To close out a Showtime event earlier today we saw Filipino slugger Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20) face off with former IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-2, 12), in a contest for the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title. A contest that turned out to be a very, very controversial one, with Gaballo taking on a hugely questionable decision.
On paper this looked like it had the ingredients to be a very interesting match up, between an exciting slugger and a very good technical boxer. In the end however it never became the type of fight had expected. In fact seemed like the aggression and excitement of Gaballo had been stripped from him before the opening bell. Gone was the Gaballo we had fallen in love with and instead he was replaced by someone who didn't seem to know his identity in the ring.
Gone was the Gaballo that let shots fly, that was aggressive and wild. In his place was a man over-thinking things, and a man who was trying to out box a master boxer. It was a huge technical faux pas by Gaballo and his team, and one that seemed very counter-intuitive, given their man's best strength has always been his unpredictable offense.
Gaballo's attempt at boxing in the first round saw Rodriguez easily take the first, though to his credit Gaballo did kick up the pace and made round 2 a very competitive one, much more so than the commentary on Showtime made things seem. It was a similar case in round 3, where Rodriguez landed more shots, comfortably, than Gaballo, but the bigger single shots were from Gaballo, and it could well have been that the bigger heavier blows had caught the judges eyes.
In round 4 we saw Gaballo march forward, trying to up the pace of the bout, but he kept walking into counters and jabs. Rodriguez was, for the most part, outboxing Gaballo, but still the Filipino was the one who was making it look like he was aggressive. Horribly ineffective, but aggressive all the same. This could well have made an impact on the judges, who may well have seen the movement from Rodriguez as being negative, and he was very conservative with his own output.
Despite several competitive rounds Rodriguez really impressed in round 5, and seemed to not just let more of his own shots go, landing a number of solid right hands, but also completely shut down Gaballo, who looked lost and confused through the entire round. Credit though to Gaballo, who then began to find his groove in round 6, making for another competitive and close round. He was still being out landed, but once again he seemed to land the bigger shots, and made things uncomfortable for Rodriguez, who technically very accurate, but relied on his jab and movement, in what could have been seen as negative, again, in the eyes of the judges.
With Gaballo knowing he was behind he did, finally, get the motor going in round 7 and had a string string of rounds, much stronger than Showtime's commentary would suggest, in rounds 7, 8 and 9. Although still not the aggressive he had been in the past, such as against Yuya Nakamura, he was a lot more willing to let his shots go, and found a home for his body shots, his left hook and his right hand, even dragging Rodriguez into his fight in round 8.
Interestingly after 9 rounds Showtime's Steve Farhood had given Gaballo just 2 rounds, and he seemed to have been annoyed at needing to give him round 9. The team working for Spanish language TV on ESPN had the bout much, much closer at 86-85. More important than the scores however was the momentum, and it seemed like Gaballo was the man in the ascendency.
Sadly for Gaballo he was rocked early in round 10, and he did nothing to turn the action back in his favour in one of his worst rounds. The Filipino also seemed to struggle to get things going in round 11 as Rodriguez seemed to be back in control with his jab, his movement, and his ability to make Gaballo miss at will. In fact Gaballo seemed to miss that often that he became timid himself and in round 12 he again showed little hunger and desire and Rodriguez took the final round without much effort.
After 12 rounds Showtime had the bout a near shut out to Rodriguez, Spanish TV had the bout competitive, though also had Rodriguez winning. It seemed like the Puerto Rican was set to pick up the WBC interim title, then the scores were announced, with the first score being 116-112 to Gaballo, the second card being 118-110 to Rodriguez, and then the third card went 115-113 to Gaballo, giving him a very questionable decision.
The result will be one held as a robbery, and many will feel that Rodriguez was denied a clear victory. We'll admit that we felt Rodriguez won, though it does need saying the Showtime's commentary really did down play the success that Gaballo had, especially in the 3 or 4 close rounds we had early on.
We can also see how the judges perhaps did favour Gaballo, he wasn't effective, but from the ringside position he likely looked like the man making the fight, pressing the pace, and doing so much more than Rodriguez, who looked tentative at times and boxed very much within himself. From the TV camera angle the clean punches of Rodriguez were clean, and the misses of Gaballo were obvious, but from the outside looking in it probably didn't look the same, and Rodriguez probably did look negative.
