Fight Picks: Naoya Inoue vs. Nonito Donaire
On Thursday, Naoya Inoue will put The Ring Magazine and IBF bantamweight titles on the line against WBA counterpart Nonito Donaire in an eagerly anticipated unification match-up in the final of the World Boxing Super Series. The winner will also claim the prestigious Muhammad Ali Trophy at the Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
Inoue, who is ranked No. 4 on The Ring’s pound-for-pound list, turned professional in 2012. He moved quickly, claiming the Japanese national junior flyweight title in just his fourth fight and then the OPBF crown in his fifth outing. He continued his upward trajectory, winning his first world title, stopping Adrian Hernandez in six rounds for the WBC 108-pound title. After just one defense, the 26-year-old leap-frogged flyweight to impressively stop a shell-shocked Omar Narvaez in two rounds for the WBO 115-pound laurels. Inoue spent a year on the sidelines due to hand injuries before making seven defenses. He then moved up to 118-pounds where he has continued his impressive streak, ultimately claiming The Ring and IBF titles, taking out respected Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds, last May.
Donaire, who is ranked No. 3 by The Ring at 118 pounds, turned professional in 2001. The Filipino-born American resident came from nowhere to stun the heavily-touted Vic Darchinyan in five rounds to claim the IBF flyweight strap in 2007. Since then, he hasn’t looked back, stepping up to bantamweight, where he drilled Fernando Montiel in two rounds to win the WBC and WBO titles. In 2012, he unified the IBF and WBO 122-pound titles and went on to become a four-division titlist at featherweight in 2014. Incredibly, in the twilight of what is likely a Hall-of-Fame career, he dropped back to junior featherweight to win another major title before taking part in the WBSS, where he’s extended his already impressive legacy.
Will both fighters start tentatively and be wary of the other’s explosive power? Is Inoue (18-0, 16 knockouts) as good as he has looked so far? Does Donaire (40-5, 26 knockouts) have one final big effort in him? Whose chin will hold up better under heavy fire?
Online gambling group William Hill lists Inoue as a 1/10 (-1000) favorite, while Donaire is priced at 11/2 (+550); the draw is 25/1 (+2500).
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM
TOM GRAY: INOUE TKO 5
It feels wrong to pick so big against such a great fighter. Nonito Donaire is already a Hall-of-Famer in my eyes and he’s one of the most decorated fighters of a generation. But to simplify this matchup is to state the obvious. At 36 years old, “The Filipino Flash” is in the twilight of a glorious career, whereas Inoue is going from strength to strength. The visitor’s best chance is that ferocious, kick-from-a-mule left hook but Inoue’s formidable skills seem to get forgotten because he’s such a devastating puncher. I think “The Monster” will have the left hook covered and he’ll have Donaire on the retreat very early. From there, it’s a question of when – not if – Inoue secures the stoppage.
MICHAEL WOODS: INOUE UD
Ryoichi Taguchi and David Carmona…Is Nonito Donaire at their level? At age 36, can the “Filipino Flash,” a certified long-tooth, be like those two dudes and not get kayoed by Inoue? Yes…that’s where the bar is set, for me, because Naoya is that beast. Sickly precise with his punching, to the point that I don’t wonder if Nonito will win, only if he can keep from getting stopped. I do hope to be wrong, though, because I adore underdog specials. My crystal ball take: Donaire’s veteran guile allows him to not get steamrolled and he will lose a decision, fairly widely, but won’t lose any fans and will, in fact, gain a bunch for his mettle.
MARTY MULCAHEY: INOUE KO 5
I am tempted to simply give two words – Naoya Inoue – as my answer and leave it at that, since Inoue is the most complete boxer in the world, in my opinion. The champion from Japan lacks for nothing; his power and skills have not been inhibited as he has moved up in weight, nor has his very good opposition been able to put a dent in his armor, much less make it into the championship rounds. No one short of Godzilla, who would have hometown advantage in Tokyo, would be an odds-on favorite against this prime version of Inoue. Notice I have not mentioned his vastly more experienced and respected challenger Nonito Donaire. That is because the opposition does not matter when it comes to Inoue, at this time. Yes, Inoue is that good. Give me “The Monster” Inoue by fifth round knockout.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: DONAIRE KO 6
Several people I know consider Inoue to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The Japanese monster is doing everything right. He’s taken just three rounds to dispatch well regarded Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez in the World Boxing Super Series. Donaire was seen as a wild card in the tournament and has benefited from Ryan Burnett’s injury and then Zolani Tete pulling out and then knocking out substitute Stephon Young. I think this has fireworks written all over it. Inoue’s power looks even more impressive as he’s moved up in weight, while Donaire is arguably the biggest punching 112-to-118 pound puncher of the last couple of decades. People will think I’m mad but I like Donaire to pull the upset. Donaire has the sage-like Kenny Adams in his corner. I spoke with Adams a few weeks back and he is a master at pulling a game plan together, coupled with Nonito being in a great place spiritually. He’s enjoying life and boxing, which make him super-dangerous. That’s why, after a quiet start, I’m picking Donaire to blast Inoue with a picture-book left hook and cause the sensational upset in six rounds.
