Naoya Inoue confirmed himself as boxing’s next superstar with his stunning performances in the World Boxing Super Series. We have collected 5 facts from his sensational time in the tournament to validate his reputation.
1. Backs up bold a prediction
“It ain’t bragging if you can back it up” – a famous Muhammad Ali quote perfectly exemplified by Inoue shortly before entering his quarter-final against Juan Carlos Payano in Yokohama, Japan. When asked for his prediction Inoue simply answered: “I will look for the KO, I’m gonna finish him!”And he did just that. Inoue only threw two punches in the fight: A lighting-fast left-right combo that floored Payano after 70 seconds. Monstrous!
2. 5 minutes and 29 seconds to reach the final
Inoue showed why he is called Monster with his quarter- and semi-final KO wins. His total fight time in the tournament before the final against Nonito Donaire was only 5 minutes and 29 seconds, and neither Juan Carlos Payano nor Emmanuel Rodriguez had ever been dropped before.
3. G.O.A.T ambition
The Muhammad Ali Trophy was on display on a plinth just on the right side of the Japanese superstar at the top table at the final press conference ahead of the WBSS Bantamweight Final in Saitama, Japan against Filipino legend Nonito Donaire.
“It’s a beautiful trophy, I like the design,” said Inoue about the ‘Greatest Prize in Boxing’ named after ‘The Greatest of All Time’. As if he was inspired by WBSS’s virtual ambassador he went on to say: “The winner of this tournament will be crowned as the greatest of the division. I am representing Japan as a professional boxer and I will show the greatest performance of my career as an answer to all the exceptions here.
“The appeal of the WBSS is that we can decide who is the best in the division. I would like to be victorious, but I’m not stopping there. In the future, I want to be the greatest of all time!”
4. The Drama in Saitama
In round 2 of the Final in Saitama, Inoue suffered fractures to his right eye socket (orbital bone). Despite pain and double-vision from that point, he went on to claim the Ali Trophy on judges scores of 116-111, 117-109, and 114-113 after an extremely hard-fought battle. Inoue and Donaire were clearly exhausted from their epic battle that became known as The Drama in Saitama and recognized as the consensus 2019 Fight of the Year.
5. Generous Monster
After the Final, Donaire asked his Japanese rival if he could borrow the Ali Trophy for the night so that he could keep a promise to his sons – that they would see it when they awoke the following morning. Big-hearted, Inoue allowed it to happen, and Donaire wrote on his Twitter account:
“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 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’s sons thanked ‘Mr. Inoue’ and congratulated their father’s opponent on his victory.
Re-watch the WBSS Bantamweight Final, Inoue vs Donaire, Saturday 31 October, 7pm (UK)/2pm (ET) on WBSS Facebook & YouTube