Naoya Inoue, the WBA/IBF bantamweight king – a strong contender for 2019 Fighter of the Year: a savage and quick KO over an unbeaten Emanuel Rodriguez and a tough and thrilling decision win over a future Hall of Famer in Nonito Donaire.
John Riel Casimero, the WBO bantamweight boss – a man who gave us one of the bigger upsets of 2019: his KO win over Zolani Tete.
Together, the Japanese “Monster” and the tough Filipino could serve up a great fight some time in the first quarter of 2020. Inoue, unbeaten at 19-0(16) has made a name for himself as arguably the purest puncher in the entire sport. In the war with Donaire (who can crack some himself), the 26 year old answered some questions regarding his chin, his stamina and his ability to overcome adversity. Hit and hurt in the Donaire battle (itself a candidate for FOTY), injured to the tune of a fractured orbital bone, and made to dig deep, Inoue proved he is not just a big-punching bully. He CAN take it like he can give it.
Casimero, 29-4(20) is a tough and hungry fighter from Manny Pacquiao country and he wants, and deserves, some big paydays. A three-belt unification showdown with Inoue, in the U.S (Inoue having signed a deal with Top Rank and set to “invade” America next year) would get the 30 year old such a payday. So who wins?
Speaking with RingTV.com, Sean Gibbons, matchmaker and president of MP Promotions, and Carl Moretti, vice president of Top Rank, spoke about the “inevitable” fight.
“I believe the fight’s inevitable,” Gibbons said. “It’s up to Mr. Honda and Bob Arum, if they want it next, if they want it next, Casimero’s ready. We’ve got him (Inoue) cornered. He got Donaire first, he’s got two more coming. We’re gonna keep swarming Inoue with Filipinos until we get him. Casimero’s defense in like Willie Pep compared to Inoue. All of a sudden if you’re fighting a guy with a little skill and a little power like (Casimero), it’s gonna be really interesting if he catches you with those shots. He hits as hard as Donaire if not harder.”
As great a job as Gibbons is doing in strongly arguing for a Casimero win, the simple fact is, the way he hits, as hard as he hits, Inoue could possibly terminate this (hopefully) in the works for real fight at any given point. Still, in the opinion of some fans, Donaire exposed as many flaws in Inoue as “The Monster” showed strengths. As Gibbons says, this one is a very interesting fight. It may or may not happen next for each man (there is a mandatory fight Casimero might have to oblige next instead, and maybe then fight Inoue after that; either way the plan is for Casimero to fight in April).
But if this one does happen – or when it happens – it won’t be dull. As Moretti agrees:
“Bombs away,” he said. “Inoue has proved that he can take huge shots from somebody like Nonito Donaire. Casimero fights the same way. I don’t think it goes the distance.”
The Top Rank vice president is not the only one.