NORM FRAUENHEIM: INOUE TKO 8
Two fighters crossing paths, Inoue ascending into pound-for-pound contention and Nonito Donaire struggling to stay relevant. For now, it doesn’t look as if much of anything – or anybody – can stop Inoue. He has power, youth and momentum. Donaire has experience. He also has same name recognition in the United States. Look for Inoue to make a bigger name for himself in scoring a late-rounds stoppage.
MICHAEL MONTERO: INOUE UD
Naoya Inoue has stopped eight opponents in a row; they don’t call him “Monster” for nothing. However Nonito Donaire has been in the ring with much better and much bigger fighters over his 19-year career. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that “The Filipino Flash” goes the distance but gets outworked and outboxed. Inoue wins via wide unanimous decision.
GARETH A. DAVIES: INOUE TKO 10
My fight pick for Inoue-Donaire centers on the Japanese fighter being in the prime of his career and carrying his weight up the divisions and the slightly diminished brilliance of the flashy Filipino. I see Inoue doing what Inoue does, being thwarted for a few rounds of thrilling action yet ultimately stopping Donaire in the later rounds. Inoue by referee stoppage in round 10.
LEE GROVES: INOUE TKO 7
“The Monster” has been in monster form as of late and is much closer to his peak than Donaire, who is just nine days away from his 37th birthday. A prime versus prime match would have been intriguing but that’s not what we are getting here. Donaire will do his best but that best won’t be enough.
NORDINE OUBAALI (WBC BANTAMWEIGHT TITLIST): INOUE UD
I think it’s going to be a tremendous fight but at 36 years old, with all the hard fights he fought, the golden age of Nonito Donaire’s career is behind him but Nonito is still a dangerous fighter with his big experience and because he can still punch hard even if he doesn’t punch like when he was young and also because he struggled to make weight. Nonito is a smart fighter and it’ll depend how he will manage the fight with his advantage in experience. Nonito has nothing to lose. He’s had a tremendous boxing career and is a future Hall-of-Fame fighter. He can be proud of what he has already accomplished. In boxing, everything is possible but, if we are realistic, Nonito Donaire will struggle to make weight so he will not be at 100 percent of his capacity despite his big experience. He can still punch but his punch will go away if the fight is physically tough. On the other side, Naoya Inoue is also a terrific fighter who is very smart, who punches very hard. He will not struggle to make weight because he came from a lighter weight division and he is young, strong and smart with good experiences at only 26 years old. I see Naoya winning the fight by unanimous decision and if he wins by KO, it will be a tremendous performance because Nonito is still dangerous.
JUAN FRANCISCO ESTRADA (THE RING MAGAZINE/WBC JUNIOR BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION): INOUE
Inoue vs. Nonito is a great fight that because of the style matchups turn into a war, for as long as it lasts, since Inoue has the power to end it by KO. Nonito’s boxing ability could make it a complicated fight but I favor Inoue because he’s younger and hungry for boxing glory.
JUAN HERNANDEZ (PROMOTER, LATIN SPORTS): INOUE
A great crossroads type of matchup. Donaire comes in very dangerous with nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain. However the 10year age difference and Inoue being at or near his peak makes him my pick to come out with the win. It wouldn’t surprise me if he stops Donaire and perhaps even early in the fight. Excluding any injuries, Inoue is my heavy favorite.
CAMILLE ESTEPHAN (PROMOTER, EYE OF THE TIGER): INOUE TKO
I believe Inoue to be a force to be reckoned with. He will give boxing a lot of fireworks and as much as Donaire has, he will come up short. I believe Inoue will stop him.
OSWALDO KUCHLE (PROMOTER, PROMOCIONES DEL PUEBLO): INOUE KO 7
First time Inoue will be seriously tested. Donaire will be intelligent too in an interesting fight but once he commits an error, he will get knocked out. I have Inoue KO 7 over Donaire.
