The Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James of Bantamweight Boxing
On November 7 in Saitama, Japan, in the Nonito Donaire-Naoya Inoue super fight, there will be more on the line than the three world bantamweight titles up for grabs.
The World Boxing Super Series 118 lb. tournament final will also be a generational battle of sorts. The 26-year-old Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs) of Japan currently holds the WBA “regular” bantamweight title as well as the IBF bantamweight belt. He’s also a media sweetheart, garnering attention and praise from an awe-struck media currently ranking him among the sport’s pound-for-pound best. The three-division world champ is even ranked number 1 on some pound for pound lists. He is ranked ahead of names like Saul Alvarez Vasiliy Lomachenko, Terence Crawford, and Gennady Golovkin.
The Filipino Flash Donaire
A decade ago, however, it was Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs) receiving all the fawning media praise. In the past, Donaire received the pound for pound love despite being a lighter-weight fighter in a sport enthralled with physically bigger men. At just about the same age as Inoue, “The Filipino Flash,” Donaire saw his own name mentioned alongside the top pound-for-pound fighters of the day. He was riding high on a wave of mega-positive press. A decade of ups, downs, has taken some of the bluster from the reigning WBA “super” bantamweight titlist Donaire. This has left behind a weathered wisdom about who he is, where he is, and more important for this upcoming bout, who he needs to be to overcome the monumental task ahead of him.
“Monster” Inoue is one of the most efficient offensive fighters in the sport. He is currently on an 8-fight KO/TKO streak against high-level, main stage competition. Considered a prodigy of sorts in the game, he won his first world title in just his sixth professional fight. In doing so, caught the eye of the boxing world. Donaire, is also considered a powerhouse beast. Especially after several high-profile destructions of durable tough guys. Donaire has gone throughVic Darchinyan, Fernando Montiel, and Jorge Arce. A rise up to featherweight tempered his once fearsome one-punch power. The four-division world champ’s career trajectory suffered because of it.
Donaire is back to 118 now. He is closer to his historically best weight and is 2-0 since the move down. The move also has him once again showcasing his power against smaller fighters. This is something that makes him very much a live dog against the favored younger fighter Inoue.
Changing of the Guard?
“People seem to have forgotten that I have a knockout punch too. “In my mind, if knockouts are going to be the theme of the promotion, I should get top billing.”Donaire recently told media.
Inoue, meanwhile, is conscious of the fact that he probably won’t be able to walk through someone as strong or as experienced as Donaire, despite holding a ten-year age advantage.
“I am not focused on winning by KO. I have an image of being victorious through a decision, I understand more than enough that Nonito Donaire is a great boxer with the highest level of boxing IQ, whom I can’t knock out with desire alone.But, I will tell you that I’ll throw myself into the fight with everything in search of landing that one punch that will give me the chance to end Donaire.”Inoue in a recent interview with reporters.
Donaire-Inoue may be the bantamweight boxing equivalent of Michael Jordan–LeBron James or, maybe, Magic Johnson-Michael Jordan. Whatever the case, look for some major explosions on November 7. We will either see a changing of the guard moment, or the return to glory of a past-prime great.
Paul Magno is a Writer for Overtime Heroics.
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