By: Sean Crose
Rising bantamweight superstar Naoya Inoue, 18-0, is set to face noted veteran Nonito Donaire, 40-5, in Japan on November 7th at the Saitama Super Arena. The bout will determine the winner of the World Boxing Super Series Bantamweight Tournament. The fight, which will air live on the DAZN streaming service, was announced Wednesday and will be scheduled for twelve rounds. “Donaire,” say Inoue, “is to me a legend in the sport of boxing, and I am honored to be sharing the ring with him in the final.” Good sport though he is, Inoue, a force of nature in the ring, is aiming to win regardless. “I will do my very best to win,” he says, “against the legend to claim the Ali trophy.”
Although most analysts would argue that the 36 year old Donaire’s best days are behind him, this is the type of matchup fans should salivate over. For starters, it features a feared fighter on the rise against an aging lion. What’s more, 2019 has proven to be the year of the underdog (think names like Ruiz, Pacquiao, and Pascal), and few would argue Donaire isn’t the most experienced pro the 26 year old Inoue will have ever faced. Furthermore, there’s an “up the ladder” approach to tournaments that add a true sense of legitimacy to their conclusions. In other words, no one can be ducked. When all is said and done, one top fighter has to face down the other top fighter.
Should Inoue win, the victory will certainly solidify the Japanese native’s position as one of the top boxers in the world today. A thunderous puncher, Inoue has won all but two of his fights by knockout. Exciting and highly skilled, the man simply gives the impression of being an individual whose time has come.
Should Donaire win, on the other hand, it would be seen as an amazing comeback, a classic Hollywood ending, where the seemingly fallen star once again rises to one last gasp of glory. Once seen as one of the top athletes in the sport, Donaire lost a one sided decision to the extremely slick Guillermo Rigondeauz at Radio City Music Hall in 2013, and has never been able to reach his earlier heights sense. Still, the man has fought his way to the top of the tournament, which may come as a bit of a surprise. In a year of subverted expectations, Donaire is unquestionably looking to provide fans with another huge upset.
An important matter of note is that the fight will go down in Inoue’s home country of Japan. Donaire may be popular, but it’s obvious who the fan favorite will be come November. The Saitama Super Arena will most likely be filled with Inoue’s countrymen, who will certainly be cheering their fighter on in his biggest match to date. What’s more, one issue that has been brought up is that the fight may be hard for American fans to watch without first losing a considerable amount of sleep. Japan is almost a full day ahead of the eastern seaboard of the United States time wise.