In November 2019, the Boxing world saw the conclusion of the second season of the highly acclaimed World Boxing Super Series (WBSS). To be more specific, the conclusion of that season’s Bantamweight tournament where world champions Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire put their respective championships on the line to determine not only the tournament winner, but who the best fighter was in the 118lb. Bantamweight division.
While the fight also had the storyline of youth versus experience with the future Hall of Famer Donaire in the role of trying to defy the odds by defeating a fighter that had dominated nearly every opponent he had faced in Inoue, no one was prepared for the classic encounter that took place when the two fighters entered the ring. A fight that was fought at a high pace from the opening bell, Inoue and Donaire engaged in a memorable battle for twelve rounds that was regarded by many as 2019’s Fight of the Year.
On that evening it was Inoue who was victorious by a twelve round unanimous decision. Now, two and a half years later, Inoue and Donaire prepare to meet again in a rematch that will take place on Tuesday, June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. The fight, which will be broadcast here in the United States by digital subscription-based sports streaming network ESPN+ has two similarities to the first encounter.
Like the first fight, it is a unification bout and as was the case going into that bout, Nonito Donaire comes into this fight off of back to back stoppage wins including regaining a portion of the World Bantamweight championship in May of last year. Now as the WBC world champion, Donaire will attempt to claim the unified IBF/WBA crown from Inoue. A unified portion of the Bantamweight championship that includes the WBA championship that Inoue took from Donaire.
As was the case going into the first fight, Inoue will enter the rematch having scored knockouts in his last three bouts. The question that will be asked of Nonito Donaire in this fight will be what adjustments has been able to make. While it is important to remember that Donaire is one of only three fighters to have gone the distance with Inoue in his twenty-two professional fights, the first bout between the two was fought in a way that largely favored Inoue in it being mostly toe to toe.
Although Donaire was able to remain competitive throughout in a fight that this observer felt was very close, the key in my eyes will be whether or not he will be able to dictate the tempo of the combat. It is important to keep in mind that Nonito Donaire has been through several grueling battles throughout his career and the first encounter with Inoue was no exception.
While it may be easier said than done, Donaire must find a way to implement a tactical approach in this rematch. Even though he held his own against Inoue and keeping in mind that he has punching power of his own, the fight that was fought in the first encounter was tailor made for Inoue and that was largely why the victory went to him. This time, Donaire should focus more on Boxing and trying to create openings rather than electing to go toe to toe. Though the possibility certainly exists that Donaire could catch Inoue with a fight ending blow because after all, anything can happen in Boxing and by extension all combat sports, wisdom would suggest that Donaire saw that the way the first fight was fought was not to his advantage and as such, the focus going into the rematch largely will center on Donaire and whether or not he will be able to make adjustments.
In thinking of how an adjustment could be made, this observer feels that he needs to establish himself as an elusive target. The way he could accomplish this could be by using lateral movement. Nayoa Inoue has a style that can be summed up as seek and destroy with an emphasis on walking his opponents down with steady pressure and looking to land power punches. Donaire must use his legs to offset that pressure and look to take advantage of whatever openings Inoue might leave him as well as pick his spots to land his offense.
The fight plan for Inoue seem simple, he needs to cut off the ring and try to nullify Donaire ‘s movement. If Donaire is committed to implementing a Boxing strategy this time around, Inoue needs to find a way to do what he was able to accomplish in the first fight. To force Donaire into his type of fight.
One of the appeals of rematches throughout all of sports is not only the anticipation of what will happen, but also who will be able to make adjustments and improve on their performance from the previous encounter. For a fight that proved to be the Fight of the Year the last time these two fighters faced each other, the rematch between Inoue and Nonito Donaire certainly has a tough act to follow.
“And That's The Boxing Truth.”
Inoue vs. Donaire 2 takes place on Tuesday, June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. The fight can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5:30AM ET/2:30AM PT and will be available for on-demand viewing shortly after the live broadcast concludes. ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/ Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com.
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