Through 2019 we had some truly amazing fights, at the very top of the sport and right through to domestic level fights. The short list for fight of the year was genuinely an extensive one, and fights like Gennadiy Golovkin Vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko, or Hiroto Kyoguchi Vs Tetsuya Hisada were fantastic fights worthy of a rematch, as was Moruti Mthalane Vs Masayuki Kuroda, though sadly we've yet to stumble on a copy of the fight to rewatch.
Despite the deep list of great fights we had in 2019 there was one fight that stood out as the clear Fight of the Year, and that was the WBSS Bantamweight final dubbed the "Drama in Saitama". The bout pit Japanese star Naoya Inoue against a resurgent Nonito Donaire and delivered the WBSS final that we deserved, even if it wasn't the one many had pegged at the beginning of the tournament.
Inoue got to the final in destructive fashion. He had taken care of Juan Carlos Payano in just 70 seconds before creating history in 2019 by becoming the first Japanese fighter to ever win a world title bout in Europe, stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez in Scotland. Donaire's route to the final was a little more interesting, taking an injury related win over Ryan Burnett in an upset then flattening Stephon Young, a late replacement for Zolani Tete, in 6 rounds.
Whilst many anticipated a blow out for Inoue what we got was proof that Donaire, at Bantamweight, is still a dangerous fighter, a heavy handed and tough fighter with the experience to see out some real danger. We also saw just how big of a Bantamweight he was, as he looked a division bigger than the local star, and unlike anyone we've seen he walked through huge shots from Inoue, at least until round 11 when he was finally sent down.
The bout had everything. We saw both men hurt, we saw Inoue fight through adversity, as he suffered double vision and a fractured orbital early on, we saw Donaire fight through some serious punishment himself, and some how pulled himself off the canvas in round 11 following a body shot that would have stopped anyone else in the division.
The only sour points in the entire fight was the odd decision from referee Ernie Sharif to essentially jump in front of Inoue in round 11, and the poor scorecard of Robert Hoyle, who had the bout decided on the basis of the knockdown. But they were minor complaints and did little to mar a bout that deserves all the plaudits it's been getting ever since.
attendance at today's show in the Korakuen Hall, where he was sat next to former WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka. Despite the injuries and damage he really didn't look too banged up, bar the bandage over his right eye which was cut against Donaire.
Talking about WOWOW Inoue Vs Donaire was replayed on WOWOW today, which is what he was doing work for, and it really has been a hectic few days for the WBA and IBF Bantamweight champion, who has seemingly spoken to every part of the Japanese media since the bout on Thursday.
After winning the WBSS Bantamweight final yesterday Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] attended a press conference earlier today to speak about the fight.
The press conference which had numerous TV cameras and reporters, was well attended given that Inoue had also spoken to the press yesterday, after his win against Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26).
Inoue, sporting a bandage over his right eye which was cut and required 5 stitches, summed up the injury by essentially stating that that was boxing, and things like that happen.
He told those who attended that “I am finally relieved that this tournament is over,” , and seemed to really appreciate the fact that it was Donaire he faced in the final explaining "If it was not Donaire, I think it couldn't have been a game that touched me so much.” He also hinted that he was looking forward to seeing Donaire again, and the respect they have shown each other through the tournament has certainly not been lost after their bout.
The unbeaten Japanese "Monster" revealed that he was inspired to get through the tough moments by thinking about his 2 year old son, and wanted to prove to his son that he was strong.
Speaking about the cut he suffered Inoue explained that he was forced to change tactics, “I was forced to change my strategy in an instant. I was disappointed because I couldn't get everything out. I wish I could continue the first move,”.
As revealed yesterday after the fight Inoue is set to fight in the US twice next year under the Top Rank banner, and made it clear that he wants to face WBC champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12), though it does seem unlikely that that will be next for the two men, who both have mandatory defenses looming.
*Note - All quotes roughly translated from Japanese to English.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Press Release - 7 November 2019
The Drama in Saitama! Inoue wins Ali Trophy after war with Donaire
Naoya Inoue overcame the heroic Nonito Donaire to claim a points victory to win the Ali Trophy in the bantamweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series in Saitama, Japan.
