Donaire underdog in Japan duel
By Joaquin Henson
Wed, 06 Nov 2019
The odds are against super WBA bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, Jr. to beat regular WBA and IBF unified titleholder Naoya Inoue in their World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) final showdown at the Saitama Super Arena tomorrow but the Filipino Flash is confident of scoring an upset before an expected crowd of over 20,000 in Japan’s biggest fight since Yoshio Shirai beat Dado Marino for the world flyweight crown in front of 45,000 fans at the Korakuen Stadium in 1952.
The betting line shows that a $1,000 bet on Inoue will only earn $100 while a $100 wager on Donaire will cash in $600. The bout has been sold out for over a month as Inoue, known as The Monster, will try to solidify his claim as Japan’s best pound-for-pound fighter today with a win over Donaire.
“It’s the biggest fight in Japanese history in over 50 years,” said Donaire who trained two weeks in Alabang before landing in Japan last Wednesday. “I’m excited. It’s certainly one of the biggest fights in my career." The largest crowd ever to witness a Donaire fight was 30,000 at the open-air Cebu City Sports Complex in 2016 when the five-division world champion stopped Zsolt Bedak in the third round. The Saitama Super Arena is the world's fourth largest indoor stadium with a capacity of 36,500 but is configured for up to 22,500 for boxing.
There is a 10-year age gap between Donaire and Inoue but former IBF superfeatherweight ruler and now highly-regarded boxing trainer Robert Garcia said it’s not a factor. Donaire is 36 and Inoue, 26. “I give Nonito a chance to win even if the odds don’t favor him,” Garcia told The Star in Los Angeles last weekend. “Once he lands his left hook, it’s lights out. I think Nonito is most dangerous at 118. When he was at 126, he didn’t need to lose weight, he didn’t need to train hard. At 118, he’s at his best and he’s very experienced. Inoue hasn’t been tested. But don’t get me wrong. Inoue’s the real deal, he’s heavy-handed with a big punch. As a bantamweight, Nonito is very, very good and it won’t be an easy fight for either guy.”
Japanese well-traveled boxing photographer Sumio Yamada said “anything can happen” in the fight since the protagonists are both hard hitters. “One good shot from either fighter will end it,” he said. Yamada was in Los Angeles last Saturday and left for Japan the next day to make sure he'll be at ringside in Saitama.
The consensus is the fight won’t go the distance even as Inoue recently said he’s prepared to take it to 12 rounds. Donaire said he has the perfect fight plan for Inoue but declined to reveal details. It’s possible that Donaire will counter and box from a distance in the early rounds to avoid a head-on collision then go for the kill in the late going.
“I will give everything I have to win and I believe I can do it,” said Donaire whose record is 40-5, with 26 KOs compared to Inoue’s 18-0, with 16 KOs. “It has been predicted that the keys to the fight are speed and power and the one who makes a mistake first will lose. On the other hand, we both have boxing brains so it can be a long game like chess.”
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.
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