Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire will meet again on Tuesday in Saitama, Japan, a rematch of their thrilling 2019 Fight of the Year, this time with three bantamweight world titles at stake.
Inoue (22-0, 19 KO) will bring the WBA and IBF belts to the clash, with Donaire (42-6, 28 KO) arriving with the WBC title, which he won just over a year ago from Nordine Oubaali.
Will Inoue stay unbeaten and march on, staying near the top of pound-for-pound lists, or does Donaire have more magic in him at age 39?
Bad Left Hook will have live, round-by-round coverage for Inoue vs Donaire 2, starting at 5:30 am ET on Tuesday, June 7.
Scott Christ (34-17)
I’m a massive fan of Nonito Donaire, as I think almost everyone who’s watched him over his career has to be. He’s earned a level of respect and become genuinely treasured in a way few ever can. He’s a legitimate all-time great, he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he’s still an excellent fighter I’d pick to beat anyone else in the 118 lb division.
2019 was probably the best shot Donaire had at beating Naoya Inoue, and while he gave it an absolutely sterling effort and everything he had, it wasn’t enough then. Donaire is 39, and while his left hook in particular remains very dangerous, and we know for a fact he’ll come in the best shape he can possibly be in, it didn’t beat Inoue last time. Broke his face a little bit, but didn’t beat him.
Yes, Donaire has the ability to knock Inoue out; he can knock anyone out with the right shot. In this fight, at this stage of his career, I really think his best chance is to try hammering away at the body of Inoue. He knocked out Reymart Gaballo with a left hook to the body last time out.
I know it shouldn’t happen. My brain is telling me that Inoue wins again, and might even get Nonito out with a sustained attack as the fight wears on. But I’m riding with the old man. Let’s party. Donaire KO-9
Wil Esco (38-13)
I don’t know that there exists a more beloved figure in boxing right now than Nonito Donaire — and deservedly so. Watching Donaire have a career resurgence after it looked for a while there like he was getting washed up has been intensely gratifying for anyone who’s followed the fighter. And even at age 39 with so many battles under his belt, I still think Donaire is talented enough to beat most any fighters in his weight class, but against Naoya Inoue he’s truly going up against the cream of the crop.
When these two first squared off it ended up being the 2019 Fight of the Year, as Donaire put on a much better performance than expected of him. But despite him giving Inoue a run for his money there, I have a hard time believing he’s going to be able to replicate, nevermind exceed that performance. And believe me, I’d love nothing more than to see Donaire pull another rabbit out of his hat here, but I know Inoue is going to be on the lookout for that left hook and barring that landing big, he really should have all the advantages here. I’m going to say Inoue makes Donaire feel his age in this one, and hands him a stoppage in the back half of the fight. Inoue TKO-9
John Hansen (39-12)
I’m very excited for this fight, even though I think we already saw the best possible version of it the first time. Scott has said about Canelo-Golovkin 3 that sometimes a guy is just That Guy for an opponent, and brings just the right challenge to force a fighter to give us the best, toughest version of himself. The first matchup between these two makes me think Donaire might be in that category for Inoue.
Donaire was magnificent last time around, fighting to win instead of just to survive, and landing enough of his signature left hands to break Inoue’s eye socket. Donaire persisted through the worst Inoue gave him, and made Inoue work in ways no other opponent before or since. It was a showcase for both men, and a glorious reward for anyone who (in the US) woke up early enough to see it happen live.
But, it was a unanimous decision for Inoue, and a correct one. And I don’t know what else Donaire can possibly do to improve on his showing last time around. He’s a certified great, his left hand is powerful enough to give him a chance in any fight he takes, and there’s no bigger challenge to Naoya Inoue at bantamweight. But Inoue is a legitimate top pound-for-pound fighter, and those days are in the past for Donaire. It would take something exceptional for Donaire to pull this upset. And I think he already gave us the most exceptional performance we could hope for against Inoue. It wasn’t enough, and it’s very unlikely it will be this time, either. Inoue UD-12
Patrick Stumberg (40-11)
It always feels awkward to talk about the role of fortune in fights; it’s too easy to come off sounding like you’re diminishing a fighter’s abilities or accomplishments. I want to be clear that I’m not trying to do so here, but that there’s no other way to express my thoughts on this matchup.
Everything went right for Donaire last time out, even before the fight itself; twists of fate resulted in Ryan Burnett suffering a freak injury mid-fight and Zolani Tete withdrawing from a planned semifinal, leaving Donaire to smash Stephon Young to earn a spot in the WBSS finals. His left hook cracked Inoue’s eye socket in the first few rounds, and if luck is the intersection of preparedness and opportunity, Donaire’s preparation was on point to capitalize. It was the best chance he’d ever have of dethroning one of boxing’s fine young talents and he gave it everything he had.
And it still wasn’t enough.
This is an older, more experienced, and flat-out better Inoue that’s stepping into the ring. The younger version managed to not just largely outbox Donaire with one eye, but handily absorbed “The Filipino Flash’s” legendary left hook on multiple occasions despite not being able to see half of them coming. If a golden opportunity wasn’t enough to carry Donaire to victory, it’s not happening now. Inoue KO-7