Despite a stretch of uncertainty that had one fighter ready to pull out, the Super Series tournament final nobody expected is reportedly all set. The tournament’s Twitter teased news coming “very soon,” but The Athletic beat them to it; Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire will reportedly duke it out on November 7th in Tokyo, Japan.
It’s the second WBSS Season Two final to receive a date, the first being Josh Taylor-Regis Prograis on October 5th. The cruiserweight final between Mairis Briedis and Yuniel Dorticos, which will unify three titles, remains under construction.
Inoue (18-0, 16 KO) being here is no surprise; the 26-year-old phenom entered the tournament as the #2 seed and has looked every bit “The Monster” in his brutal beatdowns of Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez. Boasting arguably the best body attack in the sport and downright unfair power, he was a staple of pound-for-pound lists even before his rampage through the tournament.
Donaire (40-5, 26 KO) being here, by contrast, is a suggestion that would have gotten you laughed out of the room back before the first round. When given the choice of four unranked opponents in the quarterfinals, #1-seed Ryan Burnett elected to face “The Filipino Flash,” who hadn’t fought at 118 pounds since dominating Omar Narvaez in 2011 and had lost two of his previous three bouts. Burnett wound up suffering a freak back injury and bowing out after four rounds, leaving Donaire to fight #3 Zolani Tete, who defeated former Olympic standout Misha Aloyan in his own quarterfinal.
Tete, in turn, injured his shoulder less than a week before fight night. Undercard competitor Stephon Young was hastily slotted into “Last Born’s” place, earning himself a vintage Donaire left hook to the face.
So here we are, the scariest bantamweight on the planet against a guy who, despite looking like a spent force five years ago, has found his way back into the division elite through Inspector Clouseau-levels of slapstick fortune. To be frank, Inoue should absolutely obliterate Donaire, but the latter’s left hook is about as good an equalizer as you’re likely to find in the sport. Though the least competitive of the three finals on paper, it might have the most potential for a spectacular finish.