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Inoue-Donaire Full Report

By Joe Koizumi
Photos: Naoki Fukuda

Unbeaten Japanese prodigy Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs), 118, defeated five-time champ Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire (40-6, 26 KOs), 117.5, by a unanimous decision over twelve hard-fought rounds, and won the WBSS bantamweight final and unified the WBA/IBF belts before a full-packed crowd of 22,000 on Thursday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Inoue Donaire Fukuda12
The knockdown punch in round eleven.

“Monster” Inoue had Donaire on the deck with a vicious body shot midway in the eleventh, but failed to finish the affair due to Nonito’s determination and durability. Truly it was a good fight.

Octavio Rodriguez (Panama) and Luigi Boscarelli (Italy) saw the see-saw bout 117-109 and 116-111 respectively in favor of Naoto, while Robert Hoyle (US) saw it much closer 114-113 for him. The referee was Ernest Sharif (US).

The good loser Donaire, ten years his senior at 36, said just after the hard battle, “Naoya has proved he is a true champion. No one had withstood my punishment like Naoya.”

The ultimate victor of the WBSS tourney Inoue jubilantly said, “I couldn’t finish him as I predicted as he was so durable and tough. It is a great experience for me that I could fight such strong opposition. He was sometimes very effective with his invisible punches from dead angles. I suffered a cut for the first time in my career and occasionally had a tough time coping with the aggressive Donaire. As our corner believed I had accumulated points in the middle of the bout, I paced myself for some rounds from the seventh in order to fight strong and win the last three rounds. It paid off well.”

In the opening session, Naoya took the leadoff as planned, showing his superior hand speed to the veteran soldier with quick jabs, sharp left hooks and fast footwork. Nonito, however, connected with a trademark left hook and opened a gash under the right eyebrow in round two. The third saw Filipino Flash coming forward with left hooks, which Monster averted with his shifty mobility and kept jabbing while moving and retreating.

It was Inoue that threw more jabs to the Filipino willing mixer who threw roundhouse left hooks but often missed the target as Naoya kept moving side to side in round four. The Monster, in the fifth, turned loose with solid overhand rights followed by crisp left hooks that almost toppled the veteran champ. Donaire attempted to retaliate with inaccurate big punches, while Inoue landed a good shot at a time without punching in combination.

Though steadily piling up points in the first half, it wasn’t an easy fight for Naoya at all since he was still streaming blood from the right optic and the right nostril.

His father and chief second Shingo Inoue (who has coached Naoya since he was six) gave an instruction then and there, saying, “Take care of your pace. Pace yourself for some rounds, and then go to show a last surge big.” It means that his corner then intended to win certainly rather than dare to knock him out by taking a risk.” It might be a good shift of strategy since Donaire was a still dangerous counterpuncher.

Nonito, whose left optic looked puffed with his absorption of Naoya’s accurate shots, became aggressive to sweep three sessions from the seventh, as he tried to turn the tide with his strong aggression. The Filipino Flash connected with left-right combinations followed by left hooks to have Monster bewildered in round eight. Donaire, in the ninth, displayed his best as he occasionally caught Inoue with solid overhand rights to have him almost lose his balance. Inoue desperately grabbed Donaire to temporarily avert his aggression and survive a crisis. Inoue then showed that he was clever enough to cope with the situation of the fight and he could take punch even by receiving the Filipino Flash’s best shots.

Boxing is interesting. After winning three rounds in succession, Donaire, visibly slowing down after his desperate aggression, had to absorb Inoue’s last surge.

Naoya remarkably turned aggressive in the tenth, when he effectively connected with double or three overhand rights to the temple the five-time champ that he had respected since he was a young amateur boxer. The eleventh saw Inoue land a trademark body shot to the belly of Donaire, who was staggering like a sleep-walker and then knelt down due to pain.

The referee seemingly made a couple of mistakes at this situation. When Donaire, after taking the lethal body punch from Inoue, was retreating, showing his body side to Inoue, the third man inexplicably stopped the aggressor Naoya to score another body shot to bring home the bacon.

Why? Probably he might intend to prevent Naoya from hitting from the back, but if so, he should have called a knockdown and have started counting even if Donaire was still sleep-walking. The ref seemed to waste some seconds before he began counting. Also, it was also his fault to have allowed such a damaged Donaire to go on when he very barely raised himself because he wasn’t ready to resume fighting. What the ref should have done was to count him out then and there. Naoya missed a knockout victory in his record.

Naoya made his best effort to finish the damaged veteran in the last two sessions, but he was smart enough not to be so wild that he might take a come-from-behind big shot from the Filipino Flash.

Hideyuki Ohashi, the promoter/manager of the Monster as well as former WBC/WBA world 105-pound champ, reviewed the great fight. “Naoya has proved he has a strong chin, stamina, and heart. It might be good that he went the distance in such a hard-fight with such a strong veteran as Donaire.”

