There were two major fights this past week. One was a “legitimate” high-end prizefight pitting two of the very best in their weight class against one another. The other was a media event between two novice YouTube personalities making their pro debuts in a “revenge grudge match.”
Both bouts accomplished what they set out to accomplish.
Thursday’s Naoya Inoue-Nonito Donaire bout in Saitama, Japan determined the winner of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) bantamweight tournament and, effectively, crowned Japan’s Inoue as the top dog in the 118 lb. division.
Saturday’s KSI-Logan Paul bout at Staples Center in Los Angeles, won via six-round split decision by the UK’s KSI, ended a long-standing, much-publicized beef between the two popular YouTube personalities.
Actually, all four of the fighters in the featured main events performed earnestly and to the best of their abilities, although, of course, Inoue and Donaire delivered the much more skilled performance as two true elite-level professional fighters.
The difference in both main event attractions, however, is that while KSI and Logan Paul feigned warrior honor as best they could in their post-fight reactions, both characters were merely play-acting. KSI could barely contain his gloating in victory. Logan Paul was clearly itching to deflect responsibility for his defeat to a supposed pre-fight illness and blame the points loss on referee Jack Reiss’ officiating. Paul’s brother, Jake, even flat-out claimed that the decision was rigged by officials to benefit KSI.
Inoue and Donaire, meanwhile, showed nothing but class—before, during, and after their hotly-contested battle.
“I had double vision since the second round, but I was victorious and I am very proud of myself,” said Inoue, who took the Muhammad Ali trophy and gained a lucrative US contract with Top Rank Promotions with his unanimous decision victory. “I believe that I have a bright future…Nonito Donaire was very, very strong. I think Donaire is a true champion.”
Inoue’s class showed, also, in allowing Donaire to take the Ali trophy home with him for one day so Donaire could fulfill a promise to his children.
“Filipino Flash” Donaire was just as classy in defeat, showcasing sportsmanship for the whole world—and particularly his two sons—to see.
Donaire said via social media:
“I am a warrior on my shield. I came to Japan to take the Muhammad Ali trophy. I promised my sons they would see it in the morning. And with tears in my eyes, I humbly asked Inoue to borrow it for a night, not for me but for my word.
“It’ll be a life lesson my boys will soon learn. That you do your best and you come short. You will win. You will lose. But in either aspect you will do so graciously. It’ll pain them to see my face. They’ll kiss my wounds.
“They’ll see a trophy we don’t get to take home and understand what it means to want to train harder. And I told [them] about the battle I fought. That I’d rather put my life on that shield than give up. And that we will ALWAYS fight.”
Donaire would then post a video with his sons, thanking Inoue for lending them the trophy and for being an honorable sportsman.
Everybody who gets in the ring deserves credit. Boxing, at all levels, is a tough endeavor and, literally, requires an athlete to come to terms with the fact that their life could be on the line. But, just as there are levels to prizefighting, there are also levels to sportsmanship and honor as men.
Kudos to Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire for being more than two guys who fight. They may not have gotten the primetime, crossover media attention KSI and Logan Paul got, but they showed themselves to be true examples of strength in character nonetheless.