Japan’s Naoya Inoue today sent shockwaves throughout the bantamweight division and the wider boxing world with a first round knockout of the highly ranked Jamie McDonnell, out of England. It was the first outing at 118lbs for the Japanese who looked very much home at his new poundage which has brought him his third strap in just his sixteenth fight.
McDonnell, a colossal bantamweight, had rehydrated to a reported, and astonishing, 144lbs; he came to the ring a welterweight and left it a broken man having traveled six-thousand miles for a fight that lasted only seconds and in which he did not land a meaningful punch. His five inch height advantage and a matching reach advantage did nothing to keep a rampant, clinical, vicious Inoue off him.
Inoue wore a mask of stone before the bell and his countenance expressed his intentions fully as he claimed ring-center at bell and began to watch as McDonell circled and feinted, apparently nervous, devoid of offense, perhaps trying to read Inoue’s movement. They swapped jabs to the body and continued to circle.
The moment of truth, of course, had to come, specifically revealing how well McDonnell was going to hold Inoue’s power. My thought going in was that he would hold it well. Inoue is a prestigious puncher, a booming overhand strike matched by the best body-attack in the sport but even at super-flyweight, durable opponents were capable of taking him late. McDonnell’s durability was absolutely proven; he had never been stopped and been down only once in years of combat at the 118lb limit.
When Inoue landed his first meaningful punch, however, a left hand high on the head, McDonnell trembled. His legs betrayed him and he scampered backwards and towards the ropes. He would never really recover.
Inoue, who must be ranked alongside the great-white shark in terms of finishing injured prey, followed the wounded McDonnell in and dropped him with a punch that seemed more to barrel him over than hurt him. The referee issued a standing eight as Inoue saluted the crowd in the Ota-City General Gymnasium.
McDonnell returned to the fray but was driven from Inoue by winging and aggressive shots. Propping himself on the ropes in front of the raging puncher was tantamount to surrender. Inoue accepted with unconditional abandon, throwing two-handed as a distressed McDonnell prodded out “don’t hit me” punches which his tormentor duly ignored.
Referee Luis Pabon was already on his way in to stop what had become an uncontested slaughter even as McDonnell, a likable, sincere man, toppled to the canvas very much ready for the fight to be called. It was in no way an early intervention.
It was an astonishing sight however. McDonnell had proven durability and punch resistance and Inoue was a puncher moving up in weight. To see McDonnell so completely de-boned by that first left hook was shocking. It is possible that making the weight hurt him badly and stripped him of his resistance, but it should be noted that his trainer, David Coldwell, was confident that the weight was in hand one week from fight night.
Perhaps the details do not matter. The key issue here is that Inoue has announced himself as one of the best bantamweights in the world. His speed is unaffected and the early data would suggest that his power has been enhanced by shedding the shackles of super-flyweight. That does remain to be seen, but whether Inoue should be named the Japanese Vasyl Lomachenko or should, rather, Lomachenko be named the Ukrainian Naoya Inoue is a valid question. These two have summited the pound-for-pound list at a time in their careers when most men are still learning to slip and counter.
Next for Naoya Inoue, we hope, is the WBSS bantamweight tournament. In that competition Inoue will be up against Zolani Tete, Ryan Burnett and Emmanuel Rodriguez. Four world class fighters and arguably the four best bantamweights in the world clash to name a new lineal champion and, perhaps, a new pound-for-pound king.
Naoya Inoue proved himself a worthy candidate for that throne today.
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