Naoya also said after his victory, “I wish to avenge my brother Takuma’s loss to Nordine Oubaali by fighting him in a unification bout.”

Tod Duboef, Top Rank president in attendance, made a post-fight press conference with Naoya beside him. He announced that Top Rank would execute a multi-year promotional agreement with Inoue and he would campaign in the US from next year on. Naoya is ambitiously willing to follow Manny Pacquiao’s footstep. Good luck.

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  • I thought the scores were fine. I’d have to watch it over again but only the 2nd, 8th, 9th were won clearly by Donaire. I felt 5th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 12th were won clearly by Inoue. Felt Inoue won 1st, 3rd, and 4th as well, but those were the rounds that could go either way. Not saying it wasn’t competitive and awesome but Donaire missed a lot of big shots and came away on the wrong side of most exchanges.

  • I agree that the referee handled it poorly. A more capable / experienced referee would have stepped back instead of stepping between them. However, it happened so suddenly that it took most people a moment to realize what was going on and he probably does not deserve too much criticism. Also, it was a veteran move by Nonito (or possibly just blind instinct) to hop away like he did to put distance between him and Inoue and also to get behind the referee as he did. He also bought himself a few extra seconds to shake it off. I disagree that the count was long and that he should have been counted out right there. It is clear that the timekeeper started the count as soon as Nonito’s gloves touch the canvas and the referee picks up the count at 2. It is also clear that Nonito was watching the count and stood up at 9. I don’t see how one could argue that Nonito should have been counted out.

    Ideally the referee should have stepped back at which point Inoue would have rushed forward for the finish, but it is very unlikely that he would have landed any more shots. Nonito would have taken a knee before Inoue could have hit him. That would have given him about 5 seconds less to recover. He would have risen at 9, as he did, at which point Inoue would have attacked. The rest is alternate history. However, you can clearly see that Inoue changed his mind about going for the finish when Nonito threw a big shot that just missed as Inoue started opening up. Regardless, it was a great fight between old and young lion, and has undoubtedly taken some confidence away from Inoue who now fully understands that his immediate future involves fighting top fighters who he cannot blow out with one punch. He will also be pushed by Top Rank to move up in weight asap and this fight exposed the fact that Inoue does not have any special boxing ability. He should have beaten Nonito far more convincingly as other up and comers have recently. Now he will be matched against increasingly bigger and stronger guys. Inoue’s future depends on whether or not he can move up to higher weights and blow guy out with power. If yes, then he is a superstar. If not, then it will be a short stay for him at Top Rank. I don’t like to judge a guy based on one fight, but I believe that this was a disappointing performance by Inoue. He fought a former champion who has been losing to up and comers the past few years. Inoue needed to win dominantly but did not. He will have to significantly up his game if he is to be successful fighting top guys at 122 and 126. This is definitely not the time to compare him to Paquiao.

    • I’m surprised I have not seen any comments on this but Donaire did not get up in time after the knock down in round 11. The referee clearly has 10 fingers up and Donaire is still on the canvas with one knee down and it’s up not even close. Ref blew that call as well fight should have been stopped.

  • To the writer of this article: Inoue in the 9th round did not simply “lose his balance” he was clearly stunned. A young Donaire will finish him.

  • Would be nice with a more neutral report that factually explains the fight without the reporter’s own feelings and thoughts mixed in. Awkward article.

    • Legally he should have waved the fight off in the 10th, because Donaire spent at least 15 seconds from the moment he walked away after the punch and the time he was down. Even there, the referee reached 10, when Donaire was just getting up. But if he has done the right thing in declaring the KO, most likely could’ve created a monster controversy and tainted the beauty of the fight. Proof of that is the way Donaire responded to the onslaught of Inoue, who was eager to end the fight. I think it was better this way.

  • donaire put up a very good efford,but he came up short. he always been a great fighter.the guy he fought was younger and more active fighter. keeping yourself in good shape age does not mean anything.

  • That ref was bad. When Donaire turns in pain the ref actually collides with Inoue, to push him away. Stop-watched the knockdown at over 13 seconds from the time Donaire’s knee touches the canvas to when he gets up. I don’t really care about that part as 10 counts are always a little long and they vary….BUT I swear I see 10 fingers out in the count and Donaire is still down. That part is strange/wrong.

  • Shows how great Loma really is. Walters destroyed Donaire, and Loma destroyed Walters. Walters hasn’t been in the ring since. Great fight and hats off to both fighters. Closer than most, including myself thought it was going to be.

    • Lance, Walters fought Donaire 2 weight classes up. If anything, it shows how Donaire was never a featherweight and should have stayed at bantamweight

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