Saying that however, this seemed like a decision that went the wrong way, and was the latest set back for Rodriguez, who was stopped by Naoya Inoue last time out, well over a year ago, in the WBSS, and had seen bouts with Luis Nery and Nonito Donaire fall through due to issues outside of his control.
As for Gaballo, he got lucky, and perhaps needs to be allowed to be himself in the ring. Let him be an aggressive swarming fighter. Don't try to reinvent the wheel with him. Yes polish his style, make him more defensively aware and smarten him up, but don't try to change him into a boxer. It is not a style which will suit him and he will not get lucky again like he did here.
After close to a year out of the ring we saw the long awaited ring return of WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion "Monster" Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who was fighting for the first time since his WBSS triumph last November. Not only did we see Inoue, but we saw him in Las Vegas for the first time, and as a Top Rank fighter, for the first time.
In the opposite corner to the Monster was Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-2, 18), dubbed "Mayhem". A talented, brave, confident fighter who was looking to make a name for himself. The Australian had talked a good fight before hand, entered full of confidence and seemed to genuinely believe he could shock the boxing world.
Before we got to the opening bell the fighters came out to almost the music you'd expect them to. Moloney, the challenger, came out first to the classic "I come from a Land Down Under" by Men At Work, a song long that many Australian fighters come out to. Inoue on the other hand came out to "Departure" by Japanese composer Naoki Sato, a song that we have seen Inoue use in his ring walk numerous times, including a live performance a few years ago by Akira Jimbo.
The opening round saw both men fighting relatively evenly. It wasn't a typical feeling out round, but it wasn't a round where either man landed too much in terms of power shots. It was very much a round where both men used a lot of jabs, set a high tempo, but boxed within themselves. There was respect from both, and both men took their time to see what the other hand, whilst staying busy themselves.
In round 2 we again saw the jabs of both men being the most used punches, however we did begin to see Inoue going into his arsenal of weapons. By the end of the round we were seeing Inoue's right hand and a left hook, very late in the round. It was a competitive round, as was the first, but both were Inoue rounds, with out too much discussion.
By round 3 we had started to see Inoue changing his tactics. He was starting to get more aggressive, more confident, and was starting to walk down Moloney. To his credit the Australian was taking clean shots really well, including a series of big right hands at the end of round 3, but it did feel like Inoue was starting to feel alarmingly comfortable.
That comfort level for the champion rose again in rounds 4 and 5, as he went into seek and destroy mode, applying intense, and persistent pressure. It was a credit that Moloney was surviving, though he was trying to do more than just survive, and landed one or two shots of his own. Sadly for him those shots did next to nothing to discourage Inoue, who was quickly realising he could take whatever Moloney was going to land without issue. Moloney however, wasn't afford the same benefit and in round 5 he was wobbled for the first time, and was forced to hold on late in the round.
Inoue continued to fight on the front foot in round 6, but it was actually a counter that proved to be his best asset, as he dropped Moloeny for the first time in the bout, doing so with a counter left hook. Moloney was up quickly, but Inoue could smell blood, and spent much of the round piling on the punishment as Moloney began to have his body and confidence eroded.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time until we'd see the end, though how would it come was unclear. As we entered round 7 the referee was making it clear that he wouldn't allow the punishment to continue for too much longer, Moloney's corner were also aware their man was taking a lot of punishment.
They weren't needed however as Inoue closed the show with a massive counter right hand late in round 7. The shot was a beauty, landing clean as a whistle. It dropped Moloney, who then crouched before trying to get up, then stumbled as he tried to get to his feet. He knew where he was, but his body didn't want to do what he told it. The referee instantly waved it off.
Following the win Inoue mentioned that he wanted to face either WBO champion John Riel Casimero or WBC champion Nordine Oubaali, who defends his title in December against former Inoue foe Nonito Donaire.
Interestingly the big worry coming into this was whether Inoue's right eye would hold up, after it was injured against Donaire last November. It did. There was no notable swelling or damage after the fight. Whether it continues to hold up in the future is unclear, but the way it was after this fight was certainly a positive.
Amazingly Inoue's title defense here was only the third time a Japanese world champion has successfully defended a world title in Las Vegas. He follows in the footsteps of Toshiaki Nishioka and Tomoki Kameda. His win was also the first time a Japanese fighter has beaten an Australian in a world title fight away from Japan.
