Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire are set to unify the IBF and WBA bantamweight titles in the final match of the World Boxing Super Series on Thursday in Japan.
Our staffers weigh in with their picks.
I truly respect Nonito Donaire. Not only has he had a terrific career that will one day land him in the Hall of Fame no matter what happens tomorrow, but he’s a gentleman, a rare admirable star in the boxing world.
His only hope on Thursday in Saitama is the left hook. That’s his money punch, always has been and always will be. At 126 and even 122, he didn’t seem to carry the same power anymore, but at 118 it’s still there at age 36. I just don’t think he’s going to get the chance. Inoue is a monster at these lower weights — again, I say he’s P4P the most intimidating man in all of boxing. Everything he throws is nasty, and it’s not just slugger stuff, either, he can box.
Nonito does have a prayer in that left hook. If Inoue is confident he’s got Donaire hurt, he may recklessly engage and open himself up, and Donaire can finish anyone with that shot. But I can’t see it happening. Ultimately, I think this winds up a bit of a battering, as a younger, faster fighter lays waste to the breadbasket of a proud veteran champion. The guy is vicious, and he will be vicious between the bells on Thursday. Inoue TKO-4
Nayoa Inoue may not be a household name outside of Japan, but he has all the looks of a generational talent. He’s young, fast, powerful, technical, and smart - and has used that combination of skills to emphatically stop his last eight opponents. In fact, some might argue that Inoue is what his opponent, Nonito Donaire, was supposed to be.
Donaire, once upon a time, was billed as the second-coming to Manny Pacquiao. Donaire also had the attributes of speed and power, which had him up there on pound-for-pound lists until he ran into Guillermo Rigondeaux back in 2013. Donaire would get dominated in that outing and it really seemed to affect him as he really hasn’t been the same fighter since. Donaire has moved up and back down in weight since then, looking for an ideal home for him to campaign, but the reality seems to be that Donaire is a fighter well past his heyday. Now age 36, it seems abundantly clear that Donaire is mostly just cruising off the fumes of his once promising career.
Anyway, Donaire has had a notably easy road to the WBSS finale, but here in the championship match he’ll be running into a buzz saw. Donaire still has a good left hook, but hes going to need couple that with a prayer to have things go his way in this outing. Inoue is a special talent right now, while Donaire is only once was. Inoue TKO-5
Patrick L. Stumberg
Whatever supernatural forces guided Donaire along his bizarre adventure to the finals, they’ve met their match in The Monster. Inoue’s power is otherworldly and he has more than enough technique to match Donaire blow-for-blow; outside of another freak miracle or a perfect shot from his left hook, “The Filipino Flash” looks mighty short on avenues to victory.
Even if you do have faith in that left hook, Inoue can cause the same sort of damage with practically every punch in his arsenal, and it’s easier to have confidence in his ability to walk through heavy fire than in the 36-year-old Donaire’s. Inoue blows him away within the first third of the fight. Inoue KO-4
I’ve got so much time for Nonito. “The Filipino Flash” always comes across as one of the real gents of the sport as well as producing eye-catching performances in victory or defeat inside the ring. Now in the twilight of his career, it’s bitter-sweet that he has landed himself in the deepest waters possible at bantamweight.
Donaire’s story in the WBSS – arguably – should have ended after the first chapter. Injuries to Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete have enabled the 36-year-old to squeeze into the final against all the odds, with the step up from Stephon Young to Naoya Inoue requiring a ladder.
Inoue is fast becoming a superstar. A “Monster” at the weight, the 26-year-old has cruised to world titles at three different weight classes without breaking a sweat. Nonito has struggled to get over the line in a majority of his big tests in the professional ranks, and with Inoue reaching his prime, it could signal a painful end to a wonderful career for the Filipino. I’m expecting a big, brutal statement victory from Inoue on Thursday, with Donaire’s luck running out in emphatic style. Inoue KO-3