By Mark Elezaj
Japan – In what was a modern day classic, IBF/WBA 118-lb champion Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (19-0, 16 KO’s) defeated veteran, and WBA bantamweight champion, Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26 KO’s) by unanimous decision Thursday night, winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The judges had it 117-109, 116-111 and 114-113 for Inoue, who unified the bantamweight world titles while also winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
The Fighting Voice has it 117-110 for Inoue.
From the opening bell, Inoue was clearly faster, but Donaire never backed away. The 36 year old champion used his skills to make the fight a tough one, while showing that he had no fear of Inoue.
In the second round, Donaire landed a hard left hook which caused a cut to Inoue near his right eye.
As the fight went on, both men continued to trade punches. It was in the fifth round that Inoue had his best moments of the fight to that point. With 30 seconds left in the round, Inoue landed a right hand that buckled Donaire. He then followed up with a left hook that stunned briefly Donaire, followed by several right hands as the fifth round ended.
Inoue continued to attack Donaire in the sixth round, out landing and outworking him.
In the seventh, Donaire fell to the canvas early. Inoue continued to be the aggressor, working well off of his jab throughout the remainder of the round.
Donaire came on during the eight round, landing a hard right hand just before the halfway point, reopening the cut over Inoue’s eye while bleeding from his nose.
In the ninth, Donaire was able to stagger Inoue with another hard right hand, while missing a follow up left hook. As the round continued, Donaire looked to box Inoue.
Donaire came out and boxed conservatively in the tenth while trading punches with Inoue throughout the round. With thirty seconds left, Inoue landed several power shots including a hard right hand that looked to be taking a toll on Donaire, who somehow managed to make it to the end of the round.
In the eleventh round, Inoue landed his trademark body punch, which backed Donaire up, causing him to take a knee. The champion barely beat the count, but stood up and continued on.
Inoue looked to finish him off, but Donaire landed a left hook that stopped Inoue in his tracks. Inoue went back to the body, but Donaire stood and exchanged with him until the bell sounded.
The final round sounded and Inoue looked to finish Donaire, landing several overhand rights, but Donaire withstood and responded with shots of his own, making it to the end of the fight.
“Donaire was very, very tough for me,” Inoue said through an interpreter.
“I see Donaire as a true champion. He’s very strong but I was victorious. I need to get stronger.”
When asked about his cut,
“This is the first cut of my career,” Inoue said. “I had double vision since the second round but I am so happy and proud of myself and I believe I have a bright future.”
Inoue has also signed a multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote his bouts with Ohashi Promotions, with his first fight taking place in the United States in early 2020.
“Naoya Inoue is a generational talent, the sort of fighter who comes around once a decade,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.
“He is already a superstar in Japan, and he will be major star stateside in no time. You are looking at an all-time great who is entering the prime of what will be a historic career.”
“It is a tremendous honor to sign with Top Rank and to showcase my talents on ESPN,” Inoue said.
“I look forward to 2020. I’ve fought in America once before, and I look forward to doing so again in the very near future.”
“I would like to thank Mr. Bob Arum and Mr. Todd duBoef,” said Hideyuki Ohashi, CEO of Ohashi Promotions. “ESPN is a tremendous platform for Naoya as he continues his career.”