Naoya Inoue stayed undefeated and unified three bantamweight world titles with a second round stoppage win over Nonito Donaire in their rematch from Saitama, Japan.
Inoue (23-0, 20 KO) was just too fast, sharp, and strong for Donaire (42-7, 28 KO), and this time around Nonito was not able to warm into the fight, not able to find a shot that backed Inoue down, and just couldn’t do anything after Inoue dropped him with a right hand to the head at the end of round one.
Donaire had time to recover in the corner, of course, but it just wasn’t enough, and Inoue, 29, was ready to pounce, believing correctly that Donaire wouldn’t be coming into round two at 100 percent right away.
Donaire was hurt by a few Inoue punches early in round two, with his legs looking shaky. He tried to fight fire with fire, but he just couldn’t find the shot he needed to turn the tide or at least hold it back somewhat.
Instead, it was Inoue just dialing in and landing power shot after power shot. Donaire’s legs buckled badly, but he managed to stay on his feet somehow, which only meant that Inoue saw it was functionally over. He kept throwing, kept landing, and dropped Donaire again.
Referee Michael Griffin made the understandable call at 1:24 of round two, not even giving Donaire the chance to get up or take a count. It had become a totally one-sided demolition job from Inoue, and it seemed all that could happen from there was something bad.
There was again incredible respect shown between the fighters when it was all over, and the crowd in Japan showed their own deep appreciation for Donaire, who left the ring without an interview to a sincere applause, which he acknowledged.
“In the first round, I received a left hook from Nonito. That punch woke me up,” Inoue said via interpreter. “To be able to raise my status at the top, I needed to win this fight, so I decided to go for the finish.”
He added, “Without Nonito, I couldn’t have had all this success. He won the WBC belt and came back to fight against me. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why I was able to shine like this. Thank you so much, Nonito, for everything.”
“My aim is to become the undisputed champion,” Inoue confirmed. “If I can do that this year, I would love to stay in this division. But if I can’t, I’m capable of going up in weight.”
The only title at 118 that Inoue does not have is the WBO belt held by Paul Butler. If Butler is willing to take that fight, Inoue will be a massive favorite, but it would also be an enormous opportunity for Butler. It should be doable.
Andy Hiraoka TKO-6 Shun Akaiwa
Hiraoka (20-0, 15 KO) was the sort of opponent he should’ve been done fighting 10 fights ago, and he did a neat little shimmy a couple times when the grossly over-matched Akaiwa (7-4-1, 5 KO) failed to land punches on him. It was sort of an off-putting look, I thought; this guy really had no business in the ring with Hiraoka for where Hiraoka is at these days.
Anyway, Hiraoka scored a flash knockdown in the first and eventually the referee mercy-stopped it in the sixth. Akaiwa tried the best he could but this was a complete and unnecessary mismatch that served no purpose, and I can’t say as there was anything impressive about it. Maybe Hiraoka has real upside at 140, but there was nothing in this fight that tells you anything useful.
Takuma Inoue UD-12 Gakuya Furuhashi
A clear win for the younger Inoue brother, who goes to 16-1 (3 KO) on scores of 119-109, 119-109, and 120-108. I gave Furuhashi (28-9-2, 16 KO) slightly more credit, but still had a 117-111 card for Inoue.
Takuma’s a good fighter, but we saw him at world level as a bantamweight when he lost to Nordine Oubaali. He really lacks pop on his punches; his speed is good, his timing is good, he fights hard, he’s not boring, but at higher levels that lack of power is always going to limit him, and at 122 he doesn’t look like any bigger of a puncher than he was at 118. Furuhashi ate plenty of shots and just kept marching forward.
It was a good fight, great energy from both guys and no lulls in the action. Furuhashi tried his heart out for 12 full rounds, but the talent level difference was pretty clear, and the win was deserved.