Who’s up for some early week, early morning boxing? When arguably the most exciting fighter in the sport is competing, you’ll want to watch regardless of what time of the day it’s taking place.
On Tuesday, June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena, unified WBA and IBF bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (22-0, 19 KOs) is set for another go-round with the legendary current WBC champion Nonito Donaire (42-6, 28 KOs), who gave ‘The Monster’ all he could handle in their 2019 Fight of the Year (also in Saitama). The winner will be just one belt shy of being an undisputed champion — the WBO belt belongs to Paul Butler — so you could say the stakes are bigger in this rematch than in their first meeting.
If you’ve never seen the first fight... well just watch this video. It’s a classic. If you’re pressed for time, just watch the highlights.
So what’s transpired since then? Well that’s the subject of the preview.
Inoue not only won the World Boxing Super Series tournament, the Japanese sensation inked a lucrative deal with Top Rank and ESPN. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic nixed plans for him to unify with then-WBO champ John Riel Casimero. Eventually we did see Inoue in the Top Rank bubble, showcasing his dazzling display of offensive wizardry and ruthless punching power in his KO of Jason Moloney. His 2021 was fairly muted, with a mandatory defense against Michal Dasmarinas ending in just three rounds and a voluntary defense vs. Aran Dipaen finishing up in eight.
Donaire has won two in a row and has ended both fights by fourth-round knockout. He challenged Nordine Oubaali for his WBC bantamweight title and took that belt away in emphatic fashion, becoming the oldest champion in the division’s history at the age of 39. ‘The Filipino Flash’ would later defend that title with a brutal body shot finish of fellow countryman Reymart Gaballo. They say power is the last thing to go, and it looks like Donaire’s power, particularly in his patented left hook, is as potent as its ever been.
Donaire is a future Hall of Famer and one of the sport’s greats both in and out of the ring. You’d have been forgiven for writing him off after his losses to Jessie Magdaleno and Carl Frampton, but he made his return to 118 lbs deep into his career and has found the fountain of youth. Inoue might have been closer to finishing him than the other way around, but Naoya suffered a broken orbital and was hurt at least once by Nonito.
DraftKings Sportsbook has Inoue as a sizable -575 favorite over Donaire, whose underdog odds are at +400. The dynamic of this matchup hasn’t really changed much at all; Inoue has a high-volume, extremely varied offensive arsenal that is damn near impossible to deal with, but Donaire is also a terrific combination puncher who can deliver punishment to the body as much as Inoue can. What’s clear is that while Donaire is capable of hurting Inoue, he’ll need a little extra to knock him out and he otherwise did get outboxed for a majority of their first matchup. If not for questionable officiating, Inoue could have a body shot KO of Donaire on his ledger. I think Inoue gets the knockout and ends Donaire’s status as a world champion for perhaps the final time in his remarkable career.
Inoue vs. Donaire 2 kicks off at 5:30 AM ET/2:30 AM PT with a couple of undercard bouts. Ring walks for the main event are expected around 7:30 AM ET/4:30 AM PT, with ESPN+ streaming the event in the US and Amazon Prime Video covering the card in Japan. Bloody Elbow will have live coverage of the main event.