By Daniel Sharman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In November 2019, a most remarkable event occurred, one which went almost unnoticed amongst boxing fans: every single major champion within the bantamweight division faced off against another consensus top 10 fighter within the division. Indeed, if Rodriguez-Nery hadn't been scuppered at the last minute, eight top 10 bantamweights would have faced off against one another within just a single calendar month. This is a truly astonishing occurrence, and one seldom witnessed in modern day boxing, wherein top fighters are routinely inactive and often reluctant to fight one another.
In the wake of this eventful month, which has seen a number of other interesting developments within the division, four fighters have emerged thick amongst the clouds: Naoya Inoue, Nonito Donaire, Nordine Oubaali, and John Riel Casimero. In this new series, I will look at each of these four boxers in turn, considering matchups and mandatories, all with a view to plotting the course of a possible route to a new undisputed, and new lineal, bantamweight champion. In this, the prelude to the series, we recap the major events leading up to the current moment, and prepare the way for an examination of the four boxers who have emerged in the current bid for bantamweight supremacy. Whilst it may not yet be clear who will ultimately come out victorious, whoever it is will have achieved true supremacy, and will have left their name boldly etched in the annals of history.
A timeline of recent events:
24/04/2019, South Africa: WBO bantamweight titlist Zolani Tete is forced to withdraw from the WBSS quarterfinal, a unification bout with WBA 'super' champion Nonito Donaire, due to injury.
18/05/2019, Glasgow: Naoya Inoue starches undefeated IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds in the WBSS quarterfinal.
07/11/2019, 9:00pm, Saitama: Nordine Oubaali and Takuma Inoue fight to unify the full and interim WBC bantamweight titles. Oubaali outpoints a determined and skilful Inoue over 12 rounds to retain his full version of the WBC crown.
07/11/2019, 9:30pm, Saitama: Donaire and Inoue meet in a scintillating WBSS final. The fight, which goes the distance, proves to be a fight of the year frontrunner with veteran Donaire acquitting himself brilliantly.
Inoue survives a severe orbital fracture to emerge as a newly unified champion whilst cementing his spot at the top of the P4P lists. He also announces his new co-promotional deal with Top Rank, with his next fight planned to be held in Vegas in April.
Meanwhile, Oubaali immediately expresses his desire to unify with Inoue, who reciprocates likewise, stating his desire to gain revenge for his brother.
20/11/2019: Bob Arum, Inoue's new co-promoter, informs reporters that Inoue's camp has told him that Inoue's eye injury is not too severe, and so the unified bantamweight world champion should be ready to return in March or April.
22/11/2019, Las Vegas: WBC mandatory challenger Luis Nery weighs in a pound over the bantamweight limit before his final eliminator bout with former IBF champion Rodriguez. This marks at least the fourth time Nery has missed the bantam limit in his professional career.
23/11/2019: Donaire indicates he has no plans to retire, and expresses an interest in rematching Inoue or facing Oubaali for his WBC crown.
28/11/2019, Mexico City: Marking the end of a long period of continued leniency, the WBC officially withdraws Nery's mandatory status. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman advises Nery to move up one or even two weight divisions.
30/11/2019, Birmingham, UK: WBO interim titlist John Riel Casimero scores a big upset win, icing the returning WBO champion Tete within three rounds. With this, Casimero officially becomes a three weight world champion.
In his post-fight interview, Casimero immediately calls out Inoue for a unification matchup. Inoue immediately responds via Twitter to affirm his desire for such a fight to take place.
04/12/2019, Tokyo: At their 32nd annual convention, the WBO affirm their intention to work towards making a unification bout between Inoue and their own champ Casimero.
09/12/2019, Mexico City: In light of Nery's removal from the mandatory position, the WBC board vote to instate their #4 contender Donaire as Oubaali's new mandatory challenger. Purse bids scheduled for January 3rd. Donaire shares this news positively on his social media.
09/12/2019, New Jersey: the IBF order Inoue to defend against mandatory challenger Michael Dasmarinas. Purse bids scheduled for January 2nd.
Coming up in the series...
