When the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament started, it was predictable that Naoya Inoue’s particular brand of violence would land him in the finals. After a first-round knockout of Juan Carlos Payano in the quarterfinals and a second-round stoppage of Emmanuel Rodríguez in the semifinals, that’s exactly where he finds himself, though very few expected it would be Nonito Donaire standing in the opposite corner.
Ryan Burnett seemed a likely finalist in the initial tournament bracket after being paired with Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) in the quarterfinals. Then undefeated through 18 career fights, Burnett suffered a back injury after four rounds of back-and-forth action and was forced to retire before Round 5 could get underway, giving Donaire a pass to the second round of the tournament. It was a big moment for Donaire, who was once considered among boxing’s pound-for-pound elite. Donaire won the WBA bantamweight belt with the victory, his first fight at bantamweight since October 2011 when he defeated Omar Narvaez to retain the WBC and WBO bantamweight titles.
A tough fight against WBO champ Zolani Tete in the semifinals was up next for Donaire, except it wasn’t to be. Tete suffered a shoulder injury in the week leading up to the fight and contingency backup Stephon Young was brought in to face the Hall of Fame-bound Filipino. Young put up a good fight before falling victim to Donaire’s trademark left hook in Round 6.
How to stream Naoya Inoue vs. Nonito Donaire
Donaire is a four-division world titlist. But he’s never faced a ‘monster’ like this.
Naoya Inoue is nicknamed “Monster,” and it’s an apt moniker. Because he’s very scary in the boxing ring—or at least he’s been that way throughout his seven-year career. In the finals of the World Boxing Super Series bantamweight tournament that will be streamed on DAZN on Thursday morning, Nonito Donaire—formerly considered one of the top best fighters in the world—will see if he can slay Inoue.
It’s not likely to happen. I have Inoue ranked No. 5 on my pound for pound boxing list and Donaire is 36 years old, which is ancient by lower-weight boxer standards. But Donaire is holding out hope that he can find one more flash of brilliant boxing.