FRANCIS WARREN (PROMOTER, QUEENSBERRY PROMOTIONS): INOUE TKO
Donaire is a legend. One of boxing’s good guys and I hope he can pull off a huge upset. However Inoue is in his prime and looks very hard to beat. Donaire will be his toughest test to date but I still can’t see anything other than an Inoue stoppage in the middle rounds.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI (FORMER TWO-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/ TV ANALYST, SHOWTIME): INOUE KO 5
Explosive fight, I think this will be a shootout, however long it lasts. Inoue has scary power but Donaire’s power at bantamweight is nothing to play with either. I think you make the younger fresher Inoue the favorite but without counting out Donaire’s ability to not only do damage but also box with his world-class speed and skill. I know Nonito and I’m pulling for him. Should be a good one. The pick is Inoue by fifth round KO in an absolute shootout of a fight that I do hope gives both fighters the recognition, credit, fame and money they deserve.
COLIN NATHAN (TRAINER): INOUE KO
Compelling contest. No one beats “Monster” right now. Only chance Donaire has is his left hook. I expect a brutal stoppage or KO.
KAL YAFAI (WBA JUNIOR BANTAMWEIGHT TITLIST): INOUE TKO
Great fight, impressed with the way Donaire has resurrected his career back down at bantamweight. Saying that I think Inoue is too fresh, explosive and powerful. I’m going for Inoue between rounds four and six.
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): INOUE KO
I think that Inoue vs. Donaire will be Inoue’s coming-out party to those in the States that haven’t seen or heard of him. Inoue is my pound-for-pound number one guy. He’s out on a mission to be great. Looks to end fights and leaves no doubt. Donaire is at the end of his career and that’s not Inoue’s fault. It’s a tournament of the best fighting the best. I really like Donaire as a fighter and a person but it’s Inoue time. Inoue by KO.
STEPHEN EDWARDS (TRAINER): INOUE TKO 7
I think this will be a shootout but Inoue is too quick on the draw. Inoue by seventh round TKO.
SAM GARCIA (MANAGER/TRAINER): DONAIRE KO
It’s obviously a fight most didn’t expect for the simple fact Nonito has been on the road pulling off upsets seemingly since this whole thing started. I think Donaire is a rare talent. I’ve known him since we were 17 years old, so is this a biased opinion? Perhaps [laughs]. But I truly believe he has the tools to beat the “Monster.” Don’t get me wrong; Inoue is a badass. I just think Donaire is built for this kind of opponent. Inoue is aggressive. He’s confident; he’s going to charge forward and Donaire will be there to counterpunch and score. He’ll use his jab and footwork to control distance and his power – particularly the left hook – at this weight, will neutralize Inoue and secure the upset.
WAYNE MCULLOUGH (FORMER BANTAMWEIGHT TITLEHOLDER/TRAINER): INOUE KO
It’s a tough fight. Donaire is probably back at the weight class he belongs in but, for me, Inoue is the best bantamweight out there and I can see him getting a KO win and possibly ending Donaire’s career. Donaire always has a puncher’s chance and Inoue’s chin will be tested.
TONY TOLJ (MANAGER): INOUE
I think Inoue will get the toughest fight of his career. Donaire is a warrior and will give everything he has. I just can’t see Inoue not winning it all and it will be an Instant classic.
ANDREW MOLONEY (JUNIOR BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDER): INOUE UD
This will be an interesting fight. I don’t think we will see the same explosive knockout that we have seen from Inoue in his last few fights. I expect Donaire’s experience to make this a close fight and I expect it to go the distance. I see Inoue winning a unanimous points decision over 12 rounds.
JASON MOLONEY (BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDER): INOUE TKO 7
I’ll have very keen eye on this one. Donaire is a very smart fighter and also the biggest puncher that Inoue has faced, which will make for a very exciting fight. In the end I think Inoue will be a little too sharp and explosive for Donaire at this stage of his career and I think we might see a stoppage in the mid-to-late rounds. My prediction Inoue TKO 7. Either way, I’d love to fight the winner.
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): INOUE TKO 7
It has been a while since we’ve had two world-class bantamweights square off, both knockout specialists. Had this fight come five years earlier, I would have picked Donaire, the consummate professional. The multi-weight champion is in the twilight of his career. It’s truly amazing that he can still compete at the highest level as a world champion. Unfortunately he is fighting a younger carbon copy of himself. Inoue, also a multi-weight champion with frightening power in either hand, is a devastating puncher. I feel youth will prevail. Inoue wins inside seven rounds.
23-2 in favor of Inoue
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.
Struggling to locate a copy of The Ring Magazine? Try here or
You can order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page.