Inoue tipped to be Donaire’s next foe
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2019 - 12:00am

The winner of the May 18 duel between “regular” WBA bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue of Japan and IBF beltholder Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico will advance to face “super” WBA titlist Nonito Donaire Jr. in the ultimate World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final late this year.

The WBSS is the brainchild of German promoter Kalle Sauerland and Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer. It was conceived to unify recognition of a single world champion in every division. So far, the WBSS has staged competitions in the cruiserweight, supermiddleweight, cruiserweight, superlightweight and bantamweight divisions.

Schaefer, who used to work with Oscar de la Hoya as Golden Boy Promotions’ CEO, happens to be Donaire’s promoter. When the opportunity came for Donaire to join the WBSS derby, he grabbed it and hasn’t since looked back. Donaire, 36, went down from featherweight to bantamweight to capture the “super” WBA crown in the 118-pound class via a fourth round stoppage of previously unbeaten Ryan Burnett in Glasgow last November. That catapulted Donaire to the WBSS semifinal against WBO titlist Zolani Tete of South Africa.

The Donaire-Tete fight should’ve been held in Lafayette, Louisiana, last Saturday but four days before the match, the South African backed out, claiming a right shoulder injury. The speculation is Tete withdrew after watching Donaire in a public workout in Lafayette last Monday. Tete was replaced by WBA No. 5 contender Stephon Young who was annihilated by Donaire with a single left hook in the sixth round. Tete watched at ringside and must’ve told himself it could’ve been him on the canvas, not Young.

With Tete’s withdrawal, the WBSS will proceed without the WBO champion’s participation so the final winner won’t be the undisputed champion. Besides, WBC bantamweight ruler Nordine Oubaali of France isn’t joining either.

Donaire couldn’t care less whom he fights for the WBSS crown. He made himself available for a unification and if the other “world” champions refuse to participate, it’s not his problem. As far as Donaire is concerned, he’s ready to take on all comers. 

Donaire said Inoue and Rodriguez are both “amazing” fighters but his preference is to battle the Japanese whose nickname is the “Monster.” Donaire has a large Japanese fan base and is supported by the Japanese sportswear brand Mizuno. It would be a major box office hit in Japan if Donaire and Inoue square off. In his WBSS debut, Inoue blasted the Dominican Republic’s Juan Carlos Payano in a single round in Yokohama last October. He’ll take on Rodriguez in Glasgow on May 18 with Donaire at ringside.

Inoue, 26, has a 17-0 record, with 15 KOs. Three of his KO victims were Filipinos Crison Omayao, Jerson Mancio and Warlito Parrenas. The Japanese is a former WBC lightflyweight and WBO superflyweight champion. Rodriguez, 26, was a gold medalist at the 2010 Youth Olympics and has a 19-0 record, with 12 KOs. The Puerto Rican has never fought an Asian.

Donaire is the first man in boxing history to go down at least eight pounds to win a world title. Fighters have moved up in weight to capture a world crown but dropping at least eight pounds to claim the throne is a rarity. Henry Armstrong won the welterweight title scaling 133 1/2 pounds so when he later took the lightweight crown in 1939, he didn’t need to reduce. In Donaire’s case, he did the nearly impossible to drop at least eight pounds from 126 to 118 in seven months to win the bantamweight title.

Las Vegas international matchmaker Sean Gibbons said he picks Inoue over Rodriguez to advance to the WBSS final against Donaire. “It’ll be a big fight, the Monster against the Beast Left Hooker,” said Gibbons. “At 118, Nonito is a beast. Donaire has never lost at 118, never. He’s really amazing at 36. The books will be around 2-1 for Inoue over Donaire but don’t count out Nonito because 118 is his weight and he’s a Hall of Famer.”

BOXING NAOYA INOUE NONITO DONAIRE JR.
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