AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW Tues: Naoya Inoue v Nonito Donaire 2

The highly anticipated rematch between Japanese knockout artist Naoya Inoue and modern day great Nonito Donaire is finally here and bantamweight supremacy is on the line. The first clash, in 2019, was awarded fight of the year and now with the WBC, WBA & IBF titles on the line, the rematch has the potential to be bigger and better.

As WBA & IBF bantamweight champion, Naoya Inoue is the best 118lb fighter on the planet and with a record of 22-0 (19KO) he is considered the biggest ‘pound for pound’ puncher in world boxing. The Japanese superstar, who is aptly nicknamed ‘The Monster’, is technically outstanding and by conquering three weight divisions in just twenty-two fights, he is already one of the greatest Japanese boxers of all time and he still has many years in the game ahead of him.

The first fight was the toughest twelve rounds of Inoue’s career and the first time he has ever shown any vulnerability. Despite hurting and dropping Donaire, ‘The Monster’ had to settle for a points decision victory and suffered a broken orbital bone for his troubles. It is testament to the level Inoue has been displaying that fans were shocked that he got hit cleanly by Donaire but it was the first Japanese star had been visibly hurt in his professional career and fans now believe he may not be unbeatable.

Since that fight in 2019, Inoue has defended his titles three times and scored three knockouts in the process. On paper, it looks like an impressive couple of years for the Japanese superstar but the level of opponent hasn’t been elite and that raises questions about whether the injuries he sustained in the first contest have left a bigger impression than Team Inoue would ever admit.

Most pundits and boxing fans wrote off Nonito Donaire as an old legend who was nothing more than target practice for Inoue in 2019 but the four-weight world champion proved he was far from finished and since that fight, he has continued to show improvement. Donaire managed to claim the WBC bantamweight title in 2021 against all goods too, which means he ring walks this weekend as a legitimate world champion.

The career of the ‘Filipino Flash’ is nothing short of incredible. He had his first professional fight in 2001 and during a career that has stretched over two decades, he has built a record of 42-6 (28KO) and cemented himself as one of the most decorated professional fighters of all time. Now 39, Donaire would be forgiven if he retired and enjoyed the fruits of his labour but he, amazingly, continues to compete at the top of the sport.

Donaire continues to get his deserved credit for the performance he put up in defeat against Inoue in the first fight but it’s his form since that fight that impresses most. His win over Nordine Oubaali to claim the WBC title is particularly impressive and the way he won that fight suggests he still has enough in the tank to make this rematch competitive.

Inoue will enter the ring as the (1/6) favourite with his great rival priced at (4/1) and there won’t be as many people writing off ‘The Filipino Flash’ this time around. However, for Donaire to de-rail Inoue, he will need to repeat his performance from almost three years ago. When the opening bell goes, the WBC champion will be 39 and it would take a monumental effort to be able to produce the same level of performance as the first fight.

Nonito Donaire will go down as legend regardless of what happens this weekend but it looks inconceivable for him to unify the bantamweight division at 39 years old. Inoue will have learnt a great deal from the first fight and although his level of opposition hasn’t been great since, he may have always had one eye on this rematch and will be eager to finish the fight in clinical fashion.

It took everything for Donaire to hear the final bell in the first contest and although he may be able to keep this competitive in the first six rounds, he will inevitably slowdown in the second half of the fight and that should leave openings for Inoue to exploit. The Japanese favourite may need to be patient in front of his adoring home crowd, but he will be able to stamp authority between rounds 7-12 and force a stoppage to close this chapter on his career once and for all.


BACK Inoue to win in rounds 7-12 2pts at 7/4 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (JUNE 2022): LOSS -23.40 points
(Excluding ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)