Issue 1: Donaire, the Veteran
Issue 2: Casimero, the Wildcard
Issue 3: Oubaali, the Dark Horse
Issue 4: Inoue, the Heir Apparent
*Note: For the purposes of the current series, I have opted to ignore Luis Nery. This is due to Nery's missing weight in his latest contest, and the WBC's subsequent removal of him from their rankings. If Nery can still make bantamweight, it seems that the best he can hope for currently is a shot at the winner of the WBA 'regular' title fight between Rigondeaux and Solis. This rather lacklustre prospect fails to warrant him a spot in the bid to become 'the man' of the bantamweight division.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
There are always questions hovering over any young fighter who has a great punch and breezes through with an unbeaten record. How good were the guys that he beat? What happens when he gets hit by a big punch? How will he react to getting knocked down or being cut? How will he handle himself when he faces a tricky veteran?
Naoya Inoue answered these questions in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) Bantamweight finals Thursday night.
This is not to say Inoue doesn’t have a great body of work already.
He turned pro in 2012 and captured his first world title two years later by stopping Mexican Adrian Hernandez in six rounds for the WBC light flyweight crown. He would bypass the flyweight division and stop the tough Argentine Omar Narvaez in two rounds for the WBO junior bantamweight title. After seven defenses, the Yokohama Monster would terrorize the bantamweight ranks, winning the secondary WBA crown and the IBF world title and easily toppling British Jamie McDonnell, Dominican Juan Carlos Payano and Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez enroute to the WBSS finals.
But the Filipino Flash is in an entirely different class; a veteran boxer who distinguished himself in five weight categories and has a Hall of Fame resume. After experiencing a downslide in his career a few years ago, he once again drew attention in the WBSS by reaching the finals.
Roughly 90 percent of those surveyed picked Inoue, many by knockout. But deep down, people knew Donaire was still dangerous. He could still have one good fight left in him. And he did.
But Donaire’s gallant effort was not enough. He drew blood by cutting Inoue with a punch to the right eye as early as the second. He showed Godzilla was human.
Donaire had his moments when he rocked Inoue with his right hand and scored well to the body. But Inoue, roughly ten years younger, was expected to recuperate faster in the grueling fight.
Welts started to show on Donaire’s face as blood continued to seep from Inoue’s nose and the cut eyelid. But Inoue threw the harder shots. He slowly but surely built his lead. Donaire had opportunities to drop Inoue but the Japanese hung on and fired back.
In the decisive eleventh round, a hard left to the liver had the Filipino turning and grimacing in pain before he went down on his knee. He bravely got up when most boxers couldn’t or wouldn’t. Donaire continued to take shots in the last round in his effort for one last miracle punch. But it wasn’t meant to be. All three judges scored it for Inoue - 116-111, 117-109 and 114-113. The pro-Inoue crowd of more than 20,000 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan celebrated.
Inoue (19-0,16KO’s) unified the IBF and WBA world titles and won the Muhammad Ali Trophy. His gutsy display through blood will certainly earn him more accolades.
A great opponent in the future would be the WBC bantamweight champ Nordine Oubaali (17-0,12KO’s) of France, who beat Naoya’s younger brother, Takuma Inoue by unanimous decision in the main supporting bout.
If Donaire (40-6,26KO’s)- who will turn 37 on November 16 – decides to leave boxing for good, he can hold his head high and look back at an incredible career. Together with Manny Pacquiao, they gave us the Golden Age of Philippine Boxing.
Photo – Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire embrace after the final bell.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Less than a month from now Nonito Donaire (40-5,26KO’s) of the Philippines and Naoya Inoue (18-0,16KO’s) of Japan will be punching their way into history. It is the kind of match-up that has always intrigued generations of boxing fans; age and experience versus youth, a lion in winter against a young deadly predator. It is also a unification match as well as the finals of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament.
Both are heating up in their preparations. Inoue has tapped Filipino sparring partners – Albert Pagara and Genesis Servania. Donaire on the other hand announced that he will move his training camp from the U.S. to the Philippines on October 20.
