It sure is going to be a tough job picking just one fight when it comes to 2019’s Fight of the Year distinction.
Earlier today in his native Japen, bantamweight power-puncher Naoya Inoue allayed any fears some fans might have had that he is a puncher who can dish it out but isn’t so hot at taking it. After what Inoue and a fiercely determined Nonito Donaire gave us in the 118 pound final of The World Boxing Super Series, Inoue has shown he is far more than just a big puncher.
The win scored by the 26 year old, who was enjoying a ten year age advantage over “Filipino Flash” Donaire, came over 12-rounds, by unanimous decision – 117-109, 116-111 and 114-113. Yet the numbers do not in any way tell the full story. In fact, no written report can do so: this fight had to have been seen, or be seen (thank heaven for YouTube) in order to do it justice. Inoue, who is headed to America next year, having signed up with Top Rank (this being great news) improves to 19-0(16), and is now holder of, along with the Muhammad Ali Trophy, the WBA and IBF titles. Former multi-weight champ Donaire, who lost his WBA 118 pound belt today, falls to 40-6(26).
The action was spellbinding. Most fans were expecting to be treated to yet another highlight reel KO by “The Monster,” instead we were given a modern day classic; a genuine FOTY contender. Donaire showed right away that he meant business, that he was in Japan to fight. And hard. Going to the younger man’s body and also testing Inoue’s chin numerous times, Donaire forced observers to start thinking the upset could well be in the cards. And then Inoue starting to pour with blood.
Cut above the right eye by a Donaire punch in round-two, Inoue was already having the toughest fight of his career. And it got tougher. Donaire, though, was only able to do what he did and stay in the fight after taking some hellacious shots himself. If a fan was led to think possible uspet, this same fan was also asking out loud how much Donaire could take. Hit hard and hit flush a number of times, Donaire, who has been stopped just once, took it all and kept coming.
Inoue had to dig deep and close the show, which he did (and the local hero must have been thinking how on earth Donaire was able to take what he did take). Round 11 saw Donaire finally hit the mat, but it was courtesy of an Inoue body shot, not a shot to the head. Donaire was badly hurt, yet somehow, in Arturo Gatti style (think round-9 of his first epic with Mickey Ward) he survived and made it to the end of the round.
Inoue might have known he was ahead as the bell rang to end the 12th, or maybe not. It was close, far closer than two of the official cards would have you believe, and today’s fight has to be placed alongside lower-weight classic such as Barrera-Morales.
Inoue showed a lot today: chin, heart, the ability overcome a bad cut and not panic, and stamina. While Donaire gave us, as has been written, a performance for the ages.
It would be greedy and unfair to expect these two to fight again, wouldn’t it!?