Just moments after Naoya Inoue's (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] younger brother, Takuma Inoue, lost in his challenge for the WBC Bantamweight title the "Monster" walked out to face Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26), played in by the sounds of iconic Japanese musician Tomoyasu Hotei, marking a change from Noriako Sato's "Departure".
The occasion however called on something special, the WBSS Bantamweight final. The bout to crown the Muhammad Ali trophy winner, and to unify the WBA, IBF, WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine titles. It was the conclusion of a tournament that had started more than a year ago, and been a genuinely global tournament with fights in Lafayette, Orlando, Ekaterinburg, Glasgow and Yokohama before concluding with this bout in Saitama.
Many had expected this to be a mismatch. The next quick win for the Monster, he was around 1/9 to win and and it was 1/3 for the bout not to go beyond 4 rounds. This was expected to be little more than a formality. On paper it was the WBSS final the fighters wanted, but maybe not the fans. In the end however it was the final we deserved, and it was a genuine Fight of the Year Contender.
The fight started with Inoue looking razor sharp, and landing everything he wanted against Donaire in the first round. Donaire however never seemed phased until early in round 2, when he was rocked, and hurt for the first time in the fight. Donaire however turned the tide later in round 2 when he landed he patented left hook, cutting Inoue over the right eye, and Inoue the first cut of his career. The cut seemed to make Inoue wary and in rounds 3 Inoue boxed smart, moving, backing off and staying say behind his quicker foot work. That smart boxing allowed him to regain his grip on the bout
In round 4 Inoue began to unload on Donaire with bigger shots as the Filipino walked forward, trying to wear Inoue down. It was a risky strategy from the Filipino but one that he felt could work as he continued to press, walking through shots that would have dropped anyone else in the division. He was hurt a few times, including wobbling in round 5, but managed to come through the storm and leave Inoue with a bloodied nose.
The pressure of Donaire again came at a cost in rounds in rounds 6 and 7 as he was left being out boxed. Inoue combined both smart movement, heavy shots and jabs to chip away at Donaire, and in round 7 it looked like the work of Inoue had done it's job. Donaire was looking slow, and worse for war.
Despite having the moment things changed massively in rounds 8 when he hurt Inoue early in the round with a great right hand. For much of the round Donaire was the boss, and it suddenly seemed like all the pressure from Donaire had began to have the desired effects. By the end of the round blood was streaming down Inoue's face as the cut from the right eye worsened, and he took more punishment in one round than we'd seen from him in his entire career. That was followed by another huge Donaire round, and by the the end of round 9 Inoue had seemingly put his aggressive mindset to bed, boxing and moving, and trying all he could to avoid the power of Donaire.
Momentum again shifted in round 10 as Inoue showed some new found energy, and despite taking some heavy shots himself he managed to hurt Donaire, wobbling him seconds before the bell. Inoue knew it was a big shift and roared to the packed out Saitama arena when he got back to his corner. It was as mush a roar of defiance as a was a war call, telling the fans he was okay, and was going to go back on the offensive. Which he did!
In round 11 Inoue dominated Donaire, as he went for the finish, hurting Donaire badly with a left hand to the body. The shot seemed to put Donaire down for the count, though the referee allowed Donaire up at 10. It was a brave call from the referee but a desire to let a veteran like Donaire go out on his shield, if he needed to. Despite getting to his feet Donaire took a hammering through the rest of the of round as Inoue went all out for the finish. In some places that would have been in. Enough was enough. Here however the fight continued and we went into the final round, something that few expected, and even fewer would have anticipated after the knockdown.
Some how Donaire had recovered by the start of the final round, but Inoue maintained his aggressive mentality and went for the finish again. Donaire somehow saw off the round, with only his incredible toughness keeping him up and fighting back as the two traded shots at the bell.
It seemed like a clear win on the scorecards for Inoue, he had been tested, he had been hurt, he had been cut, he had been shaken, but he had racked up the rounds. And two of the judges agreed, scoring it 116-111, 117-109 and 114-113.
The first two scores seemed about right, and we had it 117-110, giving Donaire rounds 2, 8 and 9, though we really need to query what Robert Hoyle had been watching as he some how had the bout decided by the knockdown in round 11. A bizarre score, that really does need explaining.
With the win Inoue claims the WBA Super title, retains the IBF and Ring Magazine titles and adds the Muhammad Ali trophy to his collection of silverware whilst Donaire likely bows out of professional boxing with one of his greatest ever performances, even if it did come in a loss.
The first of two world title fights today at the Saitama Super Arena saw the WBC Bantamweight title up for grabs, as "interim" champion Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上 拓真] challenged "regular" champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12), in a mouth watering clash of unbeaten Bantamweights.
The fight started slowly, with both men trying to figure the other out, it was a lot of posturing, measuring and feinting, and not much quality from either seemed to land. It was one where the judges could have gone either way, with Oubaali throwing more, but not really connecting, and arguably the most eye catching single with an Inoue right hand. The pace from Oubaali slowly increased towards the end of round 2, when he seemed hurt Inoue, and Oubaali's power showed again in round 3, as he visibly rocked the Japanese fighter, who had to move away to regain his composure. The power of the French-Moroccan continued to be a different maker, and in round 4 Inoue was caught by a huge counter on the side of the face that sent him to the seat of his pants.
After 4 rounds it was clear that Oubaali was winning, with the open scoring favouring the champion 38-37, 39-36 and 40-36.
The middle rounds saw Inoue seemingly bouncing back with some success but that wasn't reflected in the eyes of the judges, who preferred the heavier shots of Oubaali over the more consistent of Inoue. It wasn't that it was wrong to score that way, but it did feel a touch hard that, after 8 rounds, one judge had it 80-71 whilst another had it 79-72, whilst the third had it 77-74. Really not reflecting the competitive nature of the fight, which had been hotly contested. Oubaali typically looked the boss, but he had missed a lot, and was clearly slowing down in the 7th and 8th round. Just unfortunately for Inoue his low output style, did little to impress the judges.
Knowing he was a long way behind Inoue finally put his foot on the gas in the final 4 rounds, amping up his work and trying to break down the champion. This was what he had needed to do earlier, rather than waiting so late, and it really did look like a different fight. Oubaali was still live, with enough energy in the tank to fight back, but it was a completely different game plan from Inoue.
With time ticking down Inoue put it all on the line in the final round and, for the first time, really hurt Oubaali, but the champion showed his heart and toughness to see out some really tough moments. It seemed like he had done enough, given the open scoring after round 8, but it felt like the late rally of Inoue had really done something to make the bout look as competitive as it felt.
In the end however the scores were read out as 120-107, 117-110 and 115-112. With only the final really being reflective of what happened. The 120-107 is one of the legitimate worst cards we've seen this year and Alejandro Rochin should never be allowed near a scorecard in his life. The guy simply hasn't got a clue. A win for Oubaali doesn't get an any disagreement from us, but a shut out? No Rochin needs shutting out off the sport.
Interestingly this goes down as the first loss by any of the fighting Inoue trio.
The second major show today saw us turn our attention to the Philippines, where we got a really entertaining main event. The card's headline bout was for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title, as John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) and Mexican foe Cesar Ramirez (18-4, 11) traded blows in an action packed bout.
Casimero was the big favourite entering the bout. He was always expected to win, though he should a real hunger to win in style. He didn't just want the victory but wanted an eye catching win.
The fight started with a feeling out round but as early as round 3 Casimero was beginning to get significantly more aggressive. It was in round 3 the had scored his first knockdown, which really seemed more of a slip than a legitimate knockdown, and that he first showed that he wanted to take out Ramirez.
Ramirez bounced back excellently in the following round, as he upped his work rate, but had another 10-8 scored against him in round 5. This was another another case of a push being scored a knockdown, though it was clear that Ramirez was taking some punishment, despite giving all he had, and making it clear he wasn't going to just fold.
Ramirez's fire and desire showed again in round 6, as he forced a war and Casimero, for one of the few times, looked like he might be in some trouble. Whatever problems Casimero had were short lived however and he would score a very legitimate knockdown in round 7, nearly sending him out of the ring to secure a third 10-8 round. By now it was clear that Casimero was hunting a KO win, not just a win.