As for Moloney it is going to be hard to comeback from this. He didn't get smashed to bits, or take a career ending amount of punishment, but his confidence, which was sky high when he entered the bout, will take some real rebuilding after this loss. He did however show toughness, bravery, and survived longer than most would have expected.
For both men it's unclear what will be next. We suspect Inoue will want to fight back in Japan in early 2021, potentially the Casimero fight or a mandatory defense of one of his titles, whilst Moloney will need to rebuild his confidence, but hopefully will face a fringe level type of guy, rather than dropping to facing really low level opponents. He's better than that.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a frustrating year for WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21), who had been hoping to face Naoya Inoue in April, before that bout was cancelled. That frustration seemed to give him some real hunger to shine when he stepped into the ring earlier today and took on the previously unbeaten Duke Micah (24-1, 19).
From the opening round we saw Casimero set off to make a statement. There was no feeling out round, instead it was bombs away, and the aggression of Casimero forced Micah to respond, giving us an incredible opening round. Both men were throwing bombs, and both were landing bombs in what was a shoot out.
Straight from the bell we saw both landing bit shots to the body, as they both tried to snap the other in half. In regards to head shots Casimero wasn't throwing too many in the opening round, and was actually caught by the best head shot of the round, but it seemed to bounce off him.
The bombs continued to fly in round 2. Quite early in the round however the power of Casimero turned the fight, with a short, compact left hook wobbling Micah, who stumbled and dropped to the canvas. The knockdown wasn't fight ending by it's self, but did seem like the start of the end, with Casimero all over Micah for the rest of the round. Some how Micah survived the onslaught, and fought back valiantly with some solid shots of his own. Although Micah was showing his toughness he was taking a lot of punishment, as Casimero began to have fun, taunting and loading up on uppercuts.
To his credit Micah survived the round though was given a look over by the doctor just seconds into round 3. It was clear the doctor and the referee was aware he had taken a lot of punishment, and the referee made it clear he had to show something.
Sadly for Micah he was in with someone who wasn't wanting to mess around and Casimero continued to press for a stoppage. Micah continued to show his bravery, landing a big body shot himself, but couldn't stop himself being overwhelmed by Casimero. This forced the referee, Steve Willis, to step in and call a halt to the contest.
The win was real a statement from Casimero, who seemed to realise this was his chance to make a name for himself in front of a US TV audience. He realised he had a chance to become a star, and he took that chance with both hands. This was explosive, exciting, and the type of bout that leaves an impression on fans who, perhaps, weren't too aware of Casimero.
As for Micah he was game, he tried to compete with Casimero, but he was very much out of his depth, and that was clear pretty early on. Despite his loss we suspect he will come again and even in defeat he would have made fans for his heart, toughness, and desire.
The UK might be one of the hotbeds for boxing right now but it's not often we'll see a Filipino take on a South African in the country. Today however we saw one such bout, as the WBO Bantamweight got a new champion!
The match up in question saw South African fighter Zolani Tete (28-4, 21) return to the ring after more than a year our to take on "interim" champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) from the Philippines.
On paper this looked like a fantastic match up between two world class fighters. Two multi-weight world champions, in fact. It looked not only like it was going to be competitive, but also a very interesting clash of styles with Tete being a freakish physical specimen and Casimero being a wild, but heavy handed slugger.
Sadly the interest in the bout going in didn't deliver. The first 2 rounds saw almost nothing happen. The size difference and skills of both men saw almost nothing land, as both men showed a lot of respect to the other. The only meaningful thing that happened was a clash of heads in round 2. That was essentially the only meaningful connect either man made with the other in the first 6 minutes.
In round 3 things changed as Casimero seemingly grew in confidence and landed a brutal right hand up top on Tete. The shot was something else and not only did it drop Tete, but it left him scrambled. Tete beat the count but didn't look like he knew where he was. He looked like his legs were gone and his head was gone. Knowing it was his chance to strike Casimero kept up the intensity and essentially bundled the wobbly Tete down again. The South African's heart got him to his feet again, but a follow left the referee with no decision other than to stop the bout.
With Casimero celebrating another huge win on the road to become a 3 weight world champion attention turned to Tete who took quite a few minutes to recover, though thankfully did look fine in the end.
Following the win Casimero called for a fight with Naoya Inoue, in a bout that would unify the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, and it's clear that that is a bout that makes a lot of sense to see getting made in 2020.
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.
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.