The three judges scored the bout 116-111, 117-109, 114-113 in favour of Inoue.
And what a drama it was.
Four weight champion Donaire opened a cut above Inoue's right eye with a left hook in the second round. The Filipino-American was then in control until the fifth when Japanese Inoue landed a right hook to the jaw, stunning the legend and seizing momentum.
But Inoue’s ‘Monster’ reputation as one of the planet’s most fearsome fighters was put in serious jeopardy in the ninth as Donaire rocked him with a sensational counter right, leaving his opponent reeling for the first time in his career.
In the closing rounds, Donaire took a knee after a body shot in the 11th, although he would bravely withstand to hear the final bell.
In respect of each other's epic performances, 26-year-old Inoue and 36-year-old Donaire embraced after their back-and-forth battle.
"Donaire was a very, very strong opponent," said Inoue, who also became the unified IBF and WBA bantamweight champion. "This is the first cut I have had in my career. I think Donaire is a true champion.
The Muhammad Ali Trophy was presented to Inoue by Japanese boxing legend Masahiko Harada better known as Fighting Harada, a former world champion in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions.
“Winning the Ali Trophy is the biggest thing so far in my career and I see a bright future in front of me. I am not the greatest of all time yet, but that is the goal.”
“We’ve seen ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, ‘The Thriller in Manilla’ and now we have seen the ‘Drama in Saitama,” said Kalle Sauerland, Chief Boxing Officer of the WBSS.
“It was incredible. Just when you think it can’t get any better coming from the super-lightweight final with Prograis and Taylor at The O2 in London you fly over here … amazing fight week, 20,000 people at the Saitama Arena.
“This was the Fight of the Year. It was a very close fight. Hats off to Nonito Donaire and what can you say about Inoue, unbelievable. This fight for me, out of the live fights I’ve seen, is definitely the best I ever, ever seen. I’ve said it before, the World Boxing Super Series brings the best against the best. The boxing gods are smiling at us tonight.”
Muhammad Ali Trophy champions:
2018-19: Noya Inoue, Bantamweight
2018-19: Josh Taylor, Super-Lightweight
2017-18: Aleksandr Usyk, Cruiserweight
2017-18: Callum Smith, Super Middleweight
(Image courtesy of Naoki Fukuda)
Earlier today we saw an absolute fire cracker of a fighter as Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] out pointed Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26) in a genuine Fight of the Year contender.
Following the bout a lot of things have happened, with the announcement that Top Rank have signed the "Monster", to Inoue himself speaking about the contest.
Inoue stated that Donaire was really strong, and explained that he had been cut twice in the second round. He spoke highly of Donaire before adding that he now wants to face off with WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (17-0, 12), who beat Naoya's brother Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3) [井上 拓真] in the show's chief support bout.
Among the many quotes given to the press after the fight from the WBSS winner were that he was. He stated the bout was "really fun", which it certainly was for the viewers. He also stated "Fighting Donaire was the best experience of my career", [Translated] stated that he had double vision from round 2 or 3.
It has also been revealed that he needed 5 stitches for the cut on his right eye.
Inoue also stated on social media that he was "proud of being able to fight Donaire" [Translated].
Hideyuki Ohashi, who has guided Inoue through his career so far, also seemed to take positives from the bout, “I think it was a battle that proved the toughness that everyone was worried about,” [Translated] and "I think this game was one of the most valuable wins,”[Translated]
Inoue was also confirmed to have signed with Top Rank, and stated that he would be devoted to having tough bouts under the Top Rank banner. It's been revealed that he is planning 3 bouts in 2020 with 2 of those taking place in the US and one in Japan.
The scorecards for the bout were also made public and left as many questions as answers. Such as what was Robert Hoyle watching in round 3 and 6, or how did Octavio Rodriguez give a 10-8 round in round 5 for Inoue.
Notably overall consensus scoring for the bout, which takes would have given a score of 116-111, the same as Luigi Boscarelli scorecard.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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