Each week we will focus on a different Season 2 weigh-class, this week it is the turn of the Bantamweight Semi-Finalists.
Shock waves, unexpected dramas, and an epic back-and-forth battle. The bantamweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series has had all the ingredients to capture the world’s imagination.
Four Ali Trophy quarter-finals in the 118lb division. Four different stories.
The bantamweight tournament opener was on October 7th in front of a sold-out Yokohama Arena in Japan, where Japanese second seed, ‘Monster’ Naoya Inoue, knocked out former world champion Juan Carlos Payano from the Dominican Republic with a devastating one-two blow.
The official time was 1:10 of Round 1 and the performance sent shock waves through the boxing world. As a result, the 25-year-old three-weight world champion became the first Japanese fighter to feature on the cover of legendary The RING Magazine which saw its first edition published in 1922.
The quarter-final instantly made the WBA Regular Champion a favourite to take home the Muhammad Ali Trophy, but the competition in the bantamweight tournament is as tough as it gets.
On October 13 third seed South African, Zolani Tete defended his WBO World title at the Ekaterinburg Expo in Ekaterinburg in Russia after twelve rounds of hard work against Russia’s Mikhail Aloyan. Maybe harder than expected since Aloyan, a former amateur star, was in his only fifth fight as a pro. Final score were 114-110, 114-111 and 114-111 – all in favour of the ‘Last Born’.
“Aloyan proved he is one of the best by going 12 rounds with me. He is a clever fighter who will become a world champion one day,” said 30-year-old Tete after the fight.
On October 20 at CFE Arena in Orlando, USA Puerto Rico’s Emmanuel Rodriguez retained the IBF bantamweight title with a twelve round split decision over previously undefeated Jason Moloney. The scores were 115-113 for Moloney, 115-113 for Rodriguez and 115-113 for Rodriguez after a high-intensive slug-fest.
It appeared in the early rounds as if ‘Manny’Rodriguez was on his way toward a statement-making victory with Naoya Inoue watching from ringside. But Moloney showed his fighter’s heart and top conditioning and the Australian looked the best of the two in the later rounds. Rodriguez advanced, but Moloney proved he belongs on the big stage, and further big bouts should be on the horizon.
Finally, on November 3rd at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland Northern Ireland’s WBA Unified 118 lb champion, Ryan Burnett, the number one seed, was up against the former multiple division champ, Filipino-American Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire.
The opening indicated a WBSS classic with both fighters showing their eagerness to dominate the ring, but unfortunately, Burnett was forced to retire from the fight after four rounds of action due to a lower back injury.
“As a warrior and as a fighter, you’ve got to like a guy like Ryan. Early on, he just kept coming,” said 35-year-old Donaire before adding: “I felt strong and I came in with power because I was the bigger guy. Age ain’t nothing but a number.”
Four strong Ali Trophy contenders remain to battle it out for the Greatest Prize in Boxing; Inoue, Tete, Rodriguez and Donaire. And the already incredible story continues early next year with two mouthwatering semi-final match-ups. Dates and venues will be announced in due course.
118 lb Semi-Finals: