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.
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.
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.
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Season 2 began today and actually kicked off with a tape delay bout in the Light Welterweight division. The bout saw WBA champion Kiryl Relikh (23-2, 19) facing off with former IBF champion Eduard Troyanovsky (27-2, 24) in what looked like an excellent match up on paper. Sadly the bout didn't quite manage to have the fireworks expected of it, though still managed deliver a competitive and compelling contest between two well matched fighters. Just not one that quite managed to deliver the explosive action we had anticipated.
The first round was a close one with Troyanovsky getting his jab into the face of Relikh who looked to come in and make the fight a more active back and forth. It was a risky strategy from the Belarusian but one that showed his belief in his own durability. Relikh's belief in his physical strength saw him often being the man who pressed the action, but there was always a worry that Troyanovsky would land a brutal right hand, something he has done in the past even when being out boxed.
Relikh's insistence on coming forward was clumsy at times but saw him landing some solid left hands whilst Troyanovsky managed to land the heavier looking shots, particularly his jab and his counter shots. It looked like both men were dangerous, and both had the potential to stop the other, but neither man could ever quite land their cleanest and hard shots.
As we entered the middle rounds things began to get a touch sloppier, but the bout was hard to take your eyes off with Relikh continue to march forward, looking to land heavy shots but taking the occasional hard single shot from the big punching Russian challenger.
With Relikh applying all the pressure Troyanovsky was essentially fighting as a back-foot counter puncher, with a low output but landing clean hard punches as Relikh came in. Relikh's pressure had a break through in round 9 as he pinned Troyanovsky on the ropes and unloaded. Despite being under heavy pressure Troyanovsky countered well, landing a huge uppercut and a massive hook, but couldn't discourage the champion who kept marching in.
The final rounds saw the intensity drop but for the most part Relikh continued to be the aggressor, that was until the final minute, when Troyanovsky's power really hard it's first break through, hurting Relikh who backed off. It was the clearest round for Troyanovsky, thanks to a perfect 1-2 that really stunned Relikh and allowed him to take control. By then however it was too little too late.
The general feeling was that Relikh had always been the aggressor. Troyanovsky made great use of his jab through out, but was often looking the less hungry fighter and in the end this proved to be the difference, with Relikh taking the unanimous decision, with close card of 115-113 from all 3 judges.
After the fight Relikh was unhappy with his own performance, stating he hunted too much for the KO. Troyanovsky, who went 12 rounds for the first time in his career, seemed proud of his performance and a case could have been made the if he was just a year or two younger he'd have take the win here.
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.