Tomorrow from Glasgow, streaming live on DAZN in the US and airing on Sky Sports in the UK, we’ll see a pair of World Boxing Super Series tournament semifinal matchups at 118 and 140, with world titles on the line in each bout. Our staff makes their picks.
Naoya Inoue vs Emmanuel Rodriguez
In 17 pro fights, Inoue has won world titles at 108 and 115, and now has a secondary belt at 118, with the chance to win a more widely-recognized title on Saturday. Rodriguez is a really good fighter, beat Paul Butler, held on against Jason Moloney. He deserves his credit and to not be overlooked. But I just don’t know what he can do with Inoue.
Unless Inoue is the new Manny Pacquiao — which he most likely is not because Manny Pacquiaos are freaks who don’t come along often — Inoue is going to eventually run into problems moving up in weight. Maybe 122 or 126. But at 118 he has crushed Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano in a combined three minutes, two seconds. Those aren’t scrubs, they’re good fighters. Again, I like Rodriguez, he’s quite good. But Inoue is going to be too much — too strong, too aggressive, too punishing. I do think Rodriguez will get out of the first round, and in fact push Inoue a bit more than others have. Inoue TKO-7
I’ll keep this short and to the point: Inoue is a phenom. Personally, I thought he’s was head and shoulders above the entire bantamweight field of the WBSS since the beginning, and nothing has changed my mind since. Inoue is just one of those special kind of fighters with a rare combination of speed, power, and skill. He’s stopped his last seven opponents and I don’t see that streak ending here, especially against a fighter like Rodriguez who has very little experience at this level. Inoue TKO-3
Patrick L. Stumberg
How do you pick against Naoya Inoue at this point? Literally his only troubles so far have arisen because he punches harder than his own skeleton can withstand. He’s got the scariest body attack in the sport and has lost one (1) round on one (1) scorecard in his last six fights.
I recognize that this is reductive, but what does even an elite bantamweight like Rodriguez offer that can stop “The Monster?” The Puerto Rican does his best work at short to medium range as his opponents step in, which leaves him in Inoue’s wheelhouse. In a clash of body blows and quick combinations, Inoue has a massive edge, and the fact that Rodriguez faded late against Jason Moloney is an ill omen against someone who can turn his guts to mush in very little time. We should get a few rounds of solid scrapping before Inoue’s power edge wears Rodriguez down enough for Inoue to land the money punch. Inoue KO-5
Rodriguez is a good allrounder. He has very few flaws that can be capitalised on by an average opponent, with an impressive amateur career underlining his skillset as well as a faultless transition into the paid ranks. The problem is, Inoue isn’t an average opponent. The Japanese “Monster” is box office viewing, with his fluid footwork opening up opportunities for vicious body attacks, rapid combinations and a vicious right hand. In Inoue’s two fights since moving up to bantamweight, he’s blasted his victims out within the first round, with his 70-second stoppage of Juan Carlos Payano lauded as one of the punches of the year.
Inoue has a tendency to attack with his hands down. Rodriguez will find more success with strong straight jabs than most have accomplished over Inoue’s 17 fight career, but it’s unlikely that the IBF bantamweight champ will have more than small pockets of success. Expect Rodriguez to become frustrated at the halfway stage, leading to a “Monster” onslaught. Inoue TKO-7
And the staff winner is...
Naoya Inoue (4-0)!
Josh Taylor vs Ivan Baranchyk
Y’all know me, I’ve been doing this web site for 13 years, and if you’ve paid attention over that time, you know I’m willing to be a wrong dumbass. I picked Dogboe over Navarrete last week on a gut feeling. I was a hugely wrong dumbass, Navarrete beat the crap out of Dogboe. The reason I’m willing to be wrong on a gut feeling or some kind of low-rent spidey sense is that it doesn’t really matter. The idea of the great expert analyst who gets it right 93% of the time or whatever is so, like, mid-1900s sportswriting. This is an age where the lead voice at the biggest outlet on the planet scored Hurd-Williams for Jarrett Hurd. Who cares if I’m wrong? I’ll make another stupid pick next week and life will go on for all of us. So at the end of the year when I compile our staff picks records and come in last place, oh well.
I say all that to say that I’ve got the Wrong Dumbass feeling about this matchup. Can’t you just feel it? Taylor at home, the favored man, going for his first world title, looking to set up the fight everyone wants with Prograis — can’t you just feel it in your hearts and groins? But I can’t pull the trigger, because I just can’t see this being the one time out of 15 or so that Baranchyk’s style gets the better of Taylor’s. I think Baranchyk will go for it, though, and that’s what will get him stopped late. I’m gonna be so mad if Baranchyk wins and I didn’t cash in via being able to brag about a dumb pick online, though. Taylor TKO-11
The World Boxing Super Series is really delivering with this one. Over the past five-plus years there’s only been a select few fighters who’ve truly captured my attention, immediately striking me as the real deal. If you’ve read my work from years past you’ve probably seen me fawning over Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, who have since gone on to vindicate my high praise for them. Well, Josh Taylor is another one. The ‘Tartan Tornado’ may only have 14 professional fights thus far, but I already think he’s one of the most well-rounded fighters in the game. He has really good boxing ability, solid power and inside fighting skills, and has some of the best body punching timing and technique I’ve seen in some time.
Taylor’s going up against Baranchyk, a hard-nosed Belarusian who loves to apply pressure and throw power punches. I’m sure Baranchyk will bring it, and I don’t really have anything bad to say about him as a fighter, but I’m not going to go against my instincts about Taylor here. I think Taylor’s a better outside fighter than Baranchyck, and I think he’s crafty enough to land solid counters on the inside. In the end I see this being a fairly tough fight but one that Taylor should be able to take on points. Taylor UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
Though obviously an appetizer for Taylor’s anticipated fight with Regis Prograis in the finals, this does have at least one interesting angle in that we’ve yet to see Taylor in action against a top-notch puncher. He’s held his own against quality technicians like Miguel Vazquez and Viktor Postol, but how will he do against someone who can flat-out crack?
Extremely well, probably.
Between the two, only Baranchyk has taken a count, and I’d wager that the Scotsman is going to land quite a few more power punches than the free-swinging “Beast.” Even if Baranchyk gets the slugfest he wants, Taylor figures to hit hard enough and take enough of a punch to hold his own. “The Tartan Tornado” racks up the damage on Baranchyk’s myriad overextensions before ultimately breaking him down in the middle-late rounds. Taylor TKO-8
Stylistically, this fight suits Josh Taylor down to the ground. A skilled Olympian with a decent reach, the “Tartan Tornado” will be confident in keeping Baranchyk at distance in Glasgow, with questions arising whether the hard-hitting, tough Belarusian even wants to be a part of the World Boxing Super Series at this stage. Taylor’s rise has been as measured as it has been impressive; he’s shown his punch power at world level as well as ring craft in dissecting the likes of Postol and Vazquez with relative ease.
Baranchyk is a tough guy who will be willing to engage in war. Taylor would be foolish to oblige. A controlled performance at distance should enable the home favourite to win on the scorecards at a canter, scooping his maiden world title. Taylor UD-12