By Jim Dower: Nonito Donaire has made it clear that the fighter that he’s hoping to face in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament is Naoya “Monster” Inoue. WBA Super World bantamweight champion Donaire (40-5, 26 kOs) put himself in the final of the tournament with a sixth round stoppage victory over substitute opponent Stephon Young (18-2-3, 7 KOs) last Saturday night at the Cajun Dome, in Lafayette, Louisiana.
WBA ‘regular’ 118 lb champion Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) has to win his semifinal fight against IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) on May 18 at The SSE Hydro, Glasgow. Donaire, 36, is pulling for Inoue to beat Rodriguez, 26, so that he can meet him in the final of the WBSS tournament.
Donaire has had it pretty easy with his two tournament opponents. In the quarterfinal of the WBSS, Donaire beat Ryan Burnett after he suffered an injury in the fourth. His back gave out on him. That might have been a hard fight for Donaire if not for the injury that Burnett suffered. Donaire was scheduled to fight WBO champion Zolani Tete in the semifinal of the tournament, but he hurt his shoulder training and pulled out three days before the fight. Young, 30, brought in to replace Tete. Although Young is ranked #5 by the World Boxing Association, he came into the fight with very experience against quality fighters. Had Donaire fought Tete, he would have been fighting a tough guy in what many thought would be a 50-50 fight. It’s nice that Donaire beat Burnett and Young to get to the final, but it was too easy. You’ve got to give Donaire credit for winning both of his tournament fights, but it’s hard to ignore how things went in his favor with his two opponents being injured. Young is someone that clearly belong in the tournament facing an elite level fighter like Donaire.
“Both guys (Rodriguez and Inoue) are amazing, but there was an unspoken thing with me and (Inoue), and how much I respect him, and I love Japan, as well,” Donaire said after his brutal knockout win over Stephon Young. “There was an unspoken respect and a goal between me and Naoya Inoue that we were going to go to the finals. So he’s always supported me to get to the final, that’s where I’m going to be supporting him to get to the final so we can face off with each other,” Donaire said.
With Donaire’s punching power and experience, he could knockout Inoue if he lands one of his big shots on the chin of the Japanese star. Inoue is an excellent fighter, but he’s never inside the ring with a guy like Donaire before. Inoue will be stepping into the unknown when/if he faces him in the final of the WBSS tournament. Inoue has fought some good opposition during his seven year pro career, but none of them compare to Donaire. These are the best fighters Inoue has fought since turning pro in 2012: Yoan Boyeaux, David Carmona, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Antonio Nieves and Karoon Jarupianlerd. Those guys don’t compare to the kind of talent or the punching power that Donaire has going for him. Inoue will need to be careful against Donaire the entire time. Carmona gave Inoue a lot of problems in their fight in 2016. I guess you could say that Carmona is the best guy that Naoya has fought up to now, and he was unable to hurt him.
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Inoue, 25, moved up in weight from the super fyweight ivision recently. He held the WBO 115 lb title from 2014 to 2018. He gave it up and moved to 118, and defeated WBA ‘regular’ bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell by a 1st round knockout in his first fight in the weight class last May. Last October, Naoya knocked out former WBA bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano in the 1st round of their quarterfinal fight in the WBSS 118 lb tournament. Like McDonnell, Payano had never been knocked out before in his career. Getting stopped in the first round by Inoue was a big surprise. Inoue is looking hard to beat right now, and Donaire may end up being stopped by him as well. However, Donaire has the punching power and the size to give Inoue problems f he can last long enough for him to connect with one of his big left hooks.
“We came here with a really good game plan,” Donaire said after his knockout win over Stephon Young. “Stephon is a really slick fighter, so it was really difficult to come up with a particular game plan. There was one thing, a straight right. He kept throwing it, and I kept timing the hook. I paid for it with scratches on my right side from his right hand. But it paid off, because I was able to figure out his timing, and that’s what happened in this fight. So I took the damage to earn a victory. From the second round when I was pressing him, he was getting winded. So I thought I’m going to keep up with this and figure out his timing. So I kept pushing and pushing. So I figured that when I punch, he throws that right and he leans. So it was a matter of time to figure out the distance, and that’s what I did. I kept pressing him, timing him until he was at the right moment for me to counter with the left hook, and that’s what happened,” Donaire said.
The southpaw Young was having success hitting Donaire frequently with powerful jabs when he would try and land his power shots last Saturday night. Young knew Donaire was going to be attacking him, so he made sure that he hit him whenever he would throw a punch or get too close. Donaire took those right hand long enough to time Young and nail him with a left hook in the sixth round to knock him out.