamweight star. The issue for this bout is all between the two teams, Top Rank and PBC, but if a deal could be made to sort that out the fight would be huge, and the atmosphere, even in the US on supposedly neutral turf, would be electric. Interestingly if Inoue beat Oubaali, Nery would be his WBC mandatory, though if Nery beat Oubaali the bout would be a very nice unification bout. The options for this down the line are certainly there.
4-Zolani Tete (28-3, 21) / John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19)
This time we have a double choice, as it really depends on who wins on November 30th as to which of these two is option #4. South African fighter Zolani Tete is the current WBO champion, and he was actually part of the WBSS before getting injured and pulling out of a semi-final bout with Nonito Donaire. Tete was the opponent many had hoped to see face Inoue in the WBSS final, so having that bout, to unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles would be a great bout for 2020. With his size and reach Tete poses a lot of interesting questions to Inoue, but would be seen as a clear under-dog.
On the other hand if John Riel Casimero, the WBO interim champion, can over-come Tete at the end of the month, he would make for a different but equally interesting opponent for Inoue. Casimero isn't the rangy and taller opponent that Tete is, but is an unpredictable, heavy handed slugger, who would make for a really interesting foe for Inoue. Casimero certainly has power, and like Inoue is a 3-weight champion, but would obviously need to get past Tete to secure that bout.
5-Isaac Dogboe (20-2, 14)
Whilst all the other options we've looked at have been Bantamweight options one thing to consider is that Inoue may look to move up in weight sooner rather than later. One option for that would be a bout with former WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe, who is promoted by Top Rank. In fact this bout could take place at either Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight and could be made very easily if Top Rank wanted to pursue it. Dogboe has just suffered back to back losses to Emanuel Navarrete, but has been shown on US TV, is a Top Rank fighter and is a former world champion. On paper an easy bout to make, but maybe not the right time to make it, given Dogboe's recent defeats.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).