Inoue has only fought a total of three rounds in the WBSS tourney, having disposed of Juan Carlos Payano of the Dominican Republic in one round and Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds in the semi-finals. The win against Rodriguez earned Inoue the IBF world title.
Donaire’s resume is certainly enough for a first ballot entry into the Boxing Hall of Fame once he retires. He has distinguished himself in five weight categories.But there are those who refer to his greatness in the past tense. Five years ago, he dropped out of everyone’s pound for pound list following losses to Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jamaican Nicholas Walters.
Joining the WBSS bantamweight tournament revived his career. There were doubts among the pundits considering that he last time he fought as a bantamweight was in 2011. But it was at bantamweight where he did some of his best work, notably the bone-chilling 2011 Knockout of the Year against Mexican Fernando Montiel.
Donaire, who holds the WBA crown, will turn 37 on November 16. Fans who are rooting for him say he still has enough in the tank against Inoue, who is 26 years old, with three division titles in his resume. Inoue’s 88 percent knockout rate is certainly no joke.
Tickets are reported to be sold out which underscores the great interest for this fight set at the 36,500-seat Super Saitama Arena in Japan on November 7.
In short, this will be the biggest bantamweight fight for this decade.
The bantamweight category is one of the original eight weight divisions in boxing.
George Dixon of Canada is recognized as the first bantamweight world champion in history way back in 1890. Dixon also holds the distinction of being the first black man to win a world championship in any sport.
But the current 118 pound limit of the division was established in 1909 by the National Sporting Club of London.
Great bantamweights in history include Carlos Zarate of Mexico, Fighting Harada of Japan, Ruben Olivares of Mexico,Eder Jofre of Brazil, and Orlando Canizales of the U.S. Canizales holds the record for title defenses in the bantamweight division; He successfully retained the IBF belt 16 times from 1988 to 1994.
Will Donaire-Inoue live up to the hype and be remembered as one of the great fights in bantamweight history?
During the 80th Anniversary of Ring Magazine in 2002, their commemorative issue named Arnold Taylor KO14 Romeo Anaya as the greatest bantamweight fight of the last 80 years.
That fight held in 1973 in Johannesburg saw the South African Taylor get knocked in the fifth, three times in round eight, and once again in the tenth then staging a rally, knocking out the Mexican Anaya in the fourteenth round with one punch to the jaw and taking the WBA title.
The 1977 Mexican civil war between Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora was also one for the history books. They respectively held the WBC and WBA belts but neither organization sanctioned their bout as a unification. But it was one of the most highly anticipated matches from that era and dubbed The Battle of the Z Boys.
In fact, the Los Angeles Police department sent an anti-riot squad to the venue, the Forum in Inglewood, to prevent any untoward incidents. Both were undefeated and known for their knockout power. Zarate prevailed, knocking down Zamora in the third and twice in the fourth round for the TKO victory.
Donaire was supposed to face South African Zolani Tete in the WBSS Semis but a shoulder injury forced Tete to pull out of the tournament. Donaire stopped substitute Stephon Young in six rounds.
Now, Tete (28-3, 21KO’s) will be defending his WBO world title against Filipino John Riel Casimero (28-4,19KO’s), who aside from the interim WBO belt, has previously held IBF world titles at 108 and 112 lbs. This fight, possibly will be on November 23 in London and could very well be another bantamweight classic in the making.
By Rene Bonsubre,Jr
Over the weekend, the Filipino Flash showed that he may be a lion in winter, but he is still a lion. The highlight reel knockout of Stephon Young of the U.S. was what the doctor ordered for the 36 year old Nonito Donaire.
Donaire has a resume that will certainly make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. But after dropping out of everyone’s pound for pound list following losses to Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jamaican Nicholas Walters five years ago, there were those who thought his best years were behind him. He dropped down from 126 to 122 lbs and captured the WBO junior featherweight title with a courageous performance against Mexican Cesar Juarez in 2014.
In one of his defenses against Hungarian Zsolt Bedak, Donaire set a gate record in Cebu, Philippines where the crowd was estimated to go beyond 30,000.
