By Eric Lunger
Following up the success of the super middleweight and cruiserweight tournaments, World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) has announced a second iteration of the series, including a bantamweight division. Kalle Sauerland, the chief boxing officer at Comosa AG — which promotes the WBBS — recently announced that three fighters have committed to the tournament, and they happen to be three of the current world champions: Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9 Kos) of Northern Ireland (WBA Super), Manny Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico (IBF), and Zolani Tete (27-3, 21 KOs) of South Africa (WBO).
Photo Credit: Naoya Inoue Twitter Account
Now Naoya “the Monster” Inoue (17-0, 15 KOs) of Japan, now a three-division world champion, can be added to that list, according to recent reporting by Sky Sports. Inoue may not be familiar to US fight fans; he has only fought once in the US, at the StubHub Center in September of 2017 against Antonio Nieves on the Rungvisai vs. Gonzalez II undercard. Nonetheless, Inoue’s rise to prominence has been meteoric. He won the WBC world light flyweight title in only his sixth professional fight, taking down Adrian Herandez by sixth-round TKO in April of 2014. Eight months later, he moved up to 115 lbs., and captured the WBO world flyweight title from Warlito Parrenas in a second-round TKO.
Inoue successfully defended that title six times over the next three years, and only one of those fights went the full twelve-round distance. Then, on Friday night, the “Monster” went up to Bantamweight to challenge the WBA (Regular) champion Jaime McDonnell (28-2-1, 13 KOs) from Yorkshire, England. The bout took place at the Ota-City Gym in Tokyo, Inoue’s home turf. McDonnell couldn’t last a round against Inoue (recap here: https://www.boxinginsider.com/headlines/inoue-stops-mcdonnell-in-one)
There were two striking things about the way Inoue dispatched McDonnell. First was how he calmly adapted to, and exploited, McDonnell’s game plan. Almost at once, it was quite clear that McDonnell wanted to slow Inoue down by jabbing to the body. By my count, McDonnell landed five jabs to the body before Inoue timed him (as McDonnell ducked in to jab) and delivered a crunching left hook to the champion’s temple, staggering the Englishman. That shot was the beginning of the end.
The second remarkable trait of the “Monster” was the precision of the finish. He knew McDonnell was in trouble, and he attacked with a full assault with both hands. An overhand right by Inoue was well-defended, so Inoue slipped slightly to his left and landed a left hook to the liver that dropped McDonnell immediately. It was the kind of punch that starts with perfectly planted feet, gins up its force in the rotation of the hips, and explodes onto the opponent’s body. It was dramatic, but it was precise footwork that set it up. To his credit and courage, McDonnell got up and beat the count. But he was still in distress. Almost calmly, Inoue pinned him to the ropes, landed a right hook to the body, left hook to the body, left hook to the exposed chin, and the referee jumped in to save McDonnell from further punishment.
It’s not like McDonnell fought poorly. Quite the opposite, he managed the distance, used his jab to keep Inoue’s pressure at bay, and he kept an efficient high guard. McDonnell is a fine fighter who successfully defended his WBA World title six times in four years. And McDonnell had never been stopped in his career. But Inoue is at another level, another step up in class. What will he do in this field of champions in the WBSS Bantamweight tournament? I can’t wait to find out.
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