By now almost everything Casimero threw was a bomb, with either the left or right. It was a very energy sapping tactic for Casimero who appeared to get out worked in round 9 and even showed some signs of tiring. It was however a tactic Casimero felt comfortable with and was one he was trying to make a statement with. In round 10 that statement was made with a huge barrage from Casimero who hurt Ramirez with a body shot, the landed a right hand up top sending the Mexican to the canvas again. This time Ramirez was out, and the referee quickly waved off the action.
For Casimero this is his first defense of the WBO interim title, and should set up a shot with WBO regular champion Zolani Tete, in what should be an excellent match up. For Ramirez this was a painful loss. He gave everything and everything wasn't even close to enough, and it's really hard to see him competing at the fringes of world level any time soon. He's a gutsy and brave fighter, but technical limitations will always hold him back.
The Bantamweight division has been dominated over the last 12 months by the WBSS, and the destruction left by Naoya Inoue. Outside the WBSS however we've seen the WBC Bantamweight picture become a mess, with Takuma Inoue claiming the interim title, Luis Nery being in the mix and the crowning of Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) as the champion.
Today Oubaali made his first defense of the the title, and did so in easy and dominant fashion, stopping over-matched Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
From the opening seconds Oubaali looked in a different class to Villanueva, who looked like a man who wasn't sure he deserved to be in the ring with the champion. The opening round was all Oubaali, even though he was only fighting in first gear he looked in a class of his own. From there on Oubaali chipped away at the Filipino, breaking him down with clean, accurate shots in rounds 2 and 3. There was very, very little coming back from Villanueva, who did enough to look like he was trying, but not enough to get Oubaali's respect.
By the end of round 3 Oubaali was starting to beat up Villanueva who realised he had to fight back. Sadly for Villanueva fighting back lead to him being tagged cleaner, and in round 4 the Filipino was rocked again.The following round the challenger began to look scared once again whilst Oubaali changed tactics. The champion had gone from landing combinations to looking for more hurtful single shots, trying to actually hurt the challenger with every shot. Those shots were doing damage and by the end of the right the challenge's right eye was nearly closed.
In round 6 the continued beating resumes, with Oubaali scoring a knockdown after a combination. It wasn't a combination of hard shots, but they were clean and the Filipino took a knee. Following that Oubaali went for the kill, with Villanueva managing to do just enough to convince the referee not to step in, but he was now a beaten man.
Knowing that he was out classed, out boxed, out punched and being dominated Villanueva took the decision to retire to retire between rounds 6 and 7, making a wise choice.
Whilst this was an unexpected opportunity for Villanueva it was also an undeserved one, and it's hard to see him getting any more opportunities at world level. As for Oubaali he has an interesting future. His next defense if expected to come against Takuma Inoue, though he will also have eyes on the winner of the WBSS, which will be either Naoya Inoue or Nonito Donaire, and will also have the controversial Luis Nery as possible future foe. This was an easy first defense, but hopefully we'll find out how good Oubaali really is in the near future.
Fighters will, one day, learn not to disrespect Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) [井上 尚弥]. He hands out beatings when disrespect, as Jamie McDonnell found out last year, and as Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12) found out just moments ago.
The two men, meeting in the WBSS semi final, had entered as unbeaten champions, with Inoue as the WBA "regular" champion and Rodriguez as the IBF champion. It was supposed to be Inoue's biggest test, his toughest fight and a real chance for him to answer questions, questions that fans who hadn't followed him from the start of career still had. It was however another procession from the Monster, just like his previous two bouts at Bantamweight, against Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano. An execution that was likely as quick as it was due to the over-confidence of Rodriguez and his team, who had pushed Inoue's trainer and father Shingo at the media work out in the week.
The first round started well for Rodriguez who landed a good right hand in the opening seconds, before Inoue settled behind his jab, and managed to take the round thanks to a steady stream of jabs left hooks. Inoue landed a couple of right hands during the round but didn't seem to budge Rodriguez who applied pressure, and had one or two moments of his own, but was out landed over all.
