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 Bantamweight division is current a mess thanks the WBC's slow decision to tidy up their title situation, as well as the WBA's multiple title situation. Today however we saw the weight class get tidied up a little bit as WBA “super” champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18) [Жанат Ескендирулы Жакиянов] took on IBF champion Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9) in a unification bout, that helped take one of the titles from the confusing mix of belts.
The fight started in a very messy fashion with Zhakiyanov pressing the action and Burnett trying to fight off the back foot. It was a round full of holding, wrestling and grappling, though there was moments where the fighters did separate and Burnett landed some lovely eye catching shots which were the cleanest blows of the round.
The close, messy, action continued through much of the fight, with rounds 2, 3, 4 and 5 all pretty much identical to each other. They all saw Zhakiyanov pressing the action and the two fighters trading blows between in some messy yet exciting action that seemed to show Burnett was able to fight Zhakiyanov's fight and have success with it, there was however little to separate the men and neither looked capable of hurting the other.
In round 6 we saw a slight change as Burnett looked to have injured his shoulder at one point, before gritting his teeth and resuming the contest, with Zhakiyanov all over him. It was one of the best rounds for the Kazakh, despite some spirited efforts from Burnett late on, and it looked like the momentum was starting to swing n favour of Zhakiyanov. Sadly for the Kazakh the injury to Burnett wasn't as bad as it first seemed and he looked to be just fine over rounds 7 and 8.
Amazingly in round 9 Burnett changed his tactics, got on to his toes and really managed to make life easy for himself as he established some distance and boxed his fight, for the first time in the fight. It was a style that he likely would have wanted to use from the start of the fight, but couldn't due to Zhakiyanov's pressure, but was now able too with the Kazakh slowing down. It was a tactic Burnett used through rounds 10 and 11 to clearly put himself in charge of the bout, before going toe-to-toe in a thrilling 12th round. It was a perfect finish to the fight which had been incredibly tough for the fighters.
At the end of 12 rounds it seemed like a close, but clear, win for Burnett, though the judges didn't even seem to see the bout as competitive scoring it 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 for Burnett, making it look relatively one sided when it really hadn't been.
With the IBF and WBA titles now around his waist the future looks really interesting for Burnett, and he does have a lot going for him, but this was a draining war and he will be looking to avoid those in the future if he's going to have a lengthy reign. For Zhakiyanov the loss ends his reign, but he certainly didn't shame himself, and he should remain in the title mix going forward.
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.