But after losing his title to Jessie Magdaleno of the U.S in 2016 followed by last year’s lost to U.K.’s Carl Frampton in his attempt to go back to 126 lbs, many thought his career as a top fighter was over.
Last year, he announced he was moving down in weight once again to 118 lbs and join the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament. Many doubted if he could pull it off. The last time he fought as a bantamweight was in 2011.
But last November, Donaire won another world title belt when Ryan Burnett decided not to continue fighting in Glasgow, Scotland. Donaire had the WBA super title in his hands and a semis slot in the WBSS. Was it just a lucky break?
He was a dominant boxer from 112 to 118 lbs but many still refer to him in the past tense.
In the semis, he was faced with another injury situation in Louisiana when WBO champ Zolani Tete of South Africa withdrew just days going into fight because of a shoulder injury. Young was tapped as a substitute and he did make a good account of himself in the early rounds.
But a right hand lead from Donaire stunned the southpaw Young near the end of the third round. Donaire stepped on the pressure in the fourth and at the end of the round, Young had the look of a beaten man walking to his corner.
Donaire continued to dish out punishment in the fifth and in the sixth, Young dropped his right hand for a split second and that was all that Donaire need to land his fabled left hook.
It was lights out for the Young and Donaire now awaits the winner of Japan’s Naoya Inoue vs Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez. Outside of Rodriguez’s immediate relatives, fans are expecting a Donaire (40-5,26KO’s) vs Inoue (17-0, 15KO’s) finals.
Inoue is ten years younger than Donaire. Aside from the WBA regular bantamweight title belt, he has won the WBC light flyweight and WBO junior bantamweight titles. Inoue, a.k.a. the “Monster”, is arguably the most fearsome puncher in the lighter weight divisions today.
Donaire has been in high pressure situations before. He was an unknown in 2007 when he knocked out Vic Darchinyan of Australia for the IBF flyweight title. He has beaten challengers who have held world title belts like South Africans Moruti Mthalane , Mexicans Hernan Marquez ,Fernando Montiel and Jorge Arce, Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vasquez,Jr, Argentine Omar Narvaez and Japanese Toshiaki Nishioka. The list of the world titles he has won is long – IBF flyweight, WBA interim super flyweight, WBO and WBC bantamweight, WBO and IBF junior featherweight, WBA featherweight, his current WBA bantamweight super title and WBC Diamond belt.
It would be unwise to count him out again.
Asian Monster Punchers! – The Top 10 Hardest Punchers in Boxing Right Now
We've compiled a list of the fight game's most ruthless punchers – if you want to know the most feared fighters of the sport then look no further!
Criteria: To enter our Hardest Punchers table, fighters had to: 1) have at least 23 fights (unless they hold a world title), 2) possess a 60% or higher KO ratio, 3) hold a place in Boxing Base's World Rankings.
Note: The Asian Hardest Punchers Rankings only take a fighter’s KO ratio into consideration, and not the level of opposition faced – if we did, it would prove far too complex due the subjective nature of boxing!
Asian Top 10 Hardest Punchers
1. Gennady Golovkin – 91% KO (33-0, 30 KO), Kazakhstan, Middleweight
The Kazakhstan nightmare, often referred to as 'GGG', is one of the most ferocious punchers on the planet. With 20 of his last concussive bouts ending inside the distance, his preferred method of victory is no mystery. Golovkin's next fight will be against fellow wrecking machine David Lemieux – and you can bet your bottom dollar the Kazakhstan crusher won't be looking to put in overtime. Golovkin holds the WBC (Super) and RING titles.
2. Naoya Inoue – 88% KO (8-0, 7 KO), Japan, Junior Bantamweight
The alias 'Monster' couldn't be more fitting for this Japanese amateur standout and power puncher. Not to mention for a fighter who is a two-weight world titlist in just eight fights. Inoue won his first championship at Flyweight against Adrian Hernandez last April, and only two fights later, acquired his second at Junior Bantamweight, needing only 2 rounds to dispose of Omar Andres Narvaez. Inoue is shaping up to be one of boxing's most formidable fighters.
3. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai – 80% KO (35-4-1, 32 KO), Thailand, Junior Bantamweight
Otherwise known as 'M-150', Rungvisai is a Junior Bantamweight who rarely requires scorecards at the final bell. A humbling start in the pro ranks may have included two knockout defeats and a Draw, but it didn't stop the iron-willed fighter from conquering his next 26 foes (24 inside the distance). Rungvisai lost his WBC 115 pound title to Carlos Cuadras in May 2014, but has blasted out all but one of his next 9 dance partners.
4. Wladimir Klitschko – 79% KO (64-3, 53 KO), Kazakhstan, Heavyweight
Commonly referred to as 'Dr Steel Hammer', Klitschko is a devastatingly powerful Heavyweight. At 39-years-old, this fighter is still at the top of his game, and drilling the majority of challengers into the canvas. Klitschko is known for being articulate and philosophical at press conferences – but it's his fists that deliver exclamation marks in the ring. The 6' 5" boxer is set to put his world titles on the line against Tyson Fury on October 24th.
5. Takashi Uchiyama – 79% KO (23-0-1, 19 KO), Japan, Junior Lightweight
You'd expect a fighter dubbed 'KO Dynamite' to be more than a handful in the ring, and Japan's hammer-fisted champ rarely disappoints. Uchiyama's ring generalship and raw power are to thank for his dominance at 130 pounds, where he has defended the WBA strap an astonishing ten times. With stoppages over fighters such as Takashi Miura, Bryan Vasquez and Jaider Parra it's no wonder he is highly regarded in the sport.
6. Randy Petalcorin – 72% KO (23-1-1, 18 KO), Philippines, Junior Flyweight
Petalcorin is one of the Philippines most savage punchers, not to mention one of the Junior Flyweight division's. Since a nightmare career setback to Marlon Tapales in 2010, Petalcorin has blitzed through his next 19 fighters, leaving no question as to why he wears the 'Razor' alias. Petalcorin is the current holder of the Interim WBA 108 pound title.
7. Albert Pagara – 70% KO (23-0, 16 KO), Philippines, Junior Featherweight
Known as 'Prince Albert, Pagara's noise at Junior Featherweight is starting to reach well beyond the shores of the Philippines. Undefeated and ascending the ranks at a rapid pace, the 21-year-old could be set for a very bright future in boxing. Pagara carries fight-changing power, most recently crushing challenger Jesus Rios inside 2 minutes of the 1st round.
8. Shinsuke Yamanaka – 68% KO (23-0-2, 17 KO), Japan, Bantamweight
Arguably the world's Bantamweight top dog, Yamanaka poses a serious threat to anyone campaigning at 118 pounds. Despite having to settle for two early career Draws, the Japanese fighter can nonetheless boast an undefeated record today. Since capturing the vacant WBC Bantamweight title from Christian Esquivel in 2011, Yamanaka has made eight successful defenses. Notable victims include Vic Darchinyan, Malcolm Tunacao and Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
9. Takashi Miura – 67% KO (29-2-2, 22 KO), Japan, Junior Lightweight
Miura's record may be blemished, but he is considered an elite 130 pounder in his native Japan and on the world scene. The 31-year-old southpaw may have suffered an 8th round Retirement against countryman Takashi Uchiyama in 2011, but the gritty southpaw bounced right back, capturing the WBC Junior Lightweight five fights later. He has since defended the title four times, most recently against Billy Dib via 3rd round TKO.
10. Nonito Donaire – 61% KO (35-3, 23 KO), Philippines, Junior Featherweight
Known as the 'Filipino Flash', Donaire is known for a lot more than his whistling punches. The four-weight world champion possesses one of the most lethal left-hooks in boxing, often employing it to derail the senses of opponents. Donaire put in a career-defining performance against the much-feared Vic Darchinyan in 2007, taking out the undefeated Flyweight in 5 rounds. Despite struggling against top-tier opposition at 126 pounds, Donaire remains one of today's top-tier fighters.
Best of the Rest (50-60% KO ratio, no bout minimum)
(All Images courtesy of boxrec.com)
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