Having got a read on his man early in round 2 Inoue began to turn up the hear and let his shots go with the free flowing aggression we've seen of him since early in early in his career. A big body shot hurt Rodriguez who was then given a huge head shot, then a left hook moments later dropped Rodriguez. To his credit Rodriguez got up, but was down again from a sickening body shot. That could have ended the fight but he returned to his feet, narrowly beating the count, before being dropped again. That was it. After just 79 seconds of round 2 Rodriguez, supposedly Inoue's stiffest test to date, was dispatched.
This was the 6th time in a row that Inoue had stopped someone who had never been stopped, including not only McDonnell and Payano but also the teak tough Kohei Kono, a former 2-time world champion. It was also his third second round stoppage following wins against Omar Andres Narvaez and Warlito Parrenas.
More notable for Japanese boxing it is the first time, in history, a Japanese fighter has won a world title fight in Europe, ending a 51 year, 20 fight losing run in the continent.
As for the future this win books Inoue a showdown later in the year with Filipino legend Nonito Donaire, in the WBSS final. That should be a huge fight for Asia, and arguably the most notable opponent that Inoue will have faced so far, certainly the most dangerous. Donaire might be on the slide but he is certainly a lot more proven that Rodriguez and Payano.
The first man to book himself a place in the Season 2 WBSS finals was Filipino star Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26), who's much vaunted left hook showed it's self just moments ago, as he left American Stephon Young (18-2-3, 7) flat on his back. Not only did he book his place in the WBSS Bantamweight final, but also retained the WBA "super" Bantamweight title.
Young, a late replacement for South African Zolani Tete who had to pull out due to a shoulder injury, was taking a huge step up in class and it showed early on as he fought really apprehensively, almost looking scared of Donaire. It wasn't until very late in round 2 that he even seemed to realise he had to throw punches back at Donaire, landing a good combination and a solid straight left hand in the final seconds of the round.
Donaire didn't really seem bothered by Young's shots, even when they landed clean, as he just walked the American down. The game plan seemed to be clearly about pressuring Young, and he aggressively stalked him, looking to land his hook and straight hands. The pressure from Donaire opened up chances for him to land, and in round 3 he seemed to clearly hurt Young, who had no answer to the pressure of Donaire.
The Filipino wasn't just walking down Young but was reading him at the same time, and was getting closer and closer to landing a thunderous left hook. That hook finally landed clean in round 6, when he detonated on the chin of Young, who dropped lack a sack of potatoes. The referee could have counted to 100 and Young wouldn't have beat the count, it was a truly fantastic shot and left Young out of it.
This win secures Donaire a bout against either Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) or Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12), who meet in May to decide the second finalist. After today's win Donaire revealed he would rather face Inoue.
PBC is, at times, brilliant, with some great match making, competitive fights and big names facing off. Sometimes however the whole PBC series is a mess with mismatches, over-payment to certain fighters and other fights being included on shows due to favours, and not actually getting the TV exposure they deserve.
We saw a case of that last night when PBC failed to televise a thrilling, up and down war between John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) and Ricardo Espinoza Franco (23-3, 20) for the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title.
The bout, which had only had it's title confirmed this past week by the WBO, looked like an amazing match up on paper. It had a talented Filipino looking to become a "3-weight champion" and a big punching Mexican, who was in great form. It had the ingredients to be one of the best bouts of the weekend and looked wonderfully competitive, unlike many of the bouts which did actually get television coverage.
Whilst we could sit and bemoan things that we didn't get, we would love to congratulate the fans who were able to catch the fight from the crowd, as they got a treat. A treat they had had to watch for, a treat that has been worth staying at the venue for.
The Mexican fighter started fast, taking the early rounds with his aggression, forcing Casimero to soak up the heat. The Filipino veteran, a true road warrior, showed his experience boxing on the back foot, holding when he needed to blunt the threat of Espinoza and countering well. As the Mexican's intensity fell it was going to give Casimero openings and that happened in rounds 5 and 6 as Casimero began to have more success. The power of Casimero, which has always been thudding to say the least, paid off in round 6 when he dropped the Mexican with a hard right hook towards the end of the bell.
