As the World Boxing Super Series’ bantamweight finalists Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs) and Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) get ready to square off on November 7th in the tournament finals, Inoue says he’s been looking forward to fighting Donaire since the tournament started.
“When this tournament started, Nonito Donaire was the fighter I wanted to fight most,” Inoue said through an interpreter on Monday during the kickoff news conference in Tokyo. “I am truly pleased that I am able to fight him in the final of this tournament. So, on Nov. 7, I will give everything I have in this tournament final and attain the [Muhammad] Ali Trophy.”
Inoue, 26, enters this fight coming off knockout wins over Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez in the opening rounds of the WBSS, and has eight straight stoppages over the last three years. And as hot has Inoue has been recently, Donaire says he has all the motivation he needs to pull off the upset and prove the doubters wrong.
“This fight is against Inoue, who is one of the best fighters in the world,” Donaire said. “To see where my career has been and what people have said about where I am and coming back to the division, it inspires me, it motivates me, but most of all, it excites me. This is where I want to be.”
Donaire, 36, has never really recovered the form he once had when he was rated as a pound-for-pound fighter and thought to be the heir apparent to Manny Pacquiao. Donaire ran into Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2013, who schooled him, took a frightful beating from Nicholas Walters the following year in a step up in weight, and then sort of bounced around between divisions as he tried to find the one he was best suited for — dropping a couple of decisions to Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton along the way.
But Donaire would then make the decision to drop back down to bantamweight for a chance at glory in this WBSS tournament, earning a spot in the finals by stopping Ryan Burnett and late-replacement Stephon Young. Inoue will represent a considerably bigger challenge than either of those two opponents, so if Donaire really has anything left he’s going to have to bring it all to bear this fall.
Both fighters wanted to be in this exact position, and both got exactly what they were looking for. Now we’ll just have to see what they do with the opportunity.