15. Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire
November 7, 2019
Venue: Saitama Super Arena
This is the single greatest matchup in Asian boxing history. It’s the greatest Japanese fighter of all-time versus arguably the second greatest Filipino fighter of all-time. It’s a fight held in Japan for the World Boxing Super Series 118-pound tournament crown. The table was set for an incredible fight. And boy did these two future Hall of Famers deliver.
In a Bantamweight version of Sugar Ray Leonard versus Thomas Hearns, both Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire put on an incredible display of power, speed, heart, skill and intestinal fortitude. The 26-year-old Inoue was severely tested for the first time in his career. The 37-year-old Donaire showed why eight years prior, people were comparing him to Roy Jones, Jr. Early in the second round, Inoue suffered a vicious cut around his right eye from a vicious Donaire left hook that impeded his eyesight the majority of the fight. Donaire ate several of the “Monster’s” right crosses to land equally vicious rights of his own. In the fifth round, Inoue had Donaire in major trouble and almost put him away before the bell saved the Filipino great.
Virtually dead even after an epic ninth round that saw Donaire badly hurt Inoue and a 10th round that saw both fighters land one bomb after another, it was the 11th round that clinched the fight for Inoue. Midway through the 11th, Inoue landed a left hook to Donaire’s rib cage that sent the Filipino star running across the ring in pain. Barely getting up at the almost count of 10, Donaire withstood a barrage of bombs before hurting Inoue with his own left hook to the chin to survive the penultimate round of the greatest fight in Bantamweight history. Inoue wisely outboxed Donaire in the 12th and final round to secure the victory and crown. It was only fitting that the man who presented him was the fighter he supplanted as the greatest Japanese boxer of all time, Fighting Harada. Like Leonard-Hearns I, it was a fight where both fighters came out as winners. Despite winning the fight, Inoue suffered a broken orbital bone and nose. Donaire, despite losing, cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters ever to come from both Asia and the Philippines.