Espinoza began to pick the pace back up after the knockdown, knowing he had to swing momentum back in his direction. That however came at a cost, and the Mexican was needing to work harder and harder to try and take Casimero down.
Heading into the final round it seemed like an ultra close one. There was seemingly little to pick between the men. Espinoza had been the aggressor, but the knockdown and smart counter boxing of Casimero had been winning him rounds. It seemed like both knew it was close, but a big combination early in the final round from Casimero took the judges out of the bout, dropping Espinoza for the second time. That, along, should have been enough, but Casimero didn't want to take any risks, and jumped on Espinoza after he beat the count, forcing the referee to stop the action.
The scores going into the final round, for those interested, were 105-103, 103-105 and 104-104, meaning it really was amazingly well balanced heading into the final 3 minutes.
With the win Casimero claims his third "world title", and sets himself up for the winner of the WBSS, meaning a potential clash with Zolani Tete, Nonito Donaire, Emmanuel Rodriguez or Naoya Inoue, though he is one of a growing queue to get a shot at the eventual tournament winner.
After years of being in Naoya Inoue's shadows today we saw his younger brother get his long awaited chance to announce himself on the world stage, as he took on Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) [井上 拓真] unbeaten Thai Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) [เพชร ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท], also known as Petch CP Freshmart and Tasana Salapat, in a bout for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title.
On paper this looked a good bout, two unbeaten men, each looking to cement themselves among the best in the Bantamweight division, and each looking to impress internationally, with the bout being aired in Japan, Thailand, Russia and the US.
Sadly the paper didn't really tell the full story, and didn't show the quality of oppositions, the skills of the two fighters themselves or the styles of the two men. Within seconds Inoue showed the difference between two fighters, shaking Petch with one of the first punches thrown, and then doing the same only moments later. It looked like Inoue was totally in a different league to the Thai, though to his credit Petch recovered well and was aggressive when the fight got into the second round, when he was again punished by the sharp punching of Inoue. It was in the second round where we had the only notable accidental foul, a nasty head clash that left both cut, but not too badly.
The Japanese youngster had spent a lot of time preparing for this bout by sparring top Japanese southpaws, and that showed as he repeatedly landed straight right hands onto the face of the Thai, and wonderfully timed left hooks. Petch kept marching forward, letting his hands go in volume, but kept falling short, missing wildly and and catching Inoue's guard. Through 2 rounds he looked a sensation, with brilliant timing, control and movement. In round 3 however he began to slow down and Petch began to have more success, that success was short lived however with Inoue shining again in round 4 with some more solid right hands.
The open scoring all had Inoue up, 39-37, after 4 rounds. He however did appear to be tiring, and slowed more in the middle rounds as Petch applied more and more pressure. It wasn't effective pressure from the Thai, but was making Inoue work hard and he tried to respond by going to war with the Thai, it was a short lived tactic that Inoue ditched when he went back to boxing and moving. It was was clear that Petch wasn't going to go away, he wasn't going to stop firing shots and he wasn't going to give up, but he was going to continue eating clean shots if Inoue moved around. Despite changing tactics a few times from the Japanese fighter was up 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75 when the scores were announced again at the end of round 8.
It seemed like Inoue was tiring through the middle rounds and like Petch felt their could be an opening late on. That opening however was slammed shut in round 9 when he was rocked hard towards the end of the round. Prior to hurting his man Inoue had looked back to his best, finding the space to land right hands, the occasional combination and showing the genius that he had shown early in the fight. He would go on to hurt Petch again in round 10, and it appeared that a stoppage could be on the cards, but Petch's toughness showed and he continued to grit his teeth and take the fight to Inoue, who was showing nasty bruising under his right eye.
With the bout essentially in the bag going into the final 2 round Inoue seemed to know he didn't need to take too many risks, and he didn't take them, instead doing as he had done through much of the fight. Boxing off the back foot, using lateral movement and make Petch look 1-dimensional and wild. He did invite Petch in for a fight towards the final moments, but it wasn't to be as the bell rang.
Going to the score-cards there was no doubting the winner with Inoue taking the decision 117-111, and with it the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title, to go along with his brother's WBA "regular" title.
For Petch this was evidence that he could fight, but stylistically Inoue was all wrong for him, and it showed round after round. For Inoue the bout showed he can hit hard than his record suggests, but there is something missing that he needs to work on to score KO's. It's also unfortunate, that Inoue didn't manage to really impress the US fans like he'd have wanted, he showed a lot of skill, but there was little drama during the middle of the fight.
Few gave Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25) any chance in his WBSS quarter-final bout against the unbeaten #1 seeded Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9). Amazingly, though bizarrely, Donaire managed to get the win to advance to the tournaments semi-final and become the WBA Bantamweight “super” champion.
We mentioned “bizarrely” because the end of the bout was indeed bizarre, with Burnett injuring himself and needing to retire from the bout between rounds 4 and 5.
The fight started competitively, much more so than expected. Burnett had the edge in speed, something that everyone expected, but Donaire looked dangerous and had moments in the opening round. It was Donaire who pressed forward, though did have to eat some solid single shots from Burnett, who looked tiny compared to the Filipino.
The second round saw Burnett look better than he had in the opening round, looking sharper and crisper, with a brilliant right hand landing clean early in the round. Though Burnett looked good he was cornered at one point in the round and it seemed like Donaire's pressure was having some effect, and he was pulling Burnett into his fight.
In round 3 Donaire had success in cornering Burnett more often and his pressure really did show through, as he caught Burnett on a pretty frequent basis. Burnett still looked the crisper fighter, and he landed a really 1-2 mid way through the round, but he was cornered late and forced to eat some solid shots as Donaire let his combinations go.
Donaire continued to press in round 4, and despite falling short with a number of shots the pace began to slow and suit him. Burnett, really was slowing massively and doing little. Even when Donaire fell short there was little coming back from the champion. Sadly towards the end of round 4 Burnett turned his body, and went down in agony with what seemed like a back injury. He got back up but was a damaged fighter and Donaire knew it as he looked for a finish.
Burnett's toughness saw him see out the round, but rightfully he was pulled from the bout between round 4 and 5, and then left the ring on a stretcher.
We hope the injury is something that won't keep Burnett out of the ring for long, he's a really talented young fighter and it would be a huge shame if this effects his career long term. For Donaire it's a huge win and sets up a semi-final with Zolani Tete in the new year. If he gets through that and Naoya Inoue can get past Emmanuel Rodriguez we may end up with a huge WBSS final for Asia.
It's not often that Japanese fighters, fighting in Japan, get a chance to show case themselves. Today however we saw the WBSS turn their focus to Yokohama and the world got a chance to see WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] show how devastating he is. The Japanese sensation was taking on former "Super" champion Juan Carlos Payano (20-2, 9) in what was a WBSS quarter final bout and Inoue's first defense of the WBA title.
Sadly for fans expecting a real show case of Inoue's skills, speed, and movement this wasn't the bout to show them off. Instead this was a 70 second blow out that saw Inoue really only land 2 punches, a brutal 1-2 that dropped Payano for the count.
The bout started with both men jostling for position. Inoue applied some pressure with his footwork from the off. Payano rushed in as he tried an attack but failed to land anything. A few seconds later Inoue threw a hard jab and followed it with a right hand, that dropped Payano hard. The Dominican wouldn't beat the count, and never looked like he was close to it.
With the win Inoue pogresses to the semi-final of the WBSS and shows that he really is the “Monster” with back-to-back opening round wins at Bantamweight.
Whilst Payano had never been stopped before there is an argument that he wasn't really a great opponent. He was 34 years old, had fought just once in the last year, had been dropped twice, and had never faced a world class puncher like Inoue. That however shouldn't take away from how impressive Inoue was, how destructive he looked and how he set two new Japanese records, extending his current stoppage run to 7 fights at world level and scoring his 11th stoppage win at world level, breaking records that he had previously tied with Yoko Gushiken and Takashi Uchiyama, respectively.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.