Naoya Inoue Edges Closer To Pound-For-Pound Conversation With World Boxing Super Series Win

Japanese bantamweight sensation Naoya Inoue edged closer into boxing’s pound-for-pound conversation on Thursday with a thrilling points win over Nonito Donaire in the World Boxing Super Series final.

Suffering a nasty cut above his right eye in the second round, the 26-year-old went back and forth with his Filipino foe in a fight-of-the-year candidate at the Saitama Super Arena. At the end of it, he took home the Muhammad Ali trophy in addition to Donaire’s WBA (Super) bantamweight title while retaining his own IBF and The Ring straps in the weight class.

There was a knockdown scored by Inoue from a vicious body shot in the 11th, yet the ‘Filipino Flash’, a future Hall of Fame entrant, somehow rallied back to leave pundits and fans salivating over a round-of-the-year shout to match what was thought of the bout overall.

Rocked in the 8th and 9th, Inoue proved his credentials in the higher echelons of the sport to battle through the championship rounds and win 116-111, 117-109 and 114-113 on the scorecards.

Many felt those first two perceptions of the action from the judges were way off the mark, and the latter one far more representative of the war that played out between two combatants sharing a 10-year age gap.

Through the victory, Inoue, already a superstar in his home country, edged further into the pound-for-pound conversation as some respected legends such as Andre Ward proclaimed him to be a problem ‘for anyone at 118lbs and possibly 122lbs as well’.

Inoue ripping through his current weight class by disposing of his last four opponents inside three rounds, Donaire, a four-division champion himself, proved a different kind of customer and a step up in class, in turn taking Inoue the distance for the first time in his career.

So what next then for ‘The Monster’?

Already progressing from junior-bantamweight, where he defended his WBO crown seven times prior to blowing out Jamie McDonnell in 119 seconds for the WBA (Regular) belt in his bantamweight debut, he could clear up and unify further by dispatching the WBO’s Zolani Tete and fellow-unbeaten WBC ruler Nordine Oubaali.

As implied by Ward, though, it is probably by stepping up to 122lbs and dealing with the likes of Rey Vargas (34-0, WBC champion) and Daniel Roman (27-2-1, WBA (Super) and IBF champion) that Inoue cracks the top three rankings put together by likes of Ring Magazine, whose own offering at super bantamweight is currently vacant.

Inoue has been on their list for 117 weeks, but with Canelo Alvarez becoming a four division king at the weekend by hovering up two classes to knock out Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight, there is stiff competition from the Mexican as well as Vasily Lomachenko and Terence Crawford.

However long it takes, Inoue’s stock, as well of that of Donaire’s, rose tremendously in the Far East this evening. If a claim from The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger is true, and that a multi-year deal with Top Rank - which also boasts Lomachenko and Crawford in its stable - has been inked for 2020, his star in the US will also shine brighter and boost world-recognition to help him achieve this.

Now based in Barcelona after six years in São Paulo, I have written on these topics at length through previews and analysis